Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse Term Paper

Pages: 14 (3852 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 20  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs


Prescription Drug Abuse on-Campus and Off Introduction

Drug abuse has long been a major concern of policymakers, educators, and healthcare officials in the United States. The subject of innumerable media stories and government and medical reports, as well as many anecdotal accounts, drug abuse has typically meant the misuse, or recreational use, of illegal drugs. These illegal drugs include such dangerously addictive substances as heroin and crack cocaine, and also other drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, various barbiturates, amphetamines, and so forth.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse Assignment

However, it is only recently that many have begun to look at another related issue - the sizeable problem of the abuse of legal, prescription drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs - such as has gained notoriety in the widely publicized case of media pundit Rush Limbaugh, among others - is considered a large and growing problem in contemporary America. Abuse of prescription drugs is particularly acute among the country's youth. According to a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost three million young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen, and almost seven million young men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five reported using prescription medications non-medically at least one time in their lives. (Meadows, 2003, p. 36) Such figures equal out to a potentially enormous problem among today's student population. As can be seen by the age ranges given in the study, college and university students appear to be especially prone to experimenting with the recreational use of prescription medications. If so many millions of college age men and women have used prescription products non-medically at least one time, how many have used these same preparations on multiple occasions? In the foregoing study, the researcher will attempt to determine the extent to which a problem of prescription drug abuse does or does not exist in America's colleges and universities.

Literature Review

Nature of the Problem

Abuse of prescription medication in American colleges and universities is a complex issue that can only be understood by first examining the larger matter of prescription drug abuse in the general population. First, it is necessary to define the problem; to understand what amount of misuse constitutes abuse. The numbers themselves are often cited as proof that a major problem exists. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, there were fewer than half a million first-time users of prescription painkillers in the 1980's, as opposed to more than six million in 2002. (Barolat, 2005) Nonetheless, sheer numbers do not automatically equal a problem. As Barolat notes, there are indeed many people who are in genuine chronic physical pain, and who do require the aid of painkillers to maintain normal levels of day-today functionality. Definitions of "abuse" that are based solely, or largely, on the numbers of individuals who take prescription painkillers is the source of serious problems for those in genuine need:

For the estimated 50,000,000 chronic pain sufferers, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain prescriptions for painkillers and access to medications. Even more worrisome is the absence of alternatives offered by Federal regulators to patients in need. Rather than promoting advanced treatments, such as spinal cord stimulation, the Drug Enforcement Agency has set its sights on curtailing the nation's supply of prescription medications. (Barolat, 2005)

The fact that the Drug Enforcement Agency has taken it upon itself to attempt to strictly limit the prescribing of painkillers, and other potentially addictive or physically dangerous drugs, because so many people are taking them sounds more like a knee-jerk reaction to numbers than any real attempt to understand, much less to define, a problem.

The administration of George W. Bush, in particular, has sought to impose rigorous controls on the sale and availability of prescription drugs. The Administration's outlook can be summed up by a March 1, 2004 pronouncement by John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), "The nonmedical use of prescription drags has become an increasingly wide-spread and serious problem in this country," (Meadows, 2004, p. 7).

Once again, the Federal Government's definition of the problem is a numbers game - if a lot of people do it, there must be a problem. National Drug Control Policy thinking is summed up by a further description of who uses what, with careful attention paid to linking prescription drugs with illicit drugs:

Narcotic pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives trailed only marijuana in the list of drags abused by Americans in 2002. While self-reported abuse of illicit drags, including cocaine and heroin, has fallen over the past years, prescription drug abuse has increased and is now more prevalent than abuse of all other drags except for marijuana. (Meadows, 2004, p. 7)

The authoritative nature of such statements is further born out by the additional information that these "conclusions" are supported by noted public health authorities and advocates:

Waiters [Sic - should read Walters] was joined by Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., former FDA Commissioner Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., Karen Tandy, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va. (Meadows, 2004, p. 7)

However, the above political definition of prescription drug abuse neither distinguishes legitimate users from illegitimate users of those same drugs, nor does it provide any real and clear definition of why high incidences of usage should necessarily be considered a national health problem.

A more helpful definition of prescription drug abuse might be found in the words of Lynn E. O'Connor, Milena Esherick, and Cassandra Vieten who define the issue in terms of the actual effects of the misuse of these drugs. O'Connor, Esherick, and Vieten looked specifically at the problems of women and concluded that abuse of even prescription drugs such as Valium, and other sedating benzodiazepines and opiate-type pain relievers (O'Connor, Esherick & Vieten, 2002, p. 75) could lead to considerable problems in daily life. "Under the influence of drugs, women lose their spouses, their jobs, their children, and their lives. Women are being incarcerated at increasing rates for drug-related offenses." (O'Connor, Esherick & Vieten, 2002, p. 75)

In this case, a clear connection is being made between abuse of licit drugs and personal and familial difficulties, as well as problems at work, and with the law. They further connect the abuse of prescription drugs, as opposed to illegal drugs, to crises in later life.

Some women who are able to limit their adolescent drug experimentation may develop serious drug problems at middle or older ages, frequently in response to marital or family difficulties, illness, or other stressful life events. Often this later-onset drug abuse involves prescription drugs, legally obtained through physicians or psychiatrists. Iatrogenic addiction -- that is, addiction caused by medical practice -- is an enormous problem for women. (O'Connor, Esherick & Vieten, 2002, p. 76)

Richard N. Rosenthal, M.D. also observes that anxiety disorders are commonly associated with abuse of prescription drugs (Toneatto, 2003, p. 31) - and in further support of O'Connor, Esherick, and Vieten states that women are more frequently diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men - thus supporting the idea that abuse of prescription drugs is very often tied to life crises.

Pauline Rennie Payton even cites a case in which a woman who has been bullied at work admits to having resorted to abuse of prescription drugs in order to alleviate the emotional pain, anguish, and pressure.

Prescription Drug Abuse in Colleges and Universities

Based on the above information, a working definition of "prescription drug abuse" can be considered to entail the employment of prescription medications for the purposes of "self-medicating;" of easing personal traumas. These traumas consist particularly of life crises such as marital break-ups, other family problems, and problems with work, or at work. Most of these problems, especially in the case of women, seem to be associated with midlife. Nevertheless, they do involve the existence of what - to the individual concerned - comes across as something insurmountable, either an internal psychological difficulty, or an external threat that causes psychological difficulties. In determining whether there is a prescription drug problem in America's colleges and universities, one might look at whether the college experience can be considered broadly similar to other experiences that induce the kinds of psychological difficulties that frequently lead individuals to abuse prescription drugs. Susan D. Raeburn provides a connection as to modes of thought; what constitutes pressure in a college or young adult environment can be different from what constitutes pressure in midlife, but it is, nonetheless, a potent stimulus for psychological trauma:

Eating disorders were virtually unknown in undergraduate college classrooms of abnormal psychology in the early 1970s, with the exception of an occasional obscure reference to that mysterious starvation syndrome, anorexia. A frightening photograph of an emaciated girl was offered in the textbook with no seeming recognition that the disorder had any relationship to the crazy eating habits promulgated by weight-loss fads and fashion magazines of the time and already… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse.  (2006, September 26).  Retrieved December 8, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse."  26 September 2006.  Web.  8 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse."  September 26, 2006.  Accessed December 8, 2021.