May. 31, 2015 (Pinellas Park, Fla.) —National Drug Facts Week was created for teens in 2010 by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, to help shatter the myths about drugs and drug abuse. In 2015, the awareness week runs from June 24th to June 28th. This observance is meant to open up honest dialogue between health care providers, parents, scientists and teens through community and web-based education.
“It’s a great time for young adults to get involved in their community and learn the facts about drugs and drug abuse, including the misuse of prescriptions drugs,” says Dr. Charles K. Friedman, D.O., ABAM, a Board Certified Addictionology and Pain Medicine physician from Recovery Resources of Florida and Pain Relief Centers. “I have seen first-hand what an epidemic like prescription drug abuse can do.”
Dr. Friedman is the only dual-practicing physician in the region who is trained and certified in the specialties of Addiction Medicine and Pain Management. He’s seen both sides of prescription drug use — how it can help individuals in pain in need who are prescribed medication by a physician and also how it can hurt individuals if substances are used improperly.
How common is prescription drug abuse? According to NIDA, each day approximately 2,000 teenagers in the United States try prescription drugs for the first time while not under the care of a physician. Prescription drug use is considered abuse if an individual uses a prescription drug without the consult of a doctor, uses it for the “high,” or uses it in any way other than that which it was prescribed.
Dr. Friedman discusses some misconceptions about prescription drug abuse:
- “All prescription drugs are the same.”
False. There are different types of prescription medications: opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants, to name a few. “They all affect the brain and the body differently, and can have devastating effects if used improperly,” explains Dr. Friedman.
- “If a friend is experiencing the same symptoms as I was, it’s okay for me to share my medication with them.”
False. Prescription medication should never be shared and it is illegal to do this. “When a patient is prescribed a medication, it is intended for that patient alone based on many different factors, such as medical history, possible drug interactions, height and weight,” Dr. Friedman says. “The patient prescribed the medication needs to be monitored closely by a physician for any potential side effects or dependency issues.”
- “Using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using illicit drugs, like cocaine or heroin.”
False. “The risks from prescription drug abuse on an individual can be similar to the effects from illicit drugs. Both are dangerous and can elicit short and long-term consequences on one’s health,” Dr. Friedman says. “Prescription drug abuse is substance abuse.”