Kellie JarviesEnglish 2010Position/Proposal Paper Prescription Drug Abuse: Enough is enough Drug, alcohol, and prescription drug addictionsexistin many people’s lives; addiction’soutreach can be persistent,strong and relentless. Addiction doesn’t sleep;it picks and choosesvictims without regard to religion, race, or financial status, strikes without warning, and leavesyou staring at the shell of someone you once knew. Addictions to illegal drugs, alcohol, andprescription drugsmirrormany of the same symptoms, a change in personality, socialwithdrawal, defensiveness, blackouts and forgetfulness, to name a few. Whether you buy drugson the street, purchase alcoholin a store or have prescription drugs filled at the localdrugstore;addictionrears its ugly head in the samemenacingway. Loved ones of the addict getcaught up in the ugliness of addiction,leavethem with feelings of emptiness, questioning whatrole they might have played in the addiction, and wondering where it all went wrong. We willfocus on our nation’s fastest growing drug problem, addiction to prescription drugs. In order tomake decisions regarding prescription drug abuse it becomes necessary to look at the medicalprofession’s role in overprescribing and prescribing incorrectly, the pharmaceutical industryincentives for “pushing” their drugs, and each patient’s individual responsibilityconcerning theirown personal health and well-being.
Jarvies/2 A definition from Indiana University states: “Prescription drugs are controlled by thefederal government, requiring a patient to receive authorization from a doctor or other medicalprofessional to allow access to a specific quantity of the drug” (Health Billing and InsuranceDefinitions).The tenmost abused prescription drugs are as follows: Ambien and Lunesta; primarily for insomnia treatment Xanax and Valium; anxiety and depression Hydrocodone; pain control Codeine; cough suppressant Adderall and Ritalin; ADHD and issues with trouble concentrating Fentanyl; pain control in cancer patients Morphine; moderate to severe pain treatment(Morris). These prescription drugs marketed under many different names and reliefvalue, allhave the same effect; they become addictive and produce some kind of high whichbrands themas valuable, leading to their misuse.This misuse often begins innocently with legitimateprescription reasons, such as feeling pain, having anxiety, or becoming ill. Prescription drugscan be a difficult addiction from which to break free, as time goes on the body becomesaccustomed to receiving this medication and builds a tolerance, requiring a higher dosage orquantity to achieve the same results. When individuals try to detach themselves from thedrugs, the original problem seems to come back stronger, creating a powerful cycle whichneeds professional help and treatment (Addictive Drug Index).
Jarvies/3 A study of patient Robert Reynolds revealed that his family physician, Dr. KevinBuckwalter, prescribed Reynolds 180 hydrocodone and oxycodone pills per month for his lowerback pain. Reynolds, 50, became addicted and eventually shot himself in the head in October2008. Buckwalter’s license was stripped when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)linked him to eight other patient deaths (Allen). Although physicians are providedwithinformation informing them that prescription drugs can become highly addictive, they continueto over-prescribecertain drugs, why? Much of the advertising, direct-to-consumer (DTC), leadsphysicians to over-prescribing unnecessary, expensive, and potentially addictive drugs. Patientslooking for the “magic bullet”jump on the bandwagon and ask for brand names of drugsadvertised. Physicians are yielding to their patient’s requests for more medications rather thanrecommend they change poor, unhealthy lifestyle habits. There are many reasons for over-prescribing in addition to (DTC) advertising. Patient’s demands on physicians, the every-increasing scientific discoveries, and the physician’spatient overload all contribute to physiciansfrequently prescribing medications. Americans have come to expect an immediate cure forwhat ails them and medications are fulfilling their requests(Crystal).While many physicians tryto do all they can to help their patients,there are those withstartling,underlying agendas. Somephysicians take the easy road to wealth, sometimes at the expense of patients’ lives. Somephysicians take kickbacks from the drug companies and “push” certain drugs to benefitthemselves financially. “Experts say a primary part of the problem is doctors who are carelesswith their prescriptions or who prescribe the drugs as a way to make money” (Allen).Thismethod encourages physicians to become “legalized drug dealers” (Trescot).Research showsthat many doctors pull the prescription trigger too quickly (Everett).There is no questionthat for
Jarvies/4many people, prescriptions can be beneficial, even lifesaving in many instances.Manychronically ill patients lead more productive lives with assistance from prescription drugs. Even though prescription drugs can help many patients, hundreds of millions ofprescriptions can beprescribed wrong, either they are entirely unnecessary or unnecessarilydangerous(Liu and Christensen).The responsibility lies heavily on physicians to take their roleseriously in patients’ lives. Patients and physicians should first treat symptoms withcomprehensive lifestyle changes. Patients depend on the expertise of physician’s degrees,trusttheir judgments and opinions, often blindly.Problems such as insomnia, abdominal pain, highblood pressure, mild adult-onset diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and situational depression oftenhave causes that respond very well to nondrug treatment and often the physicians can uncoverthese causes by taking a careful history (Rochon). Physicians should recommend lifestylechanges, as their first method,in treating these conditions rather than automatically reachingfor the prescription pad(Lazarou). Whilephysiciansare responsible for a large part of prescription drug abuse,thepharmaceutical industryhas a greater role on our American society. The industry becomestheprimary causein promoting,misprescribing, and overprescribing of drugs. They sell $216billionworth of drugs in the United States alone.(Ukens)The American public needs to be aware,when the profit incentivesare thatenormous, the industries agenda is NOTsaving human lives.Consumers’must question their motives. In addition to American sales, global sales are just asshocking, as per figure 1.
Jarvies/5Figure 1- Big Pharma and Consumer Confusion There also lies another culprit in the pharmaceutical industry, the patents. Patents allowthe drug makers complete production rights for twenty years before competitors can marketgeneric versions. Generics save consumers as much as two-thirds of the original drug’s cost,but they cut deeply into sales and profits of the original name-brand drugs (Greider). This givesthe pharmaceutical companies a huge incentive to invent or reformulate a new drug to replacethe old one. They spend billions on marketing so they will not lose their profits. They refused togo down without a fight and they are fightingan unyielding battle. Therefore, the answer concerning abuse from physicians and pharmaceutical companiesbecomes clear. Patients should takea large percentageof the responsibility fortheir ownhealthand evaluate why new drugs are prescribed. The industry spends well in excess of $21 billion a
Jarvies/6year to promote drugs using advertising and promotional tricks that push the envelope of beingfalse and misleading.The fastest-growing portionof drug advertisingdirectsads to patients notdoctors. An estimate from 1991 to 2002 claims (DTC) advertising expenditures in the UnitedStates grew from about $60 million a year to $3 billion a year, an enormous increase in justeleven years (PhRMA).Figure 2- Jacky Law-Big Pharma Consumers have to question why profits increasedso drastically within such a short timeperiod.The answer appears obvious: its working and they are continuing tomanipulate us all. Consequently, patients cannot trust everything the pharmaceutical companies sell andeverythingtheir physicians say and prescribe.Some of the responsibility falls back on theconsumer. If consumers ceased buying unnecessary drugs, the pharmaceutical companiesrecommend, they would lose a significant amount of their profit incentives.Patients need not
Jarvies/7be paranoid, but need to research for themselves and look for sound lifestyle changes as thealternative, when appropriate. My personal involvement with others’ prescription drugs, alcohol, and illegal drug addictions entangles me profoundly and repeatedly. Close members of my own family have recently completed rehab for prescription drug addictions andother family members still struggle with Figure 3-McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah their addictions. Alcohol addictions continuetotirelessly tug at my heart because of the concern I have for those still affected byits longtermeffects. Recently, my close family member, whonot long ago went through rehab, requiredmany visits to the hospital for various reasons. This family memberwas offered an assortmentof opiate/painkillers, even though everyone within shouting distance was informed of theaddictive behavior and past drug addiction. The doctor finally informed all personnel, afterseveral attempts were made by my sister and me, to stop giving this patient any more addictivemedication. We finally connected to him when we asked, “Would you prescribe these drugs toyour loved one and would you be willing to take them home and start rehab again.” Themedical community is programmed to get a patient out of “pain” and on their way home. Thisleaves the families to deal with the aftermath of addiction. Ourpersuasiveness accomplished
Jarvies/8our goal for that particular visit but there have been additional visits to other hospitalsand theprocess starts all over again.Our vigilance has not always constituted success with otherdoctors. I also experience situations concerning my husband’s health. For the last eight or so years hehas been prescribed many different drugs for his high blood pressure, high cholesterol,diabetes, chronic back pain, and other ailments. The physician prescribes mixturesofprescription drugs that have numerous side effects and then prescribes more drugs to combatthe additional side effects.It has been a continuous circle ofdifficulties. Weaning off some of hisprescription drugs slowly helped offset some of the side effects but the battle continues.Somelifestyle changes, exercise and healthy eating choices, will help him have a more productive andhealthy life. There can be different alternatives and solutions; I have personal proof of theircontinued effectiveness. In comparison, at different times throughout my life,different physiciansadvised me totake prescriptions for: high blood pressure, insomnia, hot flashes, panic attacks, and minor backpain. Instead of caving into the prescription drug monster, I have found alternative lifestylechanges and alternative doctors whohave successfully balanced any disorder and/or mentaldisease. I choose to take the treatment of my illnessesinto my own hands. I use herbalsupplements, with guidance from homeopathic doctors, and my high blood pressure, hotflashes, and panic attacks have totally stopped. My back pain, which was temporary, diminishedsignificantly through exercise.I found easy alternatives with low costs and herbal supplements
Jarvies/9which are usually taken for only a month or two. Instead of a long term pharmaceuticalsolutions, which physicians recommend with scare tactics, I haveadopted sensible lifestylechanges with short term solutions. I realize that all medical conditions cannot be treated thisparticular way but I know a sizeable amount of patients can choose the homeopathic way oflife.Figure4-Etok, Susan Dr. Prescription drugs, in moderation, can be helpful in certain treatments but physiciansneed to be mindful of the effects of prescribing and pushing so many variations and such largedoses of unnecessary drugs.A monetary incentive to promote prescription drugs is just plainwrong; they should have unbiased opinions whenevaluatingpatients’ careand whentheirpatients’ lives are at stake.They have taken the Hippocratic Oath which states, “I willprescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment andnever do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked…”(Staff).Physicians who over-prescribe and misprescribeneed to review their own code of conduct.
Jarvies/10 In addition, the pharmaceutical industry has ulterior motives when promoting their“new” drugs and the American public needs to reevaluate their uncontrolled advertising.Promoting alcohol and cigarettes through advertisingwas stopped and controlled, why?because they were both contributing to too many deaths. Prescription drugs advertising needsto have the same regulations, there are just as many people dying. Lastly, consumers have got to take their health seriously, stop taking the easy route withprescription drugs and develop alternative solutions with personal research and consciencedecisions. When patients allow physicians and the pharmaceutical industry to dictate what is“good” for them,they open themselves up for addictions todevelop, for interactions and sideeffects to change their lifestyle,and they expose themselves to possible death.When you orsomeone you love becomes addicted or dies from our Nation’s fastest growing drug problemthen the problem will become personal.
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