Mississippi is currently dealing with a prescription drug abuse epidemic that reflects the nation’s struggles with the issue.
Every 8 minutes, a person dies of an overdose. A more sobering statistic than that is that every 15 minutes a child is born addicted to prescription drugs. In the state of Mississippi alone, there have been 256 deaths in the last year due to overdoses; 75 percent of those deaths were related to opioids.
These statistics display the magnitude of the problem, leading the government to declare it an epidemic and compare it to obesity and cancer in terms of fatalities. Opioids, including heroin and prescription pain medication, continue to be the most abused substances.
This crisis has affected Mississippi heavily. The state records one of the highest rates of prescription narcotics per capita. Studies show 259 million prescriptions were written for painkillers in the year 2012, approximately one for each US citizen, a statistic doctors are trying to rectify. In Mississippi, there were 120 painkiller prescriptions for every 100 people. This equates to about one bottle of painkillers per person.
Preventing this epidemic and reducing its effects is up to doctors, patients, and pharmacists. However, as doctors reduce prescriptions for opioids, it seems that this only serves to swell the black market for them.
How Can Doctors Help?
In 2016 84.6 percent of American adults met with a healthcare professional. This leaves healthcare professionals in a great position to identify non-medical usage of prescription pills.
The doctor can inquire about what drugs the patient uses, help the patient realize they have a substance issue, provide treatment or direct them to a Mississippi drug rehab center and help them set recovery targets.
Healthcare professionals can also keep an eye out for any quick increase in the medication or numerous unscheduled refilling. Many patients are known to visit multiple doctors in order to obtain several prescriptions for a drug and it is a practice that the doctor should be aware of and keep an eye out for.
What is the Pharmacist’s Role?
The key responsibility on the side of the pharmacist is ensuring that the patient completely understands instructions on how to take the medicine. They should also be adept at noticing fraudulent or altered prescriptions, allowing them to be the first line of defense against non-medical drug purchase.
A handful of pharmacies in Mississippi have begun to use hotlines to let other pharmacies know when they encounter a fake prescription. This practice that allows other pharmacies to be aware of a particular individual or prescription. The use of a prescription drug monitoring program can also help a pharmacist track patterns in the patient, so they can notice if the drugs are being used for non-medical use.
What Steps Can the Patient Take?
There are numerous steps a patient should consider, to manage their usage carefully
- Follow the directions present on the bottle or the advice of their doctor.
- Educate themselves on any adverse reactions caused by interacting painkillers with other drugs or with alcohol.
- Don’t divert from the prescribed dosage without having a conversation with your doctor about it.
- Don’t ever use another person’s medicine or prescription nor should you share your prescription or dosage.
As a patient, it is important that you responsibly dispose of expired medicine or medicine that you are not going to use. Follow the rules laid down by the US Food and Drug Association or drop the medicine at a collection site run by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
It is also the patient’s responsibility to let the doctor know about other medicine, supplements or prescriptions they are using before they are given a new dosage.
Most of the time, substance abuse begins at home. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 70 percent of those who abuse prescription drugs obtain them through their friends or family, including stealing from their medicine cabinets.
Steps to Protect Those Around You
Storing and discarding medications in a safe and controlled manner can go a long way in helping drugs stay out of the wrong hands.
You can start by storing your medication in locked, hard to reach areas where kids cannot get them. Most pharmacists provide child-resistant caps, so be sure to ask your pharmacists when getting your medications.
Keeping a count of your medications can also help you know if it is being stolen by someone. Make a list of all the medicine in your house and count the remaining pills on a regular basis.
Another common mistake is holding on to the drugs. Once your prescription regime is finished, discard the excess pills instead of keeping it for use in the future.
As a patient, you should also look out for signs that you might be addicted. By understanding these signs, you can respond to the addiction before it turns into a full-blown issue.
The first clue is if the level of painkillers you are consuming is inconsistent with the level your doctor has recommended. Do you lie to your doctor about the amount you are consuming or hoe much pain you’re in?
Also, ask yourself if you are using the drugs to calm yourself as opposed to relieving pain.
Do you need a larger dose to feel the same effects that you used to feel at lower doses or do you go out of your way to get the drug?
These are very clear signs that you are slipping towards a drug addiction and if you are at this stage, it is very important that you talk to your doctor immediately.