Dr. Robert Bennett    -   Charleston DNA
M E D I C AL  -  L E G A L  -  F O R E N S I C
DNA - Drug - Alcohol - Paternity - Forensic testing
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PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE


Dr. Bennett provides prescription drug testing along with comprehensive evaluations and consultations of results. His forensic analysis services far exceed the capabilities of drug testing provided by any physician’s office. Drug screening performed through the office of Dr. Bennett is able to differentiate between drug misuse and abuse and determine recent and long-term drug use through forensic urine and hair analysis. Dr. Bennett is committed to developing an effective program to provide public education on drug use and target services towards a drug abuse prevention strategy.

The phrase “drug problems” often provokes thoughts of marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin, Mexican drug cartels, gang wars, and nothing related to your family or community. This common misconception may be the reason why prescription drug abuse has had such an explosive increase. The real drug epidemic lies with the physician’s prescription pad. As a society, the United States population medicates more conditions now than ever before. Many physicians feel obligated to provide prescriptions with every office visit to satisfy patient demands (and retain their paying customer patients). Patients expect a pill for whatever is ailing them and often, act under the delusion that prescription medications are safe, without any associated risks. Unfortunately, many think of prescription drugs as candy and that they are able to take them as much and as often as they would like. A prescription is not a license to abuse drugs. The nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse is a complex, multi-faceted problem for all health care providers, challenged to balance between benefits and risks of prescription drugs while separating drug abuse from legitimate medical need.

Prescription drug abuse or “non-medical use” includes when a prescription medication is used without a valid prescription, used for reasons other than its intended purpose, or when used simply for the experience or feeling the drug can cause (getting high). The misuse of prescription medications occurs when valid prescriptions are being taken for their intended purpose, but not as prescribed. This increases the risk of dangerous side effects and potential short-term and long-term detrimental consequences on the health of the individual.

Prescription drug abuse far exceeds the use of illegal drugs. In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 7.0 million people in the U.S., age 12 or older, had used prescription drugs non-medically in the past month and that 2.4 million people, age 12 or older, had used them non-medically for the first time in the past year, averaging out to about 6,600 new uses per day. The explosive increase of this drug epidemic continues to grow at an increasing rate. SAMHSA also reported that the number of people admitted to specialty treatment programs in 2010 (2.6 million) was similar to data collected in 2002 (2.3 million). However, the number of people admitted to speciality substance use treatment programs within the past year for misuse of prescription pain relievers more than doubled, from 199,000 to 406,000.  The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality reported in 2011 that the number of people enrolled into substance abuse treatment programs for problems with prescription opiates increased from 45,816 in 2002 to 138,639 in 2009. SAMHSA reported that prescription painkiller misuse and abuse accounted for more than 475,000 emergency room visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in five years. The U.S. is facing a growing, deadly epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

People abusing controlled prescription drugs greatly exceed the number of abusers of cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin combined. In a study by the CDC on unintentional drug overdose deaths, the deaths caused by pain relievers and cocaine were the same in 2000, but by 2007, the deaths caused by pain relievers were greater than the deaths caused by cocaine and heroin combined. In 2008, the CDC reported a total of 36,000 deaths due to drug overdoses, 14,800 of those deaths were caused by prescription drugs. In 2008, SAMHSA reported that the four major categories of prescription drugs abused for their euphoric effects were: pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. In the 2011 Monitoring the Future study, 7 of the top 14 most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders were either prescription or over-the-counter medications. The CDC reported in 2010 that 1 in 5 high school students in the U.S. has taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription, meaning out of 100 students, 20 of them could potentially develop issues with drug addiction.

In the Charleston area there has been an explosive increase of prescription drug abuse. Common prescription drug classes seen abused are amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and opiates. Amphetamines are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, but very few adults actually have this condition. Amphetamines, which are stimulants, include: Adderall and Vyvanse.   Benzodiazepines, used as sedatives or tranquilizers for anxiety, include: Clonazepam (Klonopin) and Alprazolam (Xanax). Opiates for pain include: Hydrocodone (Lorcet, Lortab, Vicodin) and Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan). Having a prescription for medications does not make drug abuse legitimate, yet many people see it as an acceptable approach to get the same effects of illicit drugs legally.

The claimed health conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, and pain, used to obtain these Controlled Substances are subjective, sometimes controversial, undiagnosable, and have a strong psychological component. When someone visits a physician’s office complaining of problems with their thyroid, laboratory tests can be done to clinically diagnose thyroid disorders. The evaluation of these health conditions is controversial for several reasons including, lack of medical acceptance of the diagnosis, difficulties in objectifying the disability, and deficiencies in instruments of evaluation (Arthritis Rheum. 1995 Jun;24(6):371-81). Physician’s are expected to determine the presence of the health conditions and the effectiveness of the drug treatment. Severe discomfort and pain are based on the patient’s subjective perception, leading to a perceived need for drugs. Prescription drug abuse is the largest drug problem currently facing this country. It is far too easy for prescriptions for Controlled Substances to be obtained from physicians who are not keen to substance abuse and/or simply need the revenue from the office visit.