Prescription Drug Abuse – A Healthcare Epidemic

The abuse of prescription drugs is officially designated as a national epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. [ref] The misuse of legitimately prescribed medications such as painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers, sedatives, and steroids kills tens of thousands of Americans and costs the U.S. healthcare system almost $200 billion a year. [ref]

Stimulants: Amphetamine, Lisdexamfetamine, Methylphenidate, Methamphetamine, etc.

Opioids (Synthetic): Fentanyl, Methadone, Tapentadol, Diphenoxylate, Meperidine, Buprenorphine, etc.

Opiates (including Semi-Synthetics): Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Morphine, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, etc.

Sedatives: Pentobarbital, Alprazolam, Clonazepam, Diazepam, Midazolam, etc.

The biggest impact is from opiate painkillers, but deaths and injuries are often caused by simultaneous exposure to multiple classes of Controlled Substances. There were 135 million prescriptions written for hydrocodone and 9 billion doses distributed in 2007, and 42 million prescriptions were written for oxycodone.  All told, approximately 500 million Controlled Substance prescriptions are written in the U.S. each year.

Hydrocodone is the most widely prescribed medication in the U.S. It and other opiates remain the medication of choice to treat legitimate acute and chronic pain.

The abuse of prescription medications causes more deaths in the U.S. than cocaine and heroin combined. According to recent congressional data,  prescription drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., exceeding traffic accidents. [ref]

The health, financial, and emotional toll on individuals, families, and society is enormous. Current efforts to slow the problem – a combination of law enforcement, regulatory, and educational measures – are proving insufficient.

"DEA officials said that, based on the available prescription and sales data, there is no method to calculate which prescriptions are issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of professional practice and which are not."

U.S. Government Accountability Office
Report Number GAO-12-115, Dec 22, 2011 
[ref]

For every overdose death, there are: [ref]

  • 10 abuse treatment admissions
  • 32 emergency room visits
  • 130 addicted users
  • 825 non-medical users

Graph - Rates of Painkiller SalesRates of painkiller sales, deaths, and substance abuse treatment admission 1999 – 2010 (DEA)

The Divert-X Solution to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse

We believe the solution is to monitor how and when patients access individual doses of their medication to determine if they are becoming addicted. This will allow for early intervention.

The problem of abuse has grown so large that it legitimately threatens the ongoing ability of the medical profession to prescribe and ailing patients to receive vitally needed pain medication.”

Steve Passik, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Anesthesiology,
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
[ref]

Divert-X is an individual-dose monitoring system that tracks when and where a patient accesses their medication.  These data are combined with other measures to infer patient behavior and motive and to form a real-time medication-risk behavioral score.

Problem Divert-X
Drug trafficking, high street value Medication-use risk algorithm identifies diverters and de-industrializes criminal activity
Unused pills Incentive to return unused medications, reducing exposure
New iatrogenic addicts Monitoring of patients will give indications of developing dependence, prompting intervention
Inherently addictive medications Use of Divert-X will inhibit misuse and emphasize dangers of medication

 

Just as a credit-rating score creates financial accountability and influences consumer behavior, individual-dose monitoring will generate patient accountability for proper use of prescription medications. White papers are available to explain many aspects of the system.

Are you or a loved one misusing prescription medications? Visit our links for patients and families page.

Learn more about the Divert-X system.