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Prescription Drug Overdose Is
Leading Cause of Accidental Death in U.S.
Addiction Shreds the Emotional Fabric of Families
Prescription drug overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental death in the
United States. (Motor vehicle deaths are first.) Approximately 26,000 Americans are dying from prescription drug overdoses annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 120,000 Americans go to hospital emergency rooms after overdosing on painkillers. “Addiction to prescription drugs is now one of the nation’s most serious drug problems,” according to Rod Colvin, author of Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction
“Millions of Americans from every demographic group have fallen into the addiction trap,
and it is shredding the emotional fabric of families across the nation. Not only are families losing loved ones, but addiction takes an emotional toll on the entire family—no one escapes the pain and chaos when a loved one is destroying himself or herself with prescription drugs.” Further, this epidemic costs millions of dollars in health care, traffic accidents, joblessness, and absenteeism. Colvin’s passion for writing the book was fueled by the death of his 35-year-old brother, who died as a result of his long-term addiction to prescription painkillers. “I’ve experienced firsthand what addiction does to individuals and their families,” Colvin said. “Unfortunately the problem has escalated over the last decade.” Prescription drug abuse now outranks the use of all illegal drugs combined, coming in second only to marijuana use. What are the messages of Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction
? In this clearly written, thoroughly researched guide, Colvin provides a comprehensive resource for addicts, their families and friends, and health-care professionals wanting to better understand and cope with a problem that has been too long ignored. Among the topics he discusses:
the nature of addiction as a chronic, progressive disease drugs of addiction and how they hijack the brain the most commonly abused prescription drugs steps to take if you or a loved one has become hooked on drugs the effects shame and embarrassment can have on your desire to get help treatment options, including medical detox and family interventions
Colvin also offers compelling stories of recovery from former addicts as well as insights
from addiction medicine specialists. He examines how powerful narcotics can be
acquired relatively easily through “doctor shopping,” “pharmacy shopping,” and buying
drugs from rogue Internet pharmacies. He also investigates steps taken by law
enforcement agencies and state governments to curb the diversion of prescription drugs.
Visit the books’ companion Web site: www.prescriptiondrugaddiction.com
About the Author
Rod Colvin’s 35-year-old brother, Randy, died as a result of his long-term addiction to
prescription drugs. The loss of his brother became a defining moment in his life. The
event was the motivating force behind his decision to write Overcoming Prescription
, a comprehensive resource with information, advice, and inspiration for
prescription drug addicts and those who love them.
Colvin has spoken on the subject of prescription drug abuse to civic and professional
groups across the nation. He has appeared on the NBC Nightly News
appeared on numerous other radio and television programs; and has been interviewed for
articles in Redbook
and Family Circle
magazines and newspapers across the country.
From 2003 to 2005, Colvin served on an advisory commission to the National Center for
Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University, New York, which conducted a
landmark study on prescription drug addiction. The report, Under the Counter: The
Diversion and Abuse of Prescription Drugs in the United States,
is available at
Colvin is also the founder and publisher of Addicus Books, an independent publishing
house based in Omaha, Nebraska, whose focus is consumer health books. He has written
two previous nonfiction books, Evil Harvest
(Bantam Books, 1992), the true story of a
white supremacist murder in America’s heartland, and First Heroes
Publishers, 1987), an investigation into the fate of POWs possibly left behind in Vietnam.
He is a former broadcast journalist and a producer of radio and television documentaries.
Colvin holds a bachelor of arts degree from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, and a
master of science degree in counseling psychology from Emporia State University,
Facts about Prescription Drug Abuse
Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. (Traffic accidents are second.) (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.) From 2003 to 2009, the number of Americans dying from prescription drug fatal poisoning increased 83 percent. In 2009, 41,000 Americans died from drug poisoning. (Centers for Disease Control.) The number of opioid prescriptions escalated from nearly 76 million in 1991 to 219 million in 2011. In the last eight years, painkiller use has increased of 600 percent when the population has increased by only 19 percent. (Drug Enforcement Agency.) 17 million Americans, ages 12 and up, report having used prescription drugs—painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers, or stimulants—for non medical purposes during the past year. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) More people abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy, and inhalants combined. Prescription drug abuse is outranked only by marijuana use. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.) Drug-related emergency room visits involving prescription opioids (painkillers) rose 153 percent from 1995 to 2002. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.) Illicit trade in prescription narcotics, including fraudulent insurance claims for bogus prescriptions, treatment for fake injuries and other deceptive practices to obtain drugs, drain health insurers of up to $72.5 billion annually, including up to $24.9 billion for private insurers. (Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.)
Statistics on teen drug abuse are alarming:
--One in five teens (19 percent) have used prescription drugs to get high.
--One in four teens report having a friend who uses pills to get high.
--One in three teens report being offered pills for recreational use.
-- Every day, 2,700 teens try a prescription drug for the first time to get high. (Partnership for a Drug-Free America)
Most Abused Prescription Drugs in the United States
2. Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab)
3. Unspecified benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin)
4. Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Tylox)
7. Propoxyphene (Darvocet-N, Darvon )
12. Methamphetamine (Desoxyn, speed)
Source: From Drug Abuse Warning Network Emergency Room Data. Based on drugs mentioned during emergency room visits in 2005.
Ten Things You Should Know if
You’re Addicted to Prescription Drugs
1. Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. It is ultimately fatal if not brought under control. 2. You are not alone. Millions of people are struggling with addiction. However, feelings of shame and guilt may cause you to feel lonely and isolated. 3. Addiction virtually “rewires” the brain. The drugs cause the brain to stop producing natural chemicals, so when the drugs are stopped, the brain starts craving them. 4. Once addicted, if you stop taking the drugs abruptly, you will experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include: irritability chills alternating with hot flashes, salivation, nausea, and abdominal cramps. 5. Some drugs of addiction, including benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, should not be stopped abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms could include seizure. Talk to a medical professional about tapering usage gradually. 6. Recovery is possible. Millions of people have recovered; however, most will tell you they needed to ask for help. 7. Feeling helpless and hopeless is part of addiction. These feelings need not stop you from recovering. Forgive yourself for past actions. No one can change the past, but the future is yours. 8. New drugs have been available for several years, can help those addicted to painkillers. For example, Suboxone, prescribed by doctors, eliminates the cravings for drugs and can help you stabilize your life. 9. Life-saving warning: once you are abstinent for a few weeks, you can lose the drug tolerance you had built up. If you relapse and take the same high dosage you may have taken months ago, it can kill you. 10. Most physicians are not trained to diagnose or treat addiction. Go to a doctor who understands addiction. Locate an addiction medicine physician at American Society of Addiction Medicine. www.asam.org From Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction—A Guide to Coping and Understanding
Ten Things You Need to Know
if Someone You Love is an Addict
1. Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. It affects everyone in the family circle. No one in the family escapes the pain and chaos that addiction brings. 2. You did not cause the problem, and you cannot fix it. 3. Love does not cure addiction. If it did, there would be few addicts. You can let the addict know that you love them and that you will help them get help with they are ready to get help. 4. Addicts need diagnosis and treatment—not judgement. 5. You cannot talk an addict into seeking recovery. The addict must want to recover. It doesn’t work to tell an addict what to do. 6. You cannot control the behavior of another person; however, you can control your own behavior. Seek emotional support for yourself. You’re in pain…you, too, need help. Go to a Naranon or Alanon meeting. 7. Look into setting up a family intervention, a high planned arrangement in which family and friends confront the addict and encourage him to enter treatment. 8. Stop making it easy for the addict to stay sick. Do not enable the addiction by rescuing—making excuses, paying bills, etc. 9. Addicts are not having fun. They don’t like the life they are living, but they are afraid of giving up their drug of choice. 10. There are no honest addicts. Virtually all addicts must be deceptive in order to maintain their habit. From Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction—A Guide to Coping and Understanding
Suggested Interview Questions
Your own brother died as a result of long-time prescription drug addiction. Was his
addiction something you and your family had dealt with openly for some time? 2
. Why is there an alarming trend in teens (one out of five) abusing prescription drugs? 3.
Why are record numbers of accidental deaths occurring from prescription drug
How does addiction occur? What happens in the brain? 5
. How can people recognize the signs of addiction in themselves or someone else—and
what should they do about it?
. How do people commonly obtain prescription drugs illegally through physicians,
pharmacists, and Internet pharmacies? 7.
Does taking medication for legitimate pain always lead to addiction?
Who is most at risk for prescription drug abuse or misuse?
Why are senior citizens especially at risk for addiction to pills?
. What are the treatment options for prescription drug addiction? 11.
How does the newer drug Suboxone help with dependence on opioid drugs? 12
. How is methadone used to treat addiction to prescription drugs? 13.
What human emotion commonly deters people from seeking help for addiction?
What are law enforcement agencies doing to combat the addiction problem?
What is prescription drug monitoring and which states have it?
When you began researching and writing about this subject, what was the most
surprising or unexpected fact you uncovered?
Common Myths about Prescription Drug Abuse
The abuse of prescription drugs comprises only a small part of the nation’s drug
Prescription drug abuse now outranks the use of all illegal drugs combined, with
the exception of marijuana.
There is no such thing as becoming an addict innocently. Fact:
Many people become “unwitting” addicts. These are often individuals with no
prior history of drug abuse, who first started using a prescribed drug for a legitimate
medical problem. Then at some point they started increasing the dosages on their own
because the drug made them feel better. Gradually the abuse became full-blown
Taking a narcotic for an extended time leads to addiction. Fact:
One can become physically dependent on a drug, say a pain medication, over time.
If the drug were stopped, the body would experience withdrawal symptoms. However,
this type of dependence is not addiction. A patient with physiological dependence can
quit the drug, usually by being tapered off it gradually with medical supervision and
without admission into a drug treatment program.
You can quit drugs cold turkey if you really want to. Fact:
The side effects of withdrawal from certain prescribed medications can be
dangerous, leading to seizures and even death. It is safer to taper off drugs under medical
Once you have overcome addiction to a narcotic, you can safely take other
addictive medications. Fact:
Unfortunately, relapse often occurs when recovering drug addicts believe they are
not as risk for addiction to other addictive substances. However, people who become
addicted to narcotics have a brain chemistry that predisposes them to dependency. This
puts them at risk for relapse.
For more information or to contact Rod Colvin:
Call Addicus Books (402) 330-7493
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