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Prescription Drug Abusers turn to Doctors, Friends for Pills

Update Date: Mar 04, 2014 10:04 AM EST
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In a new federal report, researchers identified doctors and friends as the enablers of the country's prescription drug problem. According to the study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic abusers of prescription drugs turn to their doctors and friends more frequently than drug dealers for more pills.

"At this point, virtually everyone recognizes that this is a serious problem that has been getting much worse," the CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden said according to the Los Angeles Times. "What we now are figuring out is what's going to work to reverse it."

For this report, the researchers reviewed data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2008 to 2011. This survey provided data on the annual use of drugs, ranging from illegal narcotics to prescribed pills. The researchers had information on over 12 million people who admitted using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Based from this set of data, the researchers found that prescription drug use appeared to be relatively low over the past few years, which did not match the spikes in treatment center admissions, emergency room cases and overdose deaths related to prescription drug abuse.

The research team then dug deeper. They asked chronic and occasional drug abusers where they got their drugs from and found that friends and family members were the most common sources. Friends and family members gave their own prescription drugs free of charge in over 50 percent of the cases. For chronic abusers, who abused drugs for at least 200 days within the last year, the researchers found that doctors were the most common source of prescriptions drugs. In 27.4 percent of the cases, the drugs came from a doctor whereas in 26.4 percent of the cases, the drugs came from friends and relatives. In 23.3 percent of the cases, the chronic drug abusers had purchased drugs from their friends and family members. 15.2 percent turned to drug dealers.

"Many abusers of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drugs," Frieden said reported by Healthline. "Health care providers need to screen for abuse risk and prescribe judiciously by checking past records in state prescription drug monitoring programs. It's time we stop the source and treat the troubled."

Prescription drug abuse could lead to fatal consequences, which is why more programs, such as prescription drug "take back" day need to be enforced. The researchers also reported that problem doctors, who are doctors that are not fully aware of the risks of prescribing too many drugs, need to be investigated or at least, better educated.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

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