The drug menace has been an ongoing global battle for the past decades. Despite adding legislative measures to help prevent the use, manufacture, and distribution of these illicit substances, it continues to burden the government and affect so many lives of the people. This is the reason why some people resort to using other substances like kratom to avoid engaging in prescription drug abuse.
In this article, we will dissect some of the truths about kratom, and if it is a viable solution to the persistent opioid abuse problem.
Prescription Drug Abuse Continues To Thrive
Prescription drug abuse is a global issue that has affected people from all walks of life – whether legitimate users of prescribed medications or individuals who seek to experience different levels of euphoria by using prescription drugs outside their intended purposes.
Notwithstanding the dangerous effects of what drug abuse may do to the body, more and more people are enticed to experiment on them, which eventually leads to drug addiction.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) conducts annual surveys on drug use and health. It provides valuable information about the trends of drug use, as well as the prevalence of drug use among teens and adults.
There are two general types of drugs abused by individuals:
- Illicit substances such as Fentanyl analogs, Ecstasy, Cocaine, Heroin, and Amphetamine
- Prescription medication such as Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, and Methadone
Prescription drug abuse is the intentional use of a certain medication without a prescription. What makes this dangerous is that some individuals would self-medicate their illnesses without realizing that certain prescription drugs may have a potential to alter the normal brain function if not taken at right doses. This is the reason why people need to consult a doctor so that an appropriate drug may be given with a specified dosage.
When these prescription drugs are not used accordingly, the possibility of abusing the drug increases in likelihood. Another way that prescription drugs can harm people is when they are not kept in a safe place, and children (most especially teens) may gain access to these substances. This may also turn into an addiction.
Interesting Facts on Prescription Drug Abuse
Approximately 7 million individuals are current users of prescription drugs – pain relievers, antidepressants, and stimulants. However, this data showed that it was used for non-medical purposes.
In the 2013 Monitoring The Future survey, it was reported that illicit substance use was highest among people in their late teens and twenties. Roughly 6.5 percent of teens at least 12 years old have used prescription drugs in the last month.
Among the deaths caused by drug use, prescription drug abuse accounts for at least 45% while street drug use was at 39%. This data shows that individuals have more access to prescription medications, and that it has become more popular among drug users.
What makes the situation worse is that prescription drugs are available in any over-the-counter pharmacy. In addition, some patients would go to the extent of “doctor shopping” so that they can get a new prescription for a specific drug. This makes it easier for them to have a refill of the prescription.
The black market is one of the most convenient places where drug users can purchase their substances of choice. The cost of the drug may be 10x more than the actual price from pharmacies, but this steep price does not stop them from buying.
Teens engaged in prescription drug abuse are twice as likely to drink booze, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia. It could also initiate teens to use other substances like marijuana and other street drugs like heroin.
Fentanyl is an opioid medication that is used as an anesthetic to prevent pain after surgery. While we see this as an effective treatment for pain, abusing this drug can become lethal. After all, it is said to be 100 times more potent than morphine.
In 2016, there had been reports of a large number of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl. Some other drugs have also been found to be laced with fentanyl, causing it to become highly potent and lethal.
One in 12 senior high schools were reported to use Vicodin for non-medical reasons while 1 in 20 reported abuse of Oxycontin.
Most of the teens reported that they were able to obtain such drugs from friends and relatives.
Most Commonly Abuse Prescription Drugs
These prescription drugs were intentionally developed to treat various medical conditions. However, along with the positive effects of using these drugs, there are unwanted side effects that are likely to happen, most especially if inappropriately used.
- Analgesia (feeling no pain)
- Confusion or poor judgment
- Euphoria (feeling high)
- Itching or flushed skin
- Nausea, vomiting
- Respiratory depression (shallow or slow breathing)
- Slurred speech
- Small pupils
You can easily identify an individual who has become too attached to a certain prescription drug, through the following signs:
- development of tolerance
- having legal problems due to drug use
- having withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing use (this can be seen as having depressed mood, stomach upset, insomnia, and muscle aches)
- inability to control
- spending large amounts of time to obtain prescription drugs
- strong desire to use prescription drugs
- trouble meeting social or work obligations
The medications most commonly abused are:
- Pain relievers
Prescription opioids that are commonly abused are:
Prescription sedatives slow down brain activity, which some people found to be effective in treating anxiety and sleep orders. Prescription sedatives that are commonly abused are:
- Sleep Medications
Prescription stimulants are drugs that induce alertness, blood pressure, attention, heart rate, and breathing rate. The commonly abused prescription stimulants are:
Meanwhile, using prescription drugs in combination with alcohol may decrease heart rate, and can even lead to coma or death.
Kratom for Pain Management
Knowing that using prescription medications can be expensive and life-threatening, some patients have turned to kratom due to its reported efficacy in controlling pain and cheaper cost. However, despite the substance’s seeming ability as a painkiller, the Food and Drug Administration has considered to include kratom among the Schedule I Controlled Substances.
Kratom has been popularly used in Southeast Asia for centuries as an effective means of alleviating pain. This substance is reportedly helpful in coping with withdrawal symptoms from opioid painkillers and other street drugs. Kratom use has also been linked to positive effects such as uplifting mood and energy, and increasing focus and concentration.
The effect of kratom depends on the strain of kratom leaves and on the amount of kratom used. There are three kratom strains: Red, Green, and White. These are based on the color of the kratom veins and stems.
The most common kratom strain used is the Maeng Da. It provides an extreme kind of euphoria and can provide pain relief for a very long duration.
According to its users, using moderate doses of kratom can provide a stimulating effect, while taking it in large doses makes it effective as a depressant.
Kratom is sold in the form of kratom leaves that may be chewed or boiled, or prepared as powder or extract. Kratom has a naturally bitter taste, which is why kratom users often mix it with juice, coffee or tea. Aside from drinking different kratom concoctions, some kratom users would also smoke its leaves.
Kratom users claim that the substance offers effective treatment for chronic pain in relation to the following medical conditions:
- Abdominal soreness
- Broken bones, scrapes, and burns
- Chest pain
- Damaged muscles
Kratom, however, is not accepted in all states in the United States. In fact, Indiana had banned its use due to the possibility of kratom to be abused. When used more than necessary, kratom has been found to be addictive.
Moreover, while the effectiveness of kratom may be visible in some patients, it can also be harmful to the body when taken inappropriately. This is why the status of kratom as a legal drug is still pending. IN fact, it may soon belong to the list of Schedule I Controlled Substances.
Because it is an opiate, kratom may lead to a possibility of dependence.
Kratom: The Solution to Opioid Abuse?
While users see kratom as an effective treatment for those suffering from opioid withdrawal symptoms, others see it as another substance that is likely to become abused. The situation is aggravated due to the fact that kratom is accessible and less expensive compared to other street drugs.
Legalizing it the same way as marijuana is something that is probable. Knowing that it can be an extremely effective substance to alleviate pain, it may be categorized as a the controlled substance with medical use but with a potential for abuse.
In the same process of legalizing marijuana across U.S. states, kratom may need to undergo some changes with the way it is perceived by the general public. For instance, putting some form of control in the number of doses that a patient can take should somehow help ease the problem with its potentially addictive nature.
Although dependence on kratom is possible, there has been no record of anyone dying from using pure kratom. This is in stark contrast to prescription painkillers, some of which have already claimed thousands of lives over the abuse of these substances.
At present, it is legal to use kratom as an alternative pain medication. Kratom users can benefit more from this substance by being responsible in using just the appropriate amount needed, so as to avoid having to deal with unfavorable symptoms.
How Prescription Drug Abuse Can Be Prevented
Since prescription drugs are available from pharmacies, strict compliance to prescription standards should be implemented regarding the dosage prescribed to the patient. Prescription drugs should only be purchased with a prescription issued by a medical practitioner. Pharmacists will only dispense these drugs to individuals bearing the prescription by dispensing the right amount of medication as indicated on the prescription.
It is the responsibility of patients to keep all their prescription drugs away from reach of others, most especially children.
Any unused medication should be properly discarded. They can be crushed and mixed with other substances, thrown into trash bins, flushed down the drain, or handed over to collection sites that will take care of the unused medication on your behalf.