The problem with pills

Worldwide, the abuse of prescription drugs has become one of the biggest epidemics in the last few years.

According to the statistics of, an estimated 52 million people have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime. Twenty percent of those are children 12 years or older.

Physician assistant Angela Schreiber, who specializes in family medicine at Arrowhead Medical Clinic, said in her experience, she hasn’t seen a drastic difference between teen and adult users.

“I definitely hear of both teenagers and adults abusing prescription drugs,” she said. “It is difficult to say which I hear of most frequently. In regard to the adult population, it is more frequently heard of in the college age in my experience, but there are certainly adults over 30 that abuse prescription medication, as well.”

Several medications that are used for nonmedical purposes are Adderall, Ritalin, Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, as well as many others that can be abused by all ages.

Prescription drugs have been more popular in recent years than ever before due to the fact that they are easy to get and are perceived safe.

“I believe the problem with abuse of prescription medications is partially due to a world where competition, stress, depression and lack of faith has become the norm,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber said there are deadly consequences to misusing the medication that teens and adults are prescribed.

“People become addicted to these medications and often resort to illegal activity to afford to continue taking the medication,” she said.

Medication interactions can also happen when a person is using a combination of other prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications.

“Overdoses are commonly seen as an individual tolerance to a particular medication increases, more of the drug is needed for the same effect,” she said.

Schreiber said a person can’t be automatically admitted into rehab if they are unwilling or don’t pose a risk to themselves or others. She said individuals often seek help or rehab but will fall back into their old habits.

Schreiber’s husband, Kurt, a Cedar Falls police officer, said from his job perspective he hasn’t seen a spike in prescription drug abuse but that it has always been an ongoing problem.

“I would say we actually file criminal charges a couple times a month,” he said. “We see it more often, but will usually refer the person to the medical side of the house for treatment.”

He said that there is a criminal element to it, but it is generally an addiction, and the person needs to be treated, not punished.

Schreiber said the charge for unlawfully possessing a prescription drug is a serious misdemeanor.

“A person convicted of a serious misdemeanor faces a penalty of up to one year in jail and $1,875 in fines,” he said.

One way to break the addiction is through intense counseling or psychotherapy, which could include withdrawal/detoxification. Support from friends and family play a big part in the recovery process and most of all, the desire to beat the addiction from the abuser needs to be constant.

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