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Danger in your Doctor’s Office: Prescribing Abuse

Over the last 10 years, an epidemic of abuse and addiction to opiates, stimulants, tranquilizers, sleep medication and non-opiate pain medication has occurred. In 2009, 16 million Americans age 12 and older took a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant or sedative for non-medical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed (

Many contributing factors have created this “perfect storm”, including the pressure on doctors to see more patients each day, the marketing of medication on TV, the availability of medication on the internet, the communal medicine cabinet in our homes, the notion that there is a pill for every discomfort, and most importantly, the over prescribing of medication by physicians. Few, if any, get education on treatment of substance abuse and addiction or extensive training or prescribing practices. Most doctors are ethical and mean well, but a minority are growing rich from over prescribing these medications.

At WestBridge we have seen an increase in people addicted to medications who may have valid prescriptions or who frequent “pill mills.” The challenge in treatment is that people believe because a doctor prescribed the medication their use is okay and they don’t have a problem. To prevent abuse and treat people with substance use disorders related to prescription medication, we must monitor doctors’ prescribing practices and hold them legally accountable for their malpractice. We also must develop tolerance for discomfort and move beyond the notion of a “quick fix.” Until we do that, this deadly epidemic will continue.

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