The New Drug Abusers

by | Jan 31, 2006 | Health

Even with medications that are legally prescribed and dispensed, the potential for addiction is high.

When we consider the subject of drug abuse and addiction, stereotypes abound. Many of us, upon hearing the term “drug addict,” envision a young to middle-aged unemployed male who has a tendency toward criminal behavior and possibly a history of incarceration. Our mental image would include strained or estranged family relationships, more than likely a deadbeat dad who’s irresponsible, untrustworthy and always in need of a loan. His church attendance might be only on Mother’s Day and Easter-and even then only after a fair degree of coercion or a guilt-laden plea. He is certainly not a believer.

What we are not likely to envision is the doting grandmother who attends church regularly and organizes the Bible study for seniors. She’s the one who always has a pleasant smile and encouraging words, whose “thorn in the flesh” is a bad case of arthritis with a little insomnia. Addicted to drugs? Abusing drugs? God forbid!

Reality Check Drug addiction and substance abuse are “equal opportunity” afflictions. Many addicts do fit the description of our stereotypical man whose drug of choice is illegal. But what about legal drugs obtained by means of a signed prescription from a licensed physician, dispensed through a reputable pharmacy, and paid for by a health insurance plan? Can addiction and abuse occur in this scenario? Yes!

In fact, disturbing data indicate the abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise in the U.S. In the last two decades, there has been an estimated 300 percent increase in the number of new prescription drug abusers. And although this problem affects many Americans irrespective of race, age, gender or socioeconomic status, an alarming trend is found in the increasing incidence of prescription drug abuse among older adults (affecting 17 percent of men and women over 60), adolescents and women.

Before the specific problem of prescription drug abuse is discussed, we should examine the broader issue of substance abuse, particularly how it affects women. The term “substance abuse” does not refer to illicit drugs only. To the contrary, the vast majority of substances abused by women are perfectly legal.

Substance Abuse in Women – Substance abuse is one of the most serious, though often neglected, women’s health issues in the U.S. today. The death and disability related to tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse-specifically their role in the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer-make substance abuse the No. 1 preventable cause of death for U.S. women.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 28 million women smoke cigarettes
  • 6 million women have a drinking problem
  • At least 2.5 million women abuse illegal drugs
  • More than 5 million women abuse prescription drugs.

    What may come as a surprise is this: if we examine the statistics pertaining to drug use, the number of women abusing prescription drugs is double the number of those using illegal drugs.

    Prescription Drugs – It is estimated that 9 million Americans currently use prescription drugs in a nonprescribed manner, and 48 million have done so at some point in their lifetimes. A “nonprescribed manner” would include taking excessive amounts of your own medication, or using medication prescribed to someone else. Although a wide variety of legal drugs can be abused, there are three categories.

    Pain Medications – There are many types of drugs effective in alleviating pain. The category of drugs known as the “opioids” (or prescription narcotics) carries with it the potential for addiction and abuse. Medications in this class, including morphine, codeine and oxycodone, are available as single agents, or in combination with other pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin.

    When used for the short-term management of pain, opioids are safe, effective and rarely cause addiction. The pain resulting from surgery, dental work or an injury responds well to opioids. And since this type of pain is not expected to last for any significant length of time, prescription narcotics are an appropriate choice. Long-term use and the use of opioids for reasons other than pain control, however, can lead to dependence and addiction.

    Sedatives and Tranquilizers – These medications work to slow down normal brain function and are prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders.

    Stimulants – These drugs increase alertness, attention and energy. Some of the weight-loss medications once on the market belonged to this category. Now, however, stimulants are used primarily for the treatment of narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

    Of these three categories, men and women are equally likely to abuse pain medications and stimulants. Women, though, are more likely to abuse tranquilizers and sedatives. Why this is the case is not entirely clear.

    One possible explanation is that physicians are more inclined to prescribe drugs with the potential for abuse to their female patients than to their male patients. Older women are often given sedatives for insomnia, though men with the same complaint may be offered only a few helpful tips on how to improve sleep. And since, from a physiological standpoint, women are more susceptible to developing an addiction than men, we find ourselves in the jeopardizing position of having easier access to prescriptions that may very well lead to addiction.

    Addressing the Problem – Everyone plays a role in curtailing this problem. Physicians and health care providers are responsible for keeping a close watch on patients who are prescribed drugs that have the potential for abuse and addiction. Pharmacists should be providing clear information on the proper way to take medications, and must also monitor prescriptions for falsification and look for prescriptions written for the same medication but issued by different physicians.

    The ultimate solution though, lies with the patient. If you take prescription medications, ask your physician to indicate those that have the potential for abuse. Make sure you understand ways to avoid addiction and ask if there are other medications that would be just as effective without this risk. Take your medication as prescribed, and never change the dosing regimen on your own. If you feel the dose is inadequate, discuss this with your physician or health care provider. Never take medications belonging to someone else, and keep your own medication in a safe place, especially if you live with others.

    One important way humans are distinguished from animals is that God has given us the power to make choices. Free will is a blessing but carries with it a great deal of responsibility. As a physician, I believe God has given us the wisdom and knowledge to develop medications that help those who are afflicted. Some of these medications are quite effective, but carry with them the potential for abuse and addiction. Keep in mind, the medications themselves are neutral. Our choice in how we use them makes them either a blessing or a curse.

    After reading this article, if you suspect or know that you have a problem with prescription drug abuse, you are not alone and help is available. Ask your health care provider or your pastor for resource information, or contact the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686. Don’t delay. Put denial and shame behind you-they will only hinder your deliverance-and make the choice today to get the help you need.



    Kara Davis, M.D.
    , is a doctor of internal medicine and a former assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois. She is also the author of Spiritual Secrets to Weight Loss (Charisma House).
  • CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

    Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

    The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

    Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


    MORE FROM CHARISMA

    Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

    Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

    There are many incidents of God giving people a sign throughout the Bible. Although I believe God still does this, I also believe that we must be careful. Asking for a sign can be misleading if other factors are not taken into consideration. In Genesis, we find an...

    Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

    Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

    The last words Jesus spoke to me in my 23 Minutes In Hell vision were, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” Then He repeated Himself and said again, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” The Bible is clear that Jesus is coming back to rapture His believers,...

    The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

    The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

    I believe that other than the gospel regarding salvation through faith in Christ, learning to walk in love is the most important lesson in God’s Word. Jesus says that love is the most important commandment (Mark 12:28–31). The apostle Paul writes that love is the...

    Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

    Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

    Praise be to Almighty God, righteous judge, holy of holies, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The earth is His footstool, and to His kingdom there is no end! Breached Births The Spirit of the Lord says this day: “There has been a breach—breached births, My...

    10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

    10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

    The global apostolic movement is the most significant expression of Christianity today. This is the view expressed by historian Philip Jenkins. He talks about the rapid expansion of the church in the global south, much of which is reminiscent of the first-century...

    Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

    Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

    Do you have any relationship struggles? Perhaps you want to learn how to love, for real. Too often today, people search for a fairytale love and are disappointed when the fairytale fizzles, which it will. Michael Gibson, author of Real Life Love, challenges folks to...

    The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

    The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

    Have the words that others have spoken over you ever significantly impacted you? Words can birth destinies on the inside of us and bring hope to our hearts for the future. They have the power to ignite our dreams and give life to our souls. At the same time, negative...

    RECENT ARTICLES

    How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus warned us that we have an enemy, and he is a thief. He steals our joy, purpose,...
    Activating Introverts in Evangelism

    Activating Introverts in Evangelism

     Many believers mistakenly think that evangelism is only for charismatic, extroverted personality types. If they aren’t called to be evangelists, they shrink back from sharing the gospel with the lost entirely. The scriptural reality is that fivefold ministers, and...

    Pin It on Pinterest

    [class^="wpforms-"]
    [class^="wpforms-"]