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Prescription Drug Abuse and Rehab in Colorado

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Facts Related to Prescription Drug Abuse:

  • 19% of the teenagers in America report abusing prescription drugs
  • Most prescription drugs are obtained from family member's prescription drugs
  • Taking prescription drugs that are not prescribed to the user is ILLEGAL
  • Sharing prescrition drug is, not only illegal, but can be deadly
  • In 2003-2007 49% of the drug related deaths in Denver involved prescription drug abuse
  • In 2007 562 people died in Colorado from most commonly abused prescription drugs
  • 173 Coloradans died from abusing prescription drugs, which is three times as many as those that died from drunk driving
  • (2007) "There were 6.2 million (2.5 percent) persons aged 12 or older who used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically in the past month."
  • From 2002 to 2007, there was an increase among young adults aged 18 to 25 in the rate of current nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers (from 4.1 to 4.6 percent)" Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • In the past year, prescription painkillers, like Vicodin, OxiContin, Percocet have become America’s second most prevalent illegal drug problem after marijuana.  When you include other prescription drugs, such as tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, the problem becomes even larger and is the “number one” drug abuse and addiction problem in America today. 

Take precaution with your prescription drugs in the same manner that you would be cautious of your money or your credit cards. Keep prescription drugs in a locked, safe environment, not in your kitchen or medicine cabinets and dispose of all unused prescription drugs when they are no longer needed. If someone dies from taking your prescription drugs, you may be legally liable for their death if you were reckless with your protection of these medicines.

There are three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused:

  1. opioids such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine;
  2. central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines;
  3. stimulants such as dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate.

Prescription drug abuse and addiction among young people ages 12-17 is also reported as the second most abused illegal drug, behind marijuana.  In actual numbers, marijuana is by far the leading illegal drug of abuse with this age group, but in analyzing the growth trend, prescription drug abuse is closing the gap at an alarming pace, exemplified by the fact that teens have recently been turning away from street drugs to prescription drugs to get high. New users of prescription drugs are reported being equal to new users of marijuana. Certainly, that is an alarming statistic.

There are a number of considerations that are support this new drug abuse trend:

  1. Consider the fact that many young people are prescribed Ritalin and Adderall for their restlessness and inability to stay focused in the classroom.  This condition has been given a morbid psychiatric label of ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) A high percentage of these young people sell or share their “medications” with their peers.
  2. Consider the highly prevalent advertisements for sleeping aids, tranquilizers and other mood-altering drugs on commercial television that strongly suggest that life is better with chemical support.
  3. Millions of parents are given these prescription drugs by their physicians. This action condones the efficacy of needing a drug to feel more normal or to increase ones abilities.
  4. The majority of teens are getting prescription drugs for free and more easily than traditional street drugs (from their home medicine cabinets, for example.)
  5. Physicians not infrequently prescribe OxyContin and Vicodin to young people who complain of chronic pain or have an acute injury.
  6. Consider the challenge of the psychological thrill of taking a drug that others are touting to be “the same as heroin.” 

Because of the liberal prescribing practices of many physicians throughout the country, our society is facing an opiate-medication epidemic.  Nearly half of all requests seeking drug rehab are related to addiction problems associated with opiate prescription drug use.  

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there are 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain who find it difficult to locate healthcare providers who will prescribe an adequate level of pain medications to alleviate their pain.  Many websites for professionals suggest that most healthcare providers have a fear of prescribing opiate pain medications because of their “opiophobia” (fear that patients will become addicted to this  pain medication). 

This is an example of our culture’s orientation to prescribing drugs to handle medical symptoms, since pain is always a symptom of an originating problem.  Enormous profits are realized from the sale of opiate pain medications which, unfortunately, drives the underlying philosophy of our medical practice in America. 


Colorado Drug Rehab, as noted, receives many calls from the public that have been to pain doctors and treated with addictive painkillers. We feel that these physicians are in a tough position, but we also feel that there are an inordinate amount of pain doctors that are too liberal in their prescribing of opiates. Physicians who are treating pain feel that they are being accused of drug dealing and have come out with the following statement:

"The government is waging an aggressive, intemperate, unjustified war on pain doctors. This war bears a remarkable resemblance to the campaign against doctors under the Harrison Act of 1914, which made it a criminal felony for physicians to prescribe narcotics to addicts. In the early 20th century, the prosecutions of doctors were highly publicized by the media and turned public opinion against physicians, painting them not as healers of the sick but as suppliers of narcotics to degenerate addicts and threats to the health and security of the nation."

Source: Libby, Ronald T., "Treating Doctors as Drug Dealers The DEA’s War on Prescription painkillers," CATO Institute (Washington, DC: June 2005), p. 21.

Why Do Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

(When we talk about prescription drugs, we are focusing on those drugs that have mood altering properties.) Some people experiment with prescription drugs because they think they will help them have more fun, lose weight, fit in, and even study more effectively. Prescription drugs can be easier to get than street drugs: Family members or friends could have a prescription. But prescription drugs are also sometimes sold on the street like other illegal drugs.

Some people think that prescription drugs are safer and less addictive than street drugs. After all, these are drugs that moms, dads, and even kid brothers and sisters use. To a young girl, taking her brother's ADHD medicine felt like a good way to keep her appetite in check. She'd heard how bad diet pills can be, and she wrongly thought that the ADHD drugs would be safer.

A 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that among all youths aged 12 to 17, almost a quarter had tried prescription drugs for recreational use at least once.

Other people who try prescription drugs think they're not doing anything illegal because these drugs are prescribed by doctors. But taking drugs without a prescription - or sharing a prescription drug with friends - is actually breaking the law and, in most states is a felony.

But prescription drugs are only safe for the individuals who actually have prescriptions for them and even then, one has to be aware that many doctors over prescribe and prescribe drugs that are not really going to rectify the presenting problem. But giving the benefit of the doubt, a doctor has examined the patient and knows that they won't have a bad reaction to the drugs her prescribes. The doctor has also told them exactly how they should take the medicine, including things to avoid while taking the drug - such as drinking alcohol, smoking, or taking other medications.

Prescription drugs are rapidly becoming primary drugs of abuse in the United States and throughout the world. There are many commonly held misconceptions of the abuse potential for powerful substances such as oxycontin, because such substances can be obtained legally, and have legitimate use in the medical profession.

When doctors are prescribing drugs for a malady for which the drug is indicated, there may be a positive, but in the drug rehab field, many drugs are given to replace the illicit drugs taken by the addicted person. It has not proven effective is substitute one drug for another drug as treatment. Methadone, antidepressants or other prescription medications are designed to mask the symptoms of addiction. Essentially, an addict is trading one addiction for another.

These medications prevent the addict from developing the life skills necessary to restore his moral values and quality of life, which keeps the individual from acquiring the necessary tools to remain sober. Thus relapse becomes inevitable and the relapse is usually back to the more potent drugs that the individual was on originally. Methadone maintenance requires that the patient continually have drug test to show that they are not taking other drugs along with the methadone, since the person feels less than alive and is continually seeking another chemical concoction that will bring about a feeling of well-being. There are many doctors that may try to convince you that your addiction is a chemical irregularity or imbalance, and it is true, by definition, that a person on any drugs, prescribed or not is changing the normal physiological/chemical processes in the body, but the cure is not by finding the "right" drug to stabilize the addict, becasue that has proven to not happen. The answer is getting all of the drugs out of the body so that the normal chemistry can be restored and then learning the life skills and handling the emotional problems so that the person is wanting to escape from his reality.

History of Methaqualone (Quaalude)

A history of drug abuse in America wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Methaqualone (Quaalude).

In the 1970s, Methaqualone became an urban legend for its ability to enhance sexual desire and became one of the “recreational” drugs-of-choice in America.  Methaqualone was originally synthesized in India as a possible antimalarial agent, but the sleep-producing qualities of the drug were profound and it was hoped that it could become an alternative to barbiturates. 

Barbiturate drugs had been available for nearly a century and had become the family of drugs chosen for sleep problems, but they were abused because of the “high” they produced and it was problematic because the withdrawals were life threatening.  Methaqualone was marketed as the safe, non-addicting alternative to barbiturates.  Rorer Pharmaceuticals coined the commercial name of Quaalude and pushed physicians to freely prescribe this “safe” sleep aid.  Producing a significant “high”, users sought out Quaaludes for any an all symptoms.  However, like all of these stories, the drug became a problem with widespread abuse, acute reactions and fatal overdoses, and stiff restrictions were placed on the drug and, ultimately, it was taken off the market. Getting the cooperation of the pharmaceutical company to end the production of Quaaludes was a huge win for the Drug Enforcement Administration. It was difficult for the drug company to justify why this drug, in particular, was needed for medical reason, so they agreed to stop making the product. The raw materials that are used to make methaqualone were produced in India and that company also agreed to end its manufacturing of the chemical starter.

This same approach has been tried with the pharmaceutical companies that make ephedrine, which is used for the suppression of cold symptoms, but the market has been too profitable for them to agree to stop its production. The significance of this decision is important since ephedrine is the raw product that is used to make meth and crystal meth and if it were curtailed, we wouldn't have the "home labs" throughout the world making this dangerous and illicit drug.