Report: “Leftover” Meds Key Source for Prescription Drug Addicts

A recent study in Utah highlights the need for parents to restrict access to dangerous prescription drugs like Oxycontin from teenagers.

A report by the Utah Department of Health says that the vast majority of teens and adults who abuse opioid painkillers like Oxycontin or Vicodin receive their drugs from friends and family members who have legitimate prescriptions. According to the report, 97 percent of people with a prescription drug addiction had received drugs from friends and family, and in most cases the drugs were given to the person willingly.

An estimated five million Americans use pain medication for reasons other than pain relief, and drug and alcohol addiction centers are seeing an increasing number of patients who are checking in for help with prescription drug addiction. The results of the research by the Utah Department of Health, published in the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, highlight this: almost two percent of the more than 5,300 Utah adults surveyed in 2008 said they had taken an opioid pain medicine not prescribed to them over the past year.

Drug treatment for prescription drug problems is hampered by the ease with which a person can gain access to medication. Researchers found that one in five Utah residents had a prescription for at least one prescription painkiller, and most had “leftover” medicine that they kept and were happy to share with friends.

In most cases, the person giving the prescription drugs does not realize that they are contributing to a person’s addiction and possible need for time in a rehab center; they believe they are just helping someone by giving them medicine to ease their pain. But many people who end up in an addiction program will exaggerate or invent medical problems in order to obtain access to prescription-strength pain medication.

Whether you know of someone who has been through a rehab program for pain medicine addiction or not, it’s a good idea to dispose of your opioid medication as soon as you are done with it rather than hanging on to it. U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing unused prescription drugs, while some states like Utah have prescription drug drop-off programs at local police stations.