Prescriptions and SupplementsPrescriptions and Supplements: Deadly Combinations?

A recent report published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that many individuals, particularly older adults (ages 62-85) are combining prescription medications and over the counter supplements without exploring the risks of doing so. The results were very interesting.

A database of reported and predicted drug interactions was used to determine whether the 20 most common prescription drugs and supplements used by the participants in their study were predicted to cause an adverse reaction when taken together. The researchers showed that 16 combinations of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and supplements were predicted to increase the risk of adverse reactions, most commonly bleeding. Further, another dangerous fact brought to the researchers attentions\ during the study was that the number of adults taking one of these combinations increased during the study period, from 8.4% to 15.1%.

This may not seem like a huge problem, but from 2006 to 2011, the number of older adults (ages 62 to 85) in the United States reported to be taking five or more medications or supplements rose from 53.4% to 67.1%. The study’s lead author, Dima M. Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes, and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago is quoted as saying, “We are trying to improve access to essential prescription medications like statins that could prevent heart disease and improve survival, but we are not prioritizing enough how safe these medications are in the context of all the prescription and nonprescription medications older adults are using.”

To prevent medical emergencies, patients should always disclose everything they are taking to their doctors, including over the counter supplements. For example, taking certain types of fish oil was shown to negatively interact with cholesterol lowering medications and blood pressure medications. People hear “fish oil” and they think nothing bad can come from it. But they need to explore the combinations of supplements with their prescription drugs.

Source; cnn.com



prescriptiondrugabuse2Half of Adolescents Misuse Prescriptions

Recently, Quest Diagnostics conducted a study where they found that one in two adolescent patients between the ages of 10 and 17 are misusing their prescription medication. Misuse of prescription medication can be defined as a patient either combining prescribed medications with non-prescribed medication or skipping doses of prescription medication.

The current study tested over 2.5 million people of all ages across the United States. Remarkably, the study showed that the percent of adolescent misuse and the percent of adult misuse of prescription drugs are now very similar at 53 percent. The most commonly abused drugs were oxycodone, opiates and marijuana.

However, the good news is that although adolescent patients are still misusing prescription medication, over the last 4 years, adolescent prescription misuse has gone down when measured. For instance, in 2011 studies showed that 70 percent of adolescents could be labeled as misusing medication. The more recent studies suggest that only 52% are now misusing their medications.


postsurgerydrugabusePost Surgery Prescriptions and Addiction

A recent study at University of Buffalo showed that addiction to prescription meds develops easily after surgery –often unintentionally. This rising epidemic is real and is of concern. The study found that 31 out of 75 patients entering an opiate addiction detox clinic developed their addiction from a prescription they received post surgery for pain management. Further, although they began their addiction with a legal prescription, 92% of those individuals illegally purchased other narcotics when in the grips of their addiction.

Also disheartening in the study was the fact that out of 53 patients, 74% of their doctors prescribed narcotic medications without asking if a history of substance abuse existed.

Drug addiction to prescription meds post surgery can easily develop especially when there is easy access with no questions asked regarding addictive tendencies/behaviors. Sadly, many who develop prescription drug addiction had no intention of abusing their prescription. But, because of the highly addictive components of many painkillers prescribed post surgery, individuals who would not otherwise develop addictions to these substances end up with major drug abuse problems.

In identifying if an addiction is present, even if the medication was prescribed legitimately, look for the following warning signs:

  • Continued use after the initial pain has ceased
  • Seeing multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions
  • Illegally buying the prescription or other drugs
  • Increasing dose without or against doctors recommendation
  • Isolating from friends, family and society
  • More interested in medication than treatment options
  • Mood or behavior changes, such as becoming hostile, agitated, anxious or irritable
  • History of addiction
  • Withdrawal from prescription pain medicine

ecstacypillsPrescription Medications and Spring Cleaning

Spring is finally here! Many people take time to clean everything in their homes. They wash walls, wipe out each cupboard and drawers, dust off fans and blinds, wipe down baseboards, go through closets and take items to a good will store, freshen up the yard, etc. During spring cleaning, there is a lot of time spent on getting rid of things that people don’t feel they need. For most people, the warm weather usually comes with the task of springcleaning. One thing that should be a priority on today’s society’s list is getting rid of unused or unwanted prescription medications, and taking care to keep all medications safely away from those not intended to use them.

Most of us have allowed medications to sit unused and unwanted in the medicine cabinet for months. We tend to focus on cleaning other areas of our house for fear of sickly germs infecting us, but we forget to clean prescription medications that could prove addicting or deadly if used inappropriately or by someone other than the intended user. Because of this, young adults who are looking to experiment with drugs, or addicts looking for their next high can easily access those prescription medications lurking in your cabinet. You may have forgotten all about them, but you never know who may go looking for something to experiment with or to feed their addiction with. If you are not using medications that are in your home, don’t let them just sit there, get rid of them during your spring cleaning!

Most hospitals can tell you where to take your unwanted remaining prescription medications to dispose of them properly. By disposing of your unwanted prescription medications during your spring cleaning, you can prevent individuals from getting their hands on dangerous, addictive substances.


ElderlyandPrescriptionDrugsElderly and Prescription Drug Abuse

As human bodies age, they naturally experience a gradual decline in physical health.  The normal aches and pains of childhood, youth, and middle age become more painful and debilitating.  One’s ability to fight off infection and disease decreases, and the healing process is slower after an illness or injury. Because of this, an increasing number of elderly persons are using and abusing prescription medications to provide relief for the discomfort of aches and pains associated with illness and aging.

However, not all elderly individuals stop at taking prescription medications for aches and pains.  Drug abuse among this age group is increasing.  Among the elderly, the overuse and abuse of prescription medication is the most common form of drug abuse. In fact, even though only 13 percent of the U.S. population is 65 years and older, they consume approximately one-third of all medications prescribed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that elderly persons use prescription medications three times as frequently as the general population and have the poorest rates of compliance with directions for taking medications. It is now estimated that 17 percent of persons aged 60 or older are affected by prescription drug abuse. (nih.gov)

The two most commonly prescribed and abused drugs among the elderly are narcotic analgesics and sedative-hypnotic drugs.


Narcotic analgesics mostly prescribed to the elderly include morphine, Demerol, codeine and some closely related synthetics.  These drugs are prescribed to the elderly because of their pain-relieving properties. Morphine, one of the most powerful pain relievers available, is used to treat severe pain on a short-term basis. Codeine, on the other hand, is prescribed for milder pain. Other examples of commonly prescribed narcotic analgesics derived from codeine include Oxycontin, Darvocet and Vicodin.


Sedative-hypnotic drugs are also prescribed to and abused by the elderly. Prescription sedatives are drugs that reduce feelings of stress and nervousness and induce mental calmness. Hypnotics are drugs that are used to promote sleep. However, the categories are not mutually exclusive. In fact, when sedatives are given in relatively high doses, they induce sleep similar to how hypnotics do. Further, when hypnotics are given in low doses, they can induce daytime sedation; and impair cognitive functioning and coordination.  This can increase the risk of falls and other accidents. Commonly prescribed sedative-hypnotic tranquillizers such as Valium, Xanax and Soma as well as sleeping drugs such as Ambien.


Clearly, abuse of prescription drugs by the elderly is a growing problem in the U.S. that society needs to be aware of and attentive to.

AddictionsFacts: College Student Prescription Drug Abuse

  • Most college students use prescription drugs properly.  However, about one in every four people aged 19 to 20 report using prescription drugs in a non-medical way at least once in their lives (NSDUH, 2008).
  • Most college students, by their sophomore year in college, will have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug (Arria, 2008).
  • Many college students who abuse prescription drugs do so to study all night (a habit most begin while in college) or to get into a certain academic mental “zone.”
  • Full time college students are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than part-time college students.
  • Non-medical use of pain relievers is also on the rise among college-age students (SAMHSA, 2009).  College students also have the highest prevalence of non-medical use of prescription opioids (morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone, for example) in the US (McCabe et al, 2007).
  • Many college students begin binge drinking at college and combine prescription drugs with alcohol not realizing the potentially fatal effects
  • College students aren’t always necessarily using prescription drugs like Xanax and Adderall to get high, but to help with concentration, improve academic performance, to cope with stress, or even for dieting purposes.


References: talkabouttrx.org

ecstacypillsPrescription drug abuse at colleges

While alcohol abuse and binge drinking still remain top on the list of substance abuse issues within college campuses, the abuse of prescription drugs—mostly stimulants, sedatives and pain relievers—remains a growing, yet often unaddressed problem (SAMHSA, 2009; NCASA, 2007) according to talkabouttrx.org.  They indicate that about one in four college students has illegally used prescription drugs, and many more have been offered prescription drugs by friends or fellow students. Sadly, many students may not even realize that they, their roommate, teammate or friend are misusing or abusing prescription drugs, which are often controlled substances and illegal to use without a prescription. Taking these medications the wrong way or without a prescription puts young collegiate lives at risk.

Interventionservices.org similarly indicates that, “going to college is a major transition for many teenagers – one that poses new and often overwhelming challenges. And, while there is no denying that underage drinking is a widespread issue on college campuses, not all parents may be aware of another common form of college-age substance abuse: prescription drugs.”

They report that according to a 2010 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrations, 22 percent of college students had experimented with illicit drugs in that year. However, they indicate that despite this substantial figure, not all university administrators seem willing to monitor this form of substance abuse as strictly as on-campus alcohol consumption.  In many instances, professors and administrators feel that prescription drug abuse goes under the radar because it is more subtle. In lieu of a boisterous party at an off-campus fraternity house, prescription drug abuse can easily take place in the campus library as an attempt to fuel an all-night study session they say. They found that it’s not the kids who are “partying” who are abusing prescription drugs on college campuses.  It’s more often the academics who are abusing prescription drugs in attempt to achieve higher levels of academic success.

However, there are more reasons for prescription drug abuse on college campuses, as found in a study conducted at Oregon State University.  In this study, it was found that prescription drug abuse at some college campuses was close to 25% and that prescription drugs are commonly abused because of how easily they are accessed. The study at Oregon State also revealed several additional reasons for abusing prescription drugs.  These included:

  • Academic pressures
  • Maintaining focus with late-night study sessions
  • Dieting purposes
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Coping with stress
  • Parties and social scenes

Studenthealth.oregonstate.edu indicates that prescription drugs, “can be obtained through friends and family, direct prescriptions from a physician, a prescription ‘drug dealer.’ However, the most common source of these drugs is the medicine cabinets of the individual’s friends and family.”

Whiskey on the rocksTop 10 most abused drugs

The CDAC (Community Drug and Alcohol Council, Inc) recently reported the top 10 most abused drugs.  The drugs are listed below in order of most often to least often abused.

1-Alcohol: The CDAC notes that, “with over half (51.8%) of U.S. population identified as drinkers, alcohol is the #1 most abused substance. Nearly a quarter of the population participates in binge drinking (58.6 million), and 6.7% of the population reported heavy drinking (16.9 million). As a depressant, alcohol produces impaired coordination and judgment, slurred speech, and blackouts.”

2-Tobacco: At least one quarter of Americans (6.9 million) are users of a tobacco product making it the second most abused drug. Many individuals are drawn to smoking because it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain and turn on the body’s natural chemicals that produce euphoria. Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, causing long-term systemic effects.  These risks include high blood pressure and smoking has been proven to increase the risk of cancer.

3-Marijuana: Marijuana is the #1 most abused illicit drug and the third most abused drug according to the CDAC. The CDAC reports that, “the dried parts of the Cannabis plant can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination and problems with learning and memory.”

4-Prescription drugs: The abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise and has moved up in ranking to be the fourth most abused type of drug.  Painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are the most abused prescription drugs. These drugs can produce effects similar to heroin.

5-Cocaine: Although cocaine gained popularity back in the 1980’s, it still remains on the top 10 list of most abused drugs: listed as the fifth most abused.  According to the CDAC, nearly 1.5 million people in America are current users of this white powder.  Cocaine use results in severe psychological dependence and intense drug cravings.  This is due to cocaine’s short-lived yet powerful effects of euphoria.  With cocaine, tolerance builds quickly, making it more dangerous.

6-Inhalants: The most often used inhalants that are abused to obtain a high include: shoe polish, glue, gasoline, spray paint, cleaning fluid, “poppers,” and nitrous oxide (according to the CDAC).  These inhalants are simply the vapors from these toxic substances. Most users of inhalants will experience an initial high and loss of inhibition followed by drowsiness, slurred speech and agitation.

7-Ecstacy: Often called the “love pill”, Ecstasy is one of the most popular and most abused drugs among youth today. It is the most popular club drug and produces feelings of euphoria, alertness, hallucinations, and closeness with others. A frightening fact is that nearly 65% of pills sold as Ecstasy contain other substances. This means that the effects of Ecstasy can be both unpredictable and dangerous.

8-LSD: LSD is reported to be the most popular hallucinogen among users.  Ranked on the most abused list at number 8, LSD, also known as “acid,” is the most potent hallucinogen in the world. It is often sold on blotting paper, or “window panes.”  The effects of LSD are unpredictable, altering the user’s mood, personality, and sensations of reality. (CDAC, 2012).

9-Methamphetamine: The ninth most abused drug is methamphetamine, also known as meth, crank, or speed.  Meth produces feelings of well-being and energy which can last from 4 to 16 hours.  Because of its lasting effects, it is a popular drug for both parties and nightclubs. Meth is highly addictive, and burns up the body’s resources.

10-Heroin: Although it is last on the list of most abused drugs by the CDAC, heroin remains a commonly abused drug today.  It is made from poppy plants and is a highly addictive opiate.  It can be injected, smoked, or sniffed and creates a feeling of a euphoric rush.  Users feel an increased ability to communicate easily with others, and report heightened sexual performance.


drugcravingWithout drug cravings, drug addictions would be lessened significantly.  The craving obviously perpetuates the addiction and the abuse that occurs with drug use.  Drug cravings can be physical or psychological. Physical drug cravings happen when a drug dependent person builds up their tolerance to a drug or drugs over time. Drug cravings, like other physical cravings, are taken as a symbol that the individual should give the body what it thinks it needs.

Drug cravings are very powerful and compel many people to use drugs. Even though the cravings may seem like they are uncontrollable, they can be controlled and one does not have to act upon such cravings. When a person is in a drug recovery program, they can learn to tolerate cravings and not act upon them. Then, many are in a good position to start taking back control of their lives.

If someone has never been addicted to drugs, it might be difficult to understand addictive cravings. To understand this, they might imagine that they have gone a very long time without eating. They are extremely hungry, even faint and weak. The hunger has been going on way too long and they can’t focus on anything else.  When someone is that hungry, very often all they can do is think about and crave their favorite foods. They might even be able to smell and taste that succulent burger or steak, or the sharp, fresh taste of berries blended with sweet whipped cream.

If they get hungry enough, nothing can stop them from running to get food, especially if it were available. As soon as they consumed that wonderful food they’d been thinking about so passionately and craving, they’d feel completely satisfied. (narconon.org)

Drugs that are addictive activate the brain’s reward systems. The promise of reward is very intense, which in turn causes drug cravings. These intense drug cravings force the addict to focus his or her activities around taking the drug.

An addicted person experiencing drug cravings will feel like life itself is dependent on getting and consuming whatever substance is causing those cravings. They will feel justified in saying or doing whatever it takes to feel that satisfaction and relief. But that relief will only last until that drug starts to wear off, which might just be a few hours or might be a day.

“The more an individual use drugs and alcohol, the guiltier they will feel, and the more depressed they will become. They will sacrifice their personal integrity, relationships with friends and family, their job, their savings, and anything else they may have in an attempt to get more drugs to satisfy the intense drug cravings. The drugs are now the most important things in their life. Their relationships and job performance will go drastically downhill.” (drug-rehabs.org)

Drug cravings are very powerful and make it extremely difficult to overcome drug addiction.



What are opiates?

When asked this questions most of us think of poppy flowers, poppy seeds, Asia, or more recently, the drug heroin.  In researching what opiates really are, I came across an article written for teens describing them.  It was basic, very informative, and helped my understanding expand.  It was on the site http://teens.drugabuse.gov.  It states,” If you’ve ever seen “The Wizard of Oz,” then you’ve seen the poppy plant—the source of a type of drug called an opiate. When Dorothy lies down in a field of poppies, she falls into a deep sleep. No wonder the Latin name of this plant—Papaver somniferum—means ‘the poppy that makes you sleepy.’”

So, how do opiates work? 

Opiates act on many places in the brain and nervous system, including:

The limbic system (which controls emotions), the brainstem, which controls things your body does automatically, like breathing, and the spinal cord, which transmits sensations from the body.

In the limbic system, opiates can produce feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment, opiates can act on the brainstem to slow breathing, stop coughing, and lessen feelings of pain, and opiates act in the spinal cord to decrease feelings of pain, even following serious injuries.

Whether it is a medication like Vicodin or a street drug like heroin, the effects of opiates (and many other drugs) depend on how much you take and how you take it. If opiates are swallowed as pills, they take longer to reach the brain. If they are injected, they act faster and can produce a quick, intense feeling of pleasure followed by a sense of well-being and a calm drowsiness.

Basically, just like any other drug, opiates have an important purpose in medicine.  However, when abused, opiates are highly addictive and can create difficult withdrawal symptoms and Dorothy (being healthy) should have run as fast as she could down the yellow brick road away from them!

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