Prescription Drugs: New Jersey’s New Heroin

Credits: Laura Chapman

With the amount of people addicted to prescription painkillers climbing higher in New Jersey, spreading information on the dangers of prescription drug addiction has never been more important. The misconception that they’re not as harmful as street drugs purely because they’re given to you by a doctor is, in itself, worrying.  Calling attention to the health implications that stem from abusing prescription drugs is crucial to preventing the figure from rising.

What are prescription drugs?

The term “prescription drugs” covers a wide range of medications that a doctor may prescribe to patients.  These often include antidepressants, strong painkillers, and sleeping pills, which are there to help ease the symptoms of depression, pain or sleeping troubles. What’s concerning about the recent suspension of Dr. Adam C. Gillis, a New Jersey-based doctor, is that he appeared to be handing out prescriptions for drugs which the patients didn’t need, thus fueling addictions.

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Why abuse prescription drugs?

Strong painkillers fall into the opiate category (the same category as heroin). Those who take them experience a feeling of extreme relaxation, sleepiness and euphoria. These pills can be incredibly addictive, which is why doctors will carefully monitor their patients during their course of medication. However, just like heroin, these painkillers have adverse side effects other than addiction and can result in itching, nausea and even overdose.

The dangers of abusing prescription painkillers

Opiod abuse is responsible for half a million of patients who are rushed to emergency rooms each year – a figure double what it was five years ago. This is often because those who abuse them are now obtaining them illegally and haven’t received sufficient briefing on the drugs they’re piling into their system. Thus, not following precautions -- like avoiding alcohol when taking the drugs -- can be deadly. Both opiods and alcohol affect your breathing by slowing it down and making your cough reflex less sensitive.  Taking these together can cause you to stop breathing altogether.

How to prevent prescription drug addiction

More stringent monitoring when it comes to prescribing opiods to patients is essential, as well as psychological screening after they’ve been on the drug for a certain amount of time. If the patient’s family has a history of addiction, checking in with them regularly to ensure they’re still taking the drug in the recommended doses and haven’t increased them is vital. In addition, education on the dangers of abusing these drugs for everyone can help banish misnomers regarding their severity. 

Laura Chapman is a freelance writer. Following a car accident several years ago, she was left with permanent pain in her lower back. Her physician prescribed painkiller medicines.  Meanwhile, in the past five years, ER visits related to painkillers have doubled, and some 12 million Americans have admitted to using these painkillers to get high. Because so many people are overdosing on prescription medications, she wrote a free guidebook:

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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