The Changing Landscape of Prescription Drug Abuse and Diversion
Drug abuse in the United States has been changing over the years.
Drug abuse in the United States has been changing over the years, and as more people become dependent on their drug of choice, clinicians are being forced to deal with the consequences.
“Drug abuse has been going on for centuries,” said Lisa McElhaney, president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. “We cannot regulate our way out of this problem without addressing the negative behaviors that are creating a growing epidemic.”
According to Ms. McElhaney, a range of misconceptions about prescription drug abuse and diversion exist, but a single issue stands out from the rest.
“The most common misconception is that the individual has made a conscious decision to inappropriately use and therefore they can stop whenever they choose,” she said. “The lack of understanding creates strong patterns of denial, anger, and disassociation with the entire addiction process.”
Drug usage itself is not new, but three components of it have changed over the years: public perception of drug usage (recreationally accepted), types of drugs in demand (abuse of prescription drugs has reached epidemic proportions), and access to drugs (laws of supply and demand).
“Most individuals do not want to ‘get their hands dirty' when dealing with an individual with a prescription drug abuse problem. It makes them uncomfortable,” Ms. McElhaney said. “This allows the problem to fester and grow at an alarming rate. Through broad-based education and action this cycle can be minimized and controlled.”
Any patient who is prescribed medication should be considered at risk for potential drug abuse. Clinicians should be paying close attention to all of the signs (don't ignore any red flags) and applying risk-mitigation strategies to prevent patients at higher abuse risk from misusing their medications.