Inappropriate use of prescription painkillers results in the death of many people in the United States. In fact, prescription drugs lead to more deaths in the United States than both cocaine and heroin together.
More than 68,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2020. That is more than eight times higher than 20 years ago.
Overdoses of drugs such as methadone, oxymorphone, and hydrocodone result in the deaths of about 40 people each day.
What pharmacists can do
There are government programs in place to help stem this epidemic. These include efforts such as prescription drug monitoring programs and patient restriction programs.
But pharmacists can go beyond these efforts by taking actions such as providing information about drug rehabilitation facilities in their area, and displaying this information on posters, brochures, or bulletin boards with the relevant contact information. Pharmacists can also post the signs and symptoms of addiction to prescription medications.
Also, pharmacists can display information about substance abuse groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous. Moreover, pharmacists can put together pamphlets containing information about the dangers of becoming addicted to or overdosing on these opioids and make the literature available to patients.
Reaching younger people
There’s also a need to reach out to young people and inform them about the dangers of becoming addicted to these drugs.
Pharmacists can help do this by giving presentations in local schools. They can warn students about the dangers of not taking these drugs as prescribed. Many young people, like most of us, assume that prescription drugs are not harmful.
When used as prescribed, these painkillers are beneficial and help to relieve symptoms. But if not taken properly, they can be dangerous, leading to addiction or overdose. And students need to realize that.
Pharmacists can also review and monitor the medications that patients are using, as well as looking for signs of abuse. They should inform healthcare providers about any odd behavior induced by the drugs.
They should also use data from prescription drug monitoring programs to locate patients who are at greater risk of overdosing. For example, patients who are taking high doses of painkillers or getting opioids from more than one prescriber.
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