Prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest-growing categories of drug abuse across the country. Along with smoking marijuana, more Americans are beginning to abuse these drugs than any other classification of drug. One state that is dealing with this problem right now is Idaho.
A recent study in the state was conducted in order to determine two facts. First, how many Idahoans were not using a prescription drug that had been prescribed for them, and second, how many were using a medication that was not prescribed for them. Both of these categories are significant, but for different reasons.
It’s obviously a problem if any residents of a state are using drugs that are not prescribed for them. By definition, this is drug abuse. Any drug being used by someone other than the patient it was intended for is a step toward potential harm, so doctors and other public health officials try to watch out for and curb this illegal use.
The reason that officials want to know if Idahoans are not taking their prescribed drugs is because this might mean that the drugs are going to someone else. Studies have shown that when someone is using a prescription drug that was not prescribed to them, they usually got it from a relative or friend (as opposed to a professional drug dealer.)
Whereas most of the illegal “street” drugs we think of-marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.-are sold by dealers, this means that cracking down on prescription drug abuse means cracking down on residents of the state handing their drugs off to one another.
In the study conducted by the Ameritox Company, 1,000 urine samples of drug-prescribed patients were taken and analyzed. The researchers found that 39% of the samples contained drugs that had not been prescribed for the patient in question. This means that potentially two out of every five Idahoans is taking a prescription drug that their doctor has not told them to use.
The researchers also found that 35.9% of the subjects weren’t taking their prescribed medications. This doesn’t necessarily prove that these people are giving away their drugs, as some of the patients could simply be deciding not to take the drugs. It’s worrisome for officials, however, as it means that a large percentage of drugs are essentially unaccounted for.
This number of prescription drugs not being properly used puts Idaho in the top 10 states in the country for unprescribed drug use. This is not a top ten list that any state would want to make, of course, but it could be embarrassing for an Idaho that would like to promote itself as an agricultural power, not a drug use capital.
What can a state do, then, to lower the number of people using prescription drugs that they are not prescribed? The first step is always education. Too many Idahoans, as well as Americans across the country, simply don’t understand how addictive and dangerous prescription painkillers and other prescription drugs can be. By teaching young people not to use these drugs un-prescribed, we can take the first step to limit their use.
It’s not limited to just teens, though. More and more adults are abusing pills as well, so public information campaigns could be a big help in lowering these numbers as well. Campaigns against drunk driving and other dangerous drug habits have been proven to lower death rates, so heightened and improved campaigns on this subject could help, as well. Idaho would probably like to continue being known for growing potatoes, not being at the top of a drug abuse list.