Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pain Relievers- Too Dangerous?

A federal advisory panel finalized a close vote on Tuesday to recommend a ban on Percocet and Vicodin, two of the most popular prescription painkillers in the world, because of their effects on the liver. Since people who take these pain medications for long periods of time often need a stronger dose, the odds of liver damage increase drastically. Acetaminophen, a chief ingredient in these medications (and also in Tylenol and Excedrin), can cause liver damage when taken at high doses for a long period of time.

Vicodin (and its generic equivalent) is prescribed over 100 million times a year in the US alone- so this is a huge business decision. In a statement, Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s maker, said it “strongly disagrees” with the proposed restrictions on acetaminophen, adding that they would be likely to “lead to more serious adverse events as consumers shift to other over-the-counter products,” like Advil and aspirin.

However, without abuse or overmedicating, the odds of actual overdose or severe liver damage goes down. “If you keep track of what you’re taking, none of this is an issue for you,” Dr. Jan Engle, a panel member and head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said in an interview after the meeting.

We need to be on the lookout for the long term affects of misusing pain management drugs. With the new recommendations on banning pain meds such as Vicodin and Percocet, people may be looking for something stronger, or at least something different. SAMHSA has publish some disturbing trends around prescription drug abuse:

* Over the past decade-and-a-half, the number of teen and young adult (ages 12 to 25) new abusers of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) or hydrocodone (Vicodin) has grown five-fold (from 400,000 in the mid-eighties to 2 million in 2000).
* New misusers of tranquilizers such as diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax, called "zanies" by youth)-medicine normally used to treat anxiety or tension-went up nearly 50 percent in one year (700,000 in 1999 to 1 million in 2000).
* More than 17 percent of adults over 60, wittingly or not, abuse prescription drugs.
* In 2000, more than 19 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs were filled, a 72 percent increase since 1995. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of school-age children have ADHD. A study of students in Wisconsin and Minnesota showed 34 percent of ADHD youth age 11 to 18 report being approached to sell or trade their medicines, such as Ritalin.
* Among 12- to 17-year-olds, girls are more likely than boys to use psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically.

And the Office of National Drug Control Policy has some good facts on prescription abuse and awareness as well. Check that out here.

As we hear more and more about Michael Jackson and his prescription drug abuse, the need for awareness and prevention continues to rise. The medicine cabinet can be just as dangerous as the guy on the street corner. Doctors can be drug dealers too.

Here's video about the rise of prescription drug abuse:

And here's another one:

And here's something funny.

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