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Why Has OxyContin Been Abused So Much in Mountainous Areas?

Why Has OxyContin Been Abused So Much in Mountainous Areas?

Due to a number of factors, including poverty, generational addiction and access to the drugs, OxyContin abuse is a major problem in mountainous areas

Prescription drug addiction is a national problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drug overdose rates in the U.S. have more than tripled since 1990. In 2008 alone, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdose, and prescription drugs caused the majority of those deaths. Of those deaths, 75 percent were caused by prescription painkillers like OxyContin. Since 1999, the sale of painkillers like this has increased 300 percent. In 2008, more people died from painkiller overdose than from cocaine and heroin overdose combined.

While abuse of OxyContin is a nation-wide problem, it is an even more alarming trend in mountainous areas, specifically in the Appalachian region, which stretches from southern New York to northern Mississippi. According to a report from East Tennessee State University, people in rural counties, like those found in mountain regions of Appalachia, are twice as likely to overdose on prescription painkillers than people living in urban areas. This addiction to drugs like OxyContin is tricking down to younger generations. Teens from the Appalachian area have a higher rate of pill abuse than the rest of the teen population in the U.S. In addition, a 2011 article in the New York Times reported that one in ten babies born in the Appalachian area tested positive for drugs. While researches cannot definitively point to a cause for the increased abuse of drugs like OxyContin in mountainous regions, they do point to a few possibilities.

Poverty and OxyContin Addiction

According to the before-mentioned article from East Tennessee State University, some of the states with the largest increases in overdose deaths in the last decade were states with the highest poverty levels among Caucasians. According to a 2009 study reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicated that of overdose deaths between 2004 to 2007, over 45 percent of the people were enrolled in Medicaid. According to a report from the Duke Chronicle, these patients are six times more likely to overdose. Remarkably, the cycle of abuse can often be traced back to an initial, legal distribution of these painkillers. When this channel of drugs dries up, users turn to other sources.

Appalachian area residents rely on coal mining for their incomes, but those jobs are beginning to move westward, according to an article from the magazine, The Week. These small communities are folding rapidly. Those left see no prospects for a bright future, so they turn to pills as a means to cope with their depressed feelings. Over time, the depression deepens and addiction increases in a downward cycle.

Generational Addiction and OxyContin Addiction

According to the New York Times article, many of the addicts in the Appalachian region are third-or fourth-generation prescription drug abusers. In the mountain areas of Ohio, more people died from overdoses in 2008 and 2009 than in the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. One man arrested for selling pills from his house indicated that he was forced to become a dealer in order to supplement his Social Security check. Family attitudes and generational poverty has created a cycle of painkiller addiction that continues from one generation to the next.

Availability of Painkillers in Mountainous Areas

One of the reasons for the abuse in mountainous areas is the availability of the drugs. According to the CDC, over 50 percent of people who abused painkillers like OxyContin obtained them free from a friend or relative. Another 16 percent either bought or stole the drugs from a friend or relative. Over 17 percent got their drugs from one doctor, and many others got their drugs from “doctor shopping,” which is the practice of going to more than one doctor to obtain the desired medications.

One reasons for the availability of these painkillers may be the state laws regarding the distribution and sale of the drugs. According to a report from the CDC, laws differ from state to state. For example, many states require a physical exam before a prescription can be written, and it must be written on a tamper-resistant form. An ID is required to pick up the prescription from a pharmacy and there are limits on the prescription. However, the laws regarding the number of pills prescribed and the dosage of the pills varies widely among the states and situations in which the drugs are prescribed (emergency room versus doctors’ office).

Reducing OxyContin Abuse

Efforts are underway to try to curb addiction not only in mountainous areas, but also in the U.S. as a whole. Doctors are taking action to identify potential abuse. They are now looking for signs of abuse in their patients and are screening for addiction during physicals. Most importantly, physicians are now taking on the role of educator, talking with their patients about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Pharmacists are taking similar actions. Individual states are creating prescription drug databases to track prescriptions and flag instances of doctor shopping. Both pharmacists and doctors are required to log any prescriptions. Research is underway to create a national database as well. In addition, some pharmacies have developed hotlines to alert other pharmacies about doctor shopping and fraudulent prescriptions.

On a personal level, Louisville patients can avoid OxyContin abuse by following the directions and advising a doctor before changing or stopping the dosage. Most importantly, individuals should only take medications prescribed to them and should never give prescriptions to family or friends. Instead, they should dispose of drugs properly and keep medication secure.

Getting Help For Your OxyContin Addiction

If you or a loved one in Louisville is struggling with an OxyContin addiction, we can help. You can call our toll free helpline any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can talk with one of our admissions coordinators about the nature and extent of your problem and together, you can determine the best treatment options for your situation. Don’t allow addiction to destroy your life. Call us today.

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