News / USA

    US Sees Growing Problem With Prescription Drug Abuse

    Dr. Jacob Khushigian checks on a patient who had overdosed - also showing his computer data base that lets doctors know what drugs their patients already are taking - shown in a Kaweah Delta Emergency Room in Visalia, California, February 2010. (file phot
    Dr. Jacob Khushigian checks on a patient who had overdosed - also showing his computer data base that lets doctors know what drugs their patients already are taking - shown in a Kaweah Delta Emergency Room in Visalia, California, February 2010. (file phot

    U.S. health officials say drug abuse is a major cause of death in the United States and that prescription drugs are a big part of the problem.  Painkillers and mood-altering medications have left many people addicted, with serious results.

    At the Malibu Beach Recovery Center, outside Los Angeles, residents learn yoga and other coping skills to deal with anxiety, stress and chronic pain. Yoga teacher Shannon Scott was once hooked herself on the anti-anxiety pill Xanax and the painkiller Vicodin.

    “Vicodin was a stimulant for me. So I also used Vicodin as something to get my engine going and carry me through the days, and my Xanax would balance me out and bring me down and relax me. But one was to calm me down and the other was to give me the energy to move forward,” said Scott.

    Drug poisoning

    U.S. health officials say that poisoning was a major cause of death in 2008, and that nearly 9 of 10 poisonings were caused by drugs. The so-called opioid painkillers - morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone - were involved in more than 40 percent of drug poisonings in 2008.  The number has more than tripled in a decade.

    That's not news to Mary Ann Gunn, a retired drug court judge who now appears on a TV program called Last Shot With Judge Gunn, which shows the real-life effect of drugs on users and their families.

    “In 1999, the big problem was methamphetamine. And it was a cancer, if you will, throughout our country. And we have addressed that and are continuing to address it. And more and more over the years we began to see people being addicted to prescription drugs.”

    Specialized drug courts work with the addicts to get them into counseling and rehabilitation.

    Powerful painkillers


    Pharmacologist James Adams of the University of Southern California says the expanding list of powerful painkillers is snaring many patients, who are usually unaware of the dangers.

    “I'm not talking about heroine abusers on the streets of LA [Los Angeles].  I'm talking about somebody's grandmother in Fresno dying from oxycodone, dying from hydrocodone, dying from morphine,” said Adams.

    The recent U.S. government data shows the rate of fatal drug poisonings was highest among people 45 to 54 years old.

    At the Malibu Beach Recovery Center, the addicted get off drugs, but it's not easy. The regimen includes healthy food and counseling. Joan Borsten, who heads the center, said it's hard because the drugs change the body's chemistry.

    “In the case of pain pills, the body has stopped producing its natural defenses to pain, and they just have to have more and more and more and more, and finally there's nothing else to take,” said Adams.

    Healthy regimen


    He said that 90 million people have chronic pain, much of it from arthritis caused by obesity and aging.

    “And it's a real tough problem for a doctor because here you've got a patient with chronic pain, probably howling pain, reporting pain at 7 out of 10 or something like that, and these patients know exactly how to get what they want," said Adams. "And if that doctor doesn't give it to them, they just go to the next doctor.”

    He said the solution is using alternative ways to manage pain - losing weight, exercising and receiving physical therapy - and giving powerful drugs only to those who need them. Another solution: a registry of patients being used in California and many other states that lets doctors and pharmacists know what potentially dangerous drugs their patients already are taking.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.