Hard-core drugs like heroine and cocaine are not the only addictions to be careful of. Drug abuse comes in all shapes and sizes, and today there is a worrying trend in the high number of people who are addicted to prescribed medication, over-the-counter (OTC) and herbal medications.

Commonly abused prescription drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs are painkillers, sedatives or sleeping tablets and stimulants. Withdrawal from these can be every bit as traumatic as withdrawal from street drugs such as heroin. In fact, according to some doctors, the withdrawal process from sleeping pills and tranquillisers (the benzodiazepines) is the most difficult of all the drugs, and must be medically managed.

Then, when it comes to over-the-counter abuse, painkillers with codeine, benzodiazepines like valium for anxiety and amnesia, and appetite suppressants/stimulants rank as the top most abused general drugs.

â??Many people believe that a doctorâ??s prescription makes their medication, even if they do take a little more than prescribed, safer than other drugs,â? says Peter Jordan, Principal Officer of Fedhealth. â??And yes, these medications are safe and effective when taken as directed, however overdosing on any drug can cause serious and potentially fatal side effects if abused,â? he says.

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The dangers

Long-term addiction to any form of medication, whether OTC or prescription drugs, can lead to liver and kidney damage, and in some cases, heart and blood pressure problems.

Jordan says today one of the biggest challenges health care professionals face is being able to detect the problem, as many ‘addicts’ GP hop – getting prescriptions from more than one GP – in order to get enough medication for their fix.

How to curb drug abuse

This has led to a definite drive amongst medical schemes to see a more co-ordinated approach to healthcare. With a single, nominated GP on a designated network, the doctor can become the â??coordinator of careâ?? and therefore work directly with the member and monitor his or her care. Fedhealth for example has introduced a 360 degree care approach for its members in an effort to curtail any abuse and promote better well-being, says Jordan.

He explains how family practitioners play a pivotal role in the coordination of out-of-hospital specialist care for their patients and that benefits to both members and the scheme are as follows:

  • Quality of care is improved by enabling access to the correct and best possible specialist care.

  • Unsafe combinations of treatments, including medicines, can be prevented.

  • Unnecessary duplication of costly clinical tests and treatments – which contribute to rising health care costs and the resultant increase in membersâ?? contributions – can be prevented.

â??Most people who become addicted to prescribed medication start off with a legitimate prescription for an existing medical condition. Our 360 degree care approach, which nominates a single GP from the network as a memberâ??s coordinator of care, helps to monitor and regulate the danger of taking too many pills too often or for too long,â? says Jordan.

Recommended reading: Curbing the misuse of codeine

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.