5 Things You and Your Family Need To Know About Alcoholism, Addiction and Your Health Insurance

Alcoholism and Addiction is a widespread epidemic affecting millions of American’s nationwide.  We reported in a previous article America: The World’s Leader in Prescription Drug Abuse Part 1 that Americans utilize 99% of the worlds’ hydrocodone supply, 80% of its oxycodone supply, and 65% of its hydromorphone (Dilaudid) supply. More Americans have abused prescription drugs than have tried cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens combined

A 2013 Study estimated that 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older had used an illicit drug in the past month.  Another study showed the 88,000 people die as a result of alcohol related causes each year. In 2010 alcohol misuse problems cost the United States $249 Billion Dollars.

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#1 – Affordable Care Act and Substance Abuse Disorders

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) colloquially known as Obamacare has put in place health insurance reforms which includes substance use disorders as one of the ten elements of essential health benefits.  With this inclusion of benefits in health insurance packages for Drug Rehab and Alcohol Rehab Treatment health care providers and drug and alcohol treatment centers can now be reimbursed for these services provides access to treatment options.

#2 – Pre Existing Conditions

Alcoholism and Addiction follow the disease model for which there is no known cure. It is a progressive disease that often can be fatal if left untreated. For individuals that have had a history of substance abuse or alcoholism this would be considered a pre-existing condition. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) No insurance plan can reject you, charge you more, or refuse to pay for essential health benefits for any condition you had before your coverage started. Once you’re enrolled, the plan can’t deny you coverage or raise your rates based only on your health.

#3 – Choosing the Right Treatment Options

There are a variety of options available for Substance Abuse and Alcoholism.  This includes drug rehab and treatment options that include faith based programs, 12 steps programs, men and women’s only programs, holistic treatment options, and a variety of other substance abuse programs. Often times, it can dependent on the individual circumstances to find the best fit. In almost all cases, getting removed from their environment is crucial to success to allow for a medically supervised detox and to provide a setting where the addict or alcoholic can focus on themselves. Typically these involve 30 day inpatient drug treatment center which often includes addresses any dual diagnosis issues such as depressions.

 #4 – After Care

In patient drug rehab only addresses the disease short term. It provides the ability for you or your loved one to start to heal. However, that healing process will continue long after they leave an inpatient drug and alcohol facility. For most, drugs and alcohol where not their problem. Instead it was the solution to thier problems. Aftercare is crucial be it 12 steps meetings, Intensive Outpatient programs and building a support network.

#5 – Checking Your Health Insurance Benefits.

While the Affordable Care Act has a provision for Substance Abuse the extent of what is reimbursable widely varies across Health Insurance carrier policies and states. Factors such as EPO, HMO, PPO, and Out of Network benefits play a large role in finding a center that can work with your insurance carrier. For the loved ones such as parents of the person suffering from addiction and the spouses this can be a frustrating processes. In addition, there may be other out-of-pocket expenses from travel arrangements to co-pays. It is important to check your benefits to find out what your insurance will cover.

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Addiction and First Responders: Break the Silence

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Fire fighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and police officers face inordinate stress and trauma on the job. Some become addicted to substances as a way to help stay awake, relax or numb feelings after facing tragedy. Others find they become addicted after being injured and come to enjoy the effects of morphine, Oxycontin, and other narcotic painkillers is also possible. Even those workers deemed most heroic are vulnerable to drug addiction.

However, admitting issues with drugs and alcohol can threaten first responder careers. Discretion, sensitivity, and effectiveness must all be considered in a treatment plan for first responders. This review will cover the unique challenges of first responders facing addiction and how to overcome them.

The Unique Circumstances

There is little information regarding addiction among other groups of first responders. However, trade journals estimate that drug or alcohol dependency among police officers is as high as 20 to 25 percent. There is more education on burnout and dealing with fatigue and stress, but some workers still fall through the cracks and find themselves seeking comfort in substances.

The problem is many of these jobs depend on their officers and workers remaining sober. Some police departments reject applicants with a previous history of drug use. Fire fighters and EMTs are subject to drug tests and a positive result can lead to suspension, if not termination. The need to make a living often eclipses honesty when these individuals face drug addiction.

However, not treating the condition compromises public safety. Drug and alcohol use reduces the ability to make judgments, perform procedures, and behave reasonably under stressful circumstances. One mistake in these professions can mean the death or disability of another.

This creates an ultimate Catch-22. The job itself presents the conditions that often lead to drug addiction and dependency. However, once that threshold is crossed, admitting the issue means losing the job–and a good support system. That is why there have been new ways to approach this issue that balance both first responders and public safety.

New Ways to Approach This Issue

Fortunately, with increased awareness, addiction in first responders is receiving more therapeutic attention as a health problem rather than as a discipline issue. The platform cleanandsoberlife.org allows individuals to privately check their benefits and treatment options without going to a supervisor or HR, this ensures your privacy and insures returning safely to full duty.

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Cleanandsoberlife.org is an excellent first step in knowing what your option are. HIPAA and FMLA laws will protect first responders who need to take a leave of absence for treatment. You can also speak to a live person at 24 hours a day. Sometimes, just being able to call someone to plan the next step can prove to be a lifesaver.

It is clear that accessing treatment and improving health is a much better approach than keeping it hidden. Knowing the symptoms of risky behavior means being able to confront them sooner; if you are a first responder who feels you “need” a drink or a particular drug to get through your shifts, it is likely you have an addiction issue. If you are the spouse, friend, or other relative of a first responder who display troubling symptoms, know that you can reach out without worrying about career repercussions.

7 Ways to Identify Addiction in a Loved One

Addiction is a complex problem that can manifest in different ways, so it’s not always easy to tell when someone is an addict. Addicts may be in denial regarding their drug or alcohol use, or they may go to great lengths to keep it hidden from their loved ones. You may be suspicious or even in denial yourself. So, how can you tell if a loved one is addicted? Here are seven common indicators.

#1 Mood swings

Sudden changes in mood can indicate that a person is preoccupied with their

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habit. When they have not used for a while, they can quickly become irritable, depressed or fatigued. Alternatively, you may notice sudden improvements in a person’s mood. When a cranky person suddenly becomes upbeat and happy for no apparent reason, it could be the result of drug or alcohol use.

#2 Isolation

Addicts often isolate themselves as to deal with stress or to relax after a hard day at work. They may withdraw emotionally while engaging in the addictive behavior in the presence of loved ones, or they may spend more time alone engaging in their habit.

#3 Unexplained absences

Addicts often try to hide their habit by making lengthy, unexplained trips away from home or work. For example, you might notice that a 5-minute trip to get milk from the grocery store now takes hours. Addicts frequently use these errands as excuses to get away from others or meet with other addicts to engage in their habit.

#4 Loss of interest in social or recreational activities

Addicts often give up on social or recreational activities in the pursuit of their addiction. For instance, someone who loved exercising loses interest in keeping fit, stops going to the gym and prefers to go where they have access to drugs or alcohol. Alcoholics may avoid activities where alcohol is not available, and drug users may avoid trips or social gatherings where they can’t hide their drugs or drug use.

#5 Financial problems

Addicts can develop financial problems as their addiction gets out of control and they spend more of their money on their habit. When a loved one suddenly has no money for basics such as rent or groceries, drains their bank accounts or starts borrowing heavily and lies about what they need money for, they may be financing an addiction.

#6 Unexplained changes

Family members, friends or colleagues will often notice that something is wrong but are unable to figure out the real cause of these changes. Even when confronted with the above behaviors, an addict may get defensive, deny they have a problem and shift the blame to other people or circumstances. Major changes in personality, finances or routines without other legitimate explanations might stem from the effects of drugs or alcohol or the stress of supporting their habit.

#7 Behavioral changes

Changes in sleep patterns, loss of or excessive appetite, neglect of physical appearance and inattention to personal grooming can indicate that an addict may be using drugs or drinking excessively. These can also be symptoms or drug or alcohol withdrawal. Severe withdrawal symptoms include excessive sweating, hallucination, paranoia, anxiety and confusion.

These are just some of the signs of addiction that can indicate your loved one is no longer in control of their life. If a loved one is exhibiting any of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are an addict – there might be another explanation. However, a combination of signs and symptoms can indicate trouble, especially if the person has a history of drinking or drug use.

What you can do

 Get help right way. If you suspect a loved one may be addicted, watch for these changes and don’t hesitate to intervene and get them the help they need before it’s too late. Help has never been more readily available. National attention is now focused on addiction and the struggles families and communities face each day. Mental health and substance abuse are one of the ten essential health benefits that are now the law.

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The ACA, also known as The Affordable Care Act recognizes that addiction and the underlying mental health issues that are known as co-disorders are mandatory components of all health plans.

 If you have insurance whether it’s a group plan through work or an individual plan, regardless if it’s a private or subsidized plan, it must include these benefits. The first step is checking your benefits to see what types of treatment options are available to you depending on your loved one’s addiction. Check my Coverage.

Coverage and treatment options for drug and or alcohol rehab include Inpatient drug and alcohol treatment including detox for drug and alcohol addiction. Once the problem is identified and a solution is in place, your loved one should be back on track once again, living a clean and sober life

4 Strategies to Encourage Treatment When Living with an Addicted Spouse

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You’re not alone an estimated 23.5 million Americans are in need of treatment for a substance abuse disorder such as alcohol or drug addiction, less than nine percent received care from a specialized facility. This figure shows the depth of the treatment gap that negatively impacts countless individuals, families and marriages. If your spouse is an active addict, chances are that you have tried to encourage him or her to stop or get help on numerous occasions. You’ve been promised over and over again that this

is the last time. Your heart may even be breaking or you’re just simply at your wits end.

Use these 4 strategies to arm yourself and increase the odds of your partner choosing to go to rehab before their addiction spirals even further out of control.

 #1 Establish Personal Boundaries

Everyone has a breaking point, but you should never feel pushed to it by another person’s addiction. This is why it is critical to establish your own personal boundaries that clearly outline what you are and are not willing to put up with. Once those boundaries are crossed, follow through with predetermined and doable consequences such as moving out of the home. This strategy can show your addicted spouse that you will not continue to be impacted by their addiction.

#2 Stop Enabling

Many people think they are being compassionate and caring when in reality they are enabling an addiction to continue. Providing basic necessities such as food and shelter to a loved one with an active substance abuse disorder may seem like the right thing to do, but actually allows the person to continue to use. Intimacy or sex is another example of enabling in action. In order for your spouse to hit rock bottom sooner, you must stop supporting their habit.

#3 Be Consistent

Consistency is key to helping a spouse get into rehabilitation, but many people falter due to strong emotions, manipulation on the addict’s end, and other circumstances. You must maintain fluidity in your behaviors, responses and consequences in order to show your spouse how serious the problem really is.

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#4 Create an Ultimatum

An ultimatum is an effective tool when it comes to the recovery process. Once you feel that you have tried every other option without success, consider hosting an intervention. During it, you should present your ultimatum and stick with it if your spouse refuses treatment.

Living with an addict can hurt your emotional well-being, but does not need to control your life. Your health insurance should cover the cost of drug rehab or alcohol rehab treatment for both you and your spouse. Both Inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment options are available. You also need to seek treatment on your own to recover from the effects of addiction whether or not your spouse begins treatment. A good place to start is checking your benefits. Having drug or alcohol rehab treatment options ready, and being able to present a clear solution to your spouse will work far better than continuing to talk or argue about it.

Used in addition to these strategies, you can significantly increase the odds that your loved one will choose to get the help they need and start living a clean and sober life.

America: The World’s Leader in Prescription Drug Abuse – Part 3

American Prescription Drug Epidemic 3

Back To The Future Solutions to the Prescription Drug Epidemic

The news surrounding the prescription drug epidemic isn’t all bad. In 2015, prescriptions for narcotic pain killers dropped for the first time since the introduction of OxyContin in 1996. Such news is evidence that the medical community is not only aware of the problem of prescription drug abuse, but that it is actively taking steps to address the problem. Flags have gone up in other communities as well. From non-profit organizations to government entities, a concerted effort is being made to curb the prescription drug epidemic and reverse the trend before it gets any worse.

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Drug Rehab and Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Medical Measures

Health care providers have long been aware of the abuse potential of many of the medications they use to legitimately treat medical conditions and best practices have been established to guide them in the use of such drugs. Until recently, however, many providers did not see much necessity in implementing those best practices. As rates of addiction have skyrocketed and providers are increasingly being held accountable for their prescribing habits, however, a greater number of individuals and institutions have begun to follow strict guidelines for the use of potentially addictive medications. Such guidelines include:

  • Prescribing medications in limited quantities and for limited periods of time,
  • Tracking the types and quantities of medications prescribed to a particular patient by all of his or her health care providers in an effort to reduce “doctor shopping” and unintentional over-prescription,
  • Having frequent follow-ups to assess for potential dependence or addiction, and

Implementing “narcotic contracts” and other binding agreements with patients who require long-term pain management or who will otherwise be taking medications with high potential for abuse.

Political Measures

Because the epidemic is costing not just lives, but hundreds of millions of dollars, various legislative measures have been enacted to address the problem. In Massachusetts, for instance, a bill has been passed that drastically limits the quantity of opioid pain killers that can be prescribed to patients taking them for the first time. By reducing the total number of pills that can be prescribed to “opioid-naïve” individuals, the bill aims to reduce the onset of addiction in potentially vulnerable populations. This bill not only places a direct limit on prescribing, but raises awareness about the seriousness of the epidemic and forces anyone involved in the administration of narcotics (e.g. doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) to reconsider the potential risks and benefits of the medications.

Community Measures

A number of community groups, like the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse, are working to educate the public about the risks associated with prescription drugs. In particular, these community outreach programs seek to educate people about the number one source for prescription drugs of abuse – friends and family.

Between 1991 and 2009, prescriptions for opioid pain killers increased from 45 million to nearly 180 million, meaning that there are roughly four times as many prescription pain killers sitting in medicine cabinets and on bedside tables than there were twenty years ago. This presents opportunity for abuse and explains a good part of the statistic that shows that roughly 70% of people get prescription drugs from friends of family (either for free or by stealing them). By reducing the “environmental availability” of prescription drugs, community groups seek to reduce or eliminate the single largest source of prescription drug abuse.

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Drug Rehab and Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Making Progress

Just as the causes of the prescription drug abuse epidemic are complex, so too are the solutions multi-pronged. With efforts from the health care community, the government, and concerned citizens, the epidemic can not only be halted, but reversed. What is more, because prescription medications often serve as gateway drugs for their illicit counterparts, addressing the prescription drug epidemic should help to reduce the larger heroin and narcotic problems the country is currently facing.

America: The World’s Leader in Prescription Drug Abuse – Part 2

 

Flashpoint: How the Prescription Drug Epidemic Started

It is clear that prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions, but it is less clear how it started. Pundits, experts, and talking-heads across the nation have blamed everyone from the pharmaceutical giants to congress and the president. Who or what is really behind the problem though? The answer, of course, is complicated.

The History of Narcotics

Morphine was first manufactured in Germany in 1827, but long before the pain reliever became a mainstay of medical care in the Civil War, its predecessor, opium, was used and abused by people the world over. All narcotic drugs (i.e. “opioids”) are derived from opium, which is why they all have abuse and addiction potential. To date, no alternative has been developed that provides the same level of pain relief without the addictive potential. Though this isn’t for lack of trying.

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Drug Rehab and Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Morphine was replaced by prescription heroin in 1898, with heroin being touted as a less addictive alternative. Of course, it turned out to be even more addictive than morphine and was one of the first drugs placed under control by the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act of 1914. It was made a Schedule I controlled substance by the 1970 Controlled Substances Act and though it can still be prescribed with special permission, it almost never is.

Attempts to replace morphine with less addictive alternatives have continued, with the most recent attempt being OxyContin. OxyContin, one of the most-abused narcotics in the United States, was only brought to market in 1996. Like heroin, it was touted as a less addictive pain reliever than its predecessor narcotics. Like heroin, OxyContin turned out to be highly addictive.

Narcotic pain relievers were introduced for a reason – they work. On a scale of one to ten, with one being least potent and ten being most potent, the best non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication, Celebrex, ranks only a 3.7. On the same scale, the best opioid pain reliever, Dilaudid, receives a 10+, breaking the scale in most estimates and providing outstanding pain control. Simply put, narcotic pain relievers work. So at least part of the reason that prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions comes down to the fact that the medical and pharmaceutical industries, in good faith most of the time, have introduced highly addictive medications into the population in an effort to control pain.

Perception of Safety

Another key to the rapid rise of prescription drug abuse is the perception that the drugs are safer than their illicit counterparts. Because these drugs are prescribed by health care providers to treat legitimate medical conditions and because they are FDA approved, there are a number of misunderstandings regarding their risks.

The most prevalent myth surrounding prescription drugs is that they are safe to abuse. While it is true that prescription medications are less likely than illicit drugs to be adulterated with potential toxins, it is also true that they are just as dangerous when misused. Some prescription drugs are every bit as addictive as illicit drugs and many can wreak havoc on the body when used in a manner inconsistent with best medical practices.

Many people fail to realize that prescription drugs often act on the brain and body in the same way that illicit drugs do. For instance, Vicodin and OxyContin have the same actions as heroin on the brain when taken inappropriately. Ritalin and Adderall aren’t all that different from cocaine when taken by individuals who do not suffer from a medical condition they are used to treat. Prescription medications can and often do have the same mental, physical, and psychological impacts as illegal drugs.

Another common myth about prescription drugs is that misusing them is legal. Because they are legally prescribed, many people think that prescription drugs can be shared without concern for breaking the law. In fact, controlled substances may not be used without a prescription that is specific to an individual. Taking someone else’s prescription is illegal and giving away one’s own prescription medication is equally illegal. Simply put, prescription medications can only legally be taken by the specific individual they have been prescribed to.

Irresponsible Prescribing

As much as we would like to trust the providers in whose hands we place our health care, the truth is that some do not take proper precautions when prescribing medications with abuse potential and others outright abuse their privilege for financial gain.

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Drug Rehab and Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

It is important to note that one in five cases of prescription drug abuse are due to improper prescription. While all too high, this number represents just a small fraction of prescription abuse. That said, it is up to the medical community to tighten its practices on prescribing. Potentially addictive medications should be prescribed only for as long as absolutely necessary and in limited quantities. Health care providers should follow up with patients taking these medications on a regular basis to evaluate for possible dependence. When long-term use of potentially addictive medications is required, it is important that providers explain the risks and benefits to patients and work with them to develop checks and balances that can help to prevent abuse.

Cause and Solution

If the causes of the prescription drug epidemic are myriad, then so too must the solutions be multiple. Fighting the problem will take the coordinated efforts of health care providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, government agencies, and the people at large. Who are the major players in the fight against prescription drug abuse and what are their primary roles?

American Prescription Drug Epidemic 2

American Prescription Drug Epidemic 1

America: The World’s Leader in Prescription Drug Abuse – Part 1

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America: The World’s Leader in Prescription Drug Abuse Part 1

Prescription drug abuse, defined as using any prescription medication in a way other than as directed by a health care provider, is a worldwide problem. The problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, however, where prescription drugs kill more people every year than car accidents. Just how bad has the prescription drug problem become though? Simply calling it an “epidemic” does little to give significance to the phenomenon. Understanding the magnitude of the problem is a critical first step in determining just how many resources need to devoted to a solution.

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Drug Rehab and Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Perspective on Prescription Drug Abuse

To put the prescription drug problem into perspective, consider the fact that Americans consume more narcotic pain killers than any other group on the face of the planet. In fact, Americans utilize 99% of the worlds’ hydrocodone supply, 80% of its oxycodone supply, and 65% of its hydromorphone (Dilaudid) supply. More Americans have abused prescription drugs than have tried cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens combined.

The problem is getting worse too. While major causes of preventable death (e.g. death from car accidents) have been on the decline in recent decades, deaths from prescription drug abuse have doubled in just ten years. It is estimated that 52 million Americans use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons and 1 in every 6 teenagers has admitted to taking prescription drugs to get high or to change their mood. Only marijuana and alcohol are experimented with more often than prescription drugs by teenagers.

Every day, 50 Americans die as a result of overdosing on prescription pain killers, a number that has quadrupled since 2000. Overall, the cost of nonmedical use of prescription opioids costs the U.S. roughly $53 billion every year. The most sobering statistics of all, however, reveals that prescription opioid overdoses killed roughly 12,000 individuals in 2007, a number that dwarfs the roughly 2,000 killed due to heroin overdose.

The Major Offenders

Opioids (a.k.a. narcotic pain killers), like oxycodone and morphine, are the most-abused class of prescription drugs, partly because they are the most commonly prescribed of all drugs. Thirteen percent of all prescriptions written are for opioids, a figure exceeded only by the 17% of scripts written for antibiotics. Overall, the number of people abusing prescription narcotics in the U.S. is more than 5 million.

Opioids are followed closely in abuse by tranquilizers, a broad class of drugs that includes such things as Klonopin, Valium, Xanax, and phenobarbital. Tranquilizers produce effects similar to those of alcohol, a property that makes it extremely dangerous to mix the two. Tranquilizers are easier to overdose on than opioids, but cause fewer deaths simply because they are prescribed at less than half the rate of narcotic pain killers.

The other major class of prescription drugs that is frequently abused is stimulants. This class includes medications like Ritalin and Adderall. Roughly 1.1 million Americans abuse prescription stimulants.

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Drug Rehab and Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Rehab

How Prescription Drugs Are Obtained

There is a common misconception, two in fact, surrounding the way in which people procure prescription drugs for abuse. The first misconception is that doctors are directly prescribing the abused drugs to the patients who abuse them. In truth, only about 18% of cases of prescription drug abuse (roughly 1 in 5) involve doctors prescribing drugs directly to the individual abusing them. Most physicians are trained to screen for signs of abuse and employ strict protocols designed to reduce or eliminate the chances of missing prescription drug abuse in patients.

The other common misconception about prescription drug abuse is that the internet is somehow responsible for the surge in recent years. In fact, less than 1% of individuals purchase prescription drugs for abuse on the internet.

The real source of most abused drugs is friends and relatives. Almost 71% of individuals who abuse prescription drugs either get them free from a friend or relative (54%) or take them (~17%) without permission. In short, the real problem is right within our own medicine cabinets. Keeping close tabs on prescription drugs, disposing of them properly when we don’t intend to use them, and are the most important factors in reducing prescription drug abuse.

Who Is at Risk?

The simple answer is that everyone is at risk. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 26 million Americans have misused prescription drugs. Fully three million are aged 12-17, while 13 million are 50 years old or older. The states with the highest rates of abuse are Arkansas, Kentucky, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Everyone is at risk of prescription drug abuse, but teens are particularly at risk because they fail to grasp the very real consequences of misusing prescription drugs. As it turns out, roughly 90% of all prescription drug abuse starts in the teenage years. It often beings with a prescription for a legitimate medical condition, is followed by using medication taken from friends and family, and ends with the use of illicit street drugs.

The problem starts well before teens are exposed to the prescription drugs though. It starts with perception of risk and careless prescribing habits, but extends back nearly two hundred years into humanity’s struggle to control pain and disease while avoiding the very real side effects of such endeavors. Who or what, exactly, is to blame for the current state of affairs?