Guest Column (8/27/09)

Prescription drug abuse touches everyone

Aug. 27, 2009

By Barbara Cimaglio

The social use, misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is a growing concern in Vermont. One of our roles at the Vermont Department of Health is to raise awareness about the circumstances that too often lead to prescription drug addiction.

Prescription narcotics are readily available in many home medicine cabinets. Because children, family members or workers who may come into your home can access them there, the medicine cabinet is a common source of drugs that are used accidently or illegally. In fact, the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 16 percent of Vermont students said they had taken prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them.

When your health care provider prescribes a narcotic or other controlled substance for you, make sure that you understand the medication’s addictive potential. Talk with your provider about how you will work together to monitor your reactions to the medication and make any needed adjustments. If you will be on the medication for an extended period of time, it is essential to work closely with your provider to reduce the dose gradually as your condition improves. If you are under care for long-term pain, ensure that your provider has the expertise to properly manage the medications and can work with you to avoid health risks associated with narcotics.

Narcotics are powerful medicines. Used correctly, they can help us cope with severe pain and other symptoms. Used incorrectly, a struggle with addiction can take hold and rapidly erode a person’s quality of life and ability to function in his or her daily life.

Pay attention to the pills you are prescribed, follow the guidance of your health care provider and prevent the medication from falling into the wrong hands.

For more information, visit the Vermont Department of Health Web site:

Barbara Cimaglio is the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health’s
Division of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs.