Prescription Drug Addiction and Abuse

Prescribed medication, in relation to individuals developing problems of addiction, has been an ever-growing problem. There are a variety of influences that can be attributed to this problem. Societal and individual level influences are the most common perspectives used to analyze medication addiction. The opioid crisis in the United States and the Lyrica problems in Northern Ireland are two examples of addiction related problems that incorporate at least one of these two influences as an explanation.

Societal influences such as pharmaceutical industry practices can be attributed to the opioid crisis in the United States. On “Opioids: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, companies such as Purdue relied on aggressive marketing to doctors to yield higher sales and profits. In turn, these doctors were featured on videos with the goal of giving skeptical patients reassurance about taking strong medications. From a psychological standpoint, patients were wrongfully being manipulated by doctors who were on big pharmacy’s payroll. For patients that became addicted, they found themselves in a difficult situation where they did not know who to seek out for help. The role of healthcare providers is to provide patients with assistance and direction for illness prevention. However, patients end up seeking help from a doctor who was promoting and prescribing medication that they claim was safe for them to consume.

The Lyrica problem in Northern Ireland has attributions to individual level influences in terms of biology. In BBC Three’s documentary “Belfast’s Pregabalin Addiction”, Kenneth is one of the young people that is prescribed the medication to treat his anxiety and has become addicted to it. He states “…once you get used to it, your body is used to it and your body is changed and gets used to something it needs.” This is referred to as tolerance in an addicted individual. The brain receptors become overwhelmed and dopamine released from the mesolimbic pathway has less impact on the brain’s reward center. Individuals find themselves taking increasingly higher dosages in order to feel the initial “high” they felt the first time. In addressing his own addiction, Kenneth participated in individualized drug counseling as a treatment approach. This treatment approach aids the patient in developing coping strategies and focusing on reducing usage of the drug. In Kenneth’s case, he needed to make the switch from snorting the drug to swallowing it. After this, he would see a 50mg decrease in his dosage. (Lecture 11)

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