Mental Health Professionals React to U.S. Abuse of Prescription Drugs
With a 2011 Centers for Disease Control report showing U.S. overdoses of prescription painkillers to have more than tripled in the past 20 years, mental health non-profit The Glendon Association is encouraging Americans to face their emotions drug-free
The tragic loss of Whitney Houston was yet another highly publicized death resulting from prescription drug overdose. Devastating episodes like this call our attention to a growing epidemic in the United States. The CDC’s reported that there have been nearly half a million visits to emergency rooms for prescription painkiller abuse or misuse. Many Americans take over-the-counter pain medicines on almost a daily basis without realizing that these medications have been linked to accidental overdoses and death.
Last year, there were 131.2 million prescriptions of Vicodin written, making it the most commonly prescribed drug in 2010. Vicodin is a highly addictive drug often used to alleviate pain. As people develop tolerance to this medication, they take more and more to get the same level of relief, inadvertently putting their health in danger.
“When we try to submerge or alleviate pain or anxiety, we ignore their messages. Pain, whether physical or mental, is trying to tell us something important. When we try to quiet our discomfort, we fail to identify its cause and address the underlying issues that lead to our suffering,” said Dr. Lisa Firestone, Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association. “The seduction of getting relief creates a path to addiction, often requiring more and more, as the apprehension of possible discomfort increases.”
Even over-the-counter pain medicines are dangerous, as people use them in large doses, for prolonged intervals, and take them preemptively when anticipating pain. A 2007 “Women and Sleep” poll by the National Sleep Foundation showed that three in 10 women in the United States use a sleep aid.
“This stirring statistic reflects our tendency to treat the symptoms as opposed to the problem,” said Dr. Lisa Firestone. “Instead of asking how we can get ourselves to sleep, we should be asking “why aren’t we sleeping? What is making us so anxious? As people develop the threshold to feel the sadness in their lives, they open up a space to feel the joys. They can begin to address obstacles, build resilience, and make choices that will be more fulfilling.”
Dr. Firestone and her colleagues at the nonprofit mental health research organization, The Glendon Association, have created a free website, PsychAlive.org, which brings psychological principles and ideas to the general public. The website is designed to encourage users to take a healthy, introspective approach to their mental wellness, facing and overcoming their struggles, rather than hiding from or trying to drug their pain.
Tags: anxiety, Center for Disease Control, painkiller abuse, prescription drugs, PsychAlive, The Glendon Association