It may come as a surprise to many that seven of the top ten illegal drugs used in the United States are prescription medications. Studies suggest that efforts to curtail the distribution of other illegal drugs are one factor driving users to more easily accessible prescription drugs. Obtained over the Internet, from physicians, friends, or from the family medicine cabinet, the ubiquity of prescription medications may also falsely reassure users that they are safe. However, many common medications are highly addictive and when abused can be deadly.
According to Jim Steinhagen—a 32 year addiction treatment practitioner—kids are coming into treatment centers more acutely addicted than ever before. What is the science of such addiction and treatment and how should we respond? How can doctors, policy makers, pharmaceuticals, pharmacist, and parents ensure that prescription drugs are used for treatment purposes only? Does the best solution lie with more prescription drug legislation to further restrict the drug supply or through more intense public education to decrease demand? How do the lessons learned from the war on drugs apply to this current challenge?
A panel of experts representing differing viewpoints discussed the science, policy and ethics of this current issue at the forefront of public concern
Medical Director, Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Ambulatory Care Center, Substance Abuse Programs; Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine