ASAM Calls for Care in the Use of, and the Prescribing of, Potentially Addictive Substances

Feb 07, 2008, 00:00 ET from American Society of Addiction Medicine

    CHEVY CHASE, Md., Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This week the
 Office of the New York City medical examiner issued a statement that "Mr.
 Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined
 effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and
 doxylamine ...We have concluded that the manner of death is an accident,
 resulting from the abuse of prescription medications." This tragic death of
 a talented and well-known performing artist offers opportunities for
 learning by the general public, and by physicians themselves.
     Data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, conducted
 annually by the University of Michigan for the federal Substance Abuse and
 Mental Health Services Administration, show that the unauthorized use of
 prescription pain killers and tranquilizers has been rising at epidemic
 proportions, especially among adolescents and young adults. Addiction to
 opioid analgesics has been the fastest rising category of addictive
 diseases presenting for chemical dependency treatment for almost a decade.
 Addiction is a serious public health problem, sparing no gender, ethnic
 group, or socioeconomic level of our society. It is also treatable.
     The mixture of alcoholic beverages or opioid analgesics such as
 oxycodone or hydrocodone, with sedative hypnotics such as diazepam,
 temazepam, alprazolam, is well known to physicians as a potentially fatal
 mixture when excessive doses are taken, either under a physician's
 prescription, or with medications obtained from friends, family, or illegal
 sources. The general public needs to appreciate these dangers, and
 physicians can help educate their patients about such risks. Persons who
 seek intoxication via prescription drugs can accidentally put themselves
 into a lethal situation. Substance abuse and dependence are serious
 illnesses. Persons concerned about their misuse of prescription drugs, or a
 family member's possible addiction, should discuss their concerns with
 their personal physician.
     ASAM reminds physicians that no potentially addictive substance should
 be prescribed without obtaining a full history, including a substance use
 history; without clear objectives for prescribing such substances; and
 without clear end-points in mind for their treatment plans. ASAM encourages
 physician consultations for expert guidance in these patient care matters.
     The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a national medical
 specialty society of almost 3,000 member physicians, the largest such
 medical association in the nation. Its mission is to improve the quality of
 and access to prevention, treatment, education, research and public
 policies addressing addiction.
     CONTACT: Eileen McGrath of the American Society of Addiction Medicine,
 +1-301-656-3920 (ext. 105),

SOURCE American Society of Addiction Medicine