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Using Advanced Technology to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

Driving Healthcare Innovations

By Cloud Solutions International on June 15th, 2020

Prescription Drug Abuse has become a global concern. Prescription Drug Abuse is taking medication for any other intention apart from why a doctor has prescribed it for. Doctors prescribe medications for treating health impairments in patients. Every prescribed medication has an authentic purpose. For example, doctors write millions of Opiate prescriptions every year across the globe as a painkiller.  

Some drugs have tricky substances when considering their side effects. Statistics related to drug abuse show that the trend is much more common in developed countries. Research has shown that millions of people in the U.S. have used prescription medication for non-medical reasons.

Read the research paper given below for more information on drug misuse in the U.S. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/prescription-drug-abuse

WHY DO PEOPLE MISUSE MEDICATION?

The effects caused by prescription drugs are the reasons to develop addictions to those substances. For example, Opioids are a class of medicines that helps patients manage pain. However, Opioids have become the most-abused drug class around the world.

As to specific reasons why these drugs are highly addictive is that medications like Opioids cause mild euphoric and joyful feelings. Some medications are stimulants, and others are Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. Stimulants raise the user’s brain dopamine level (the feel-good hormone), and CNS depressants affect the brain chemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that lowers brain activity and causes intense calmness. 

This is why some patients who takes these prescription drugs according to a doctor’s prescription can get addicted to it. Moreover, long-term use of stimulants or CNS depressants can lead to drug addiction, abuse, and dependence. 

FORMS OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE

Intentional and unintentional prescription drug abuse can happen in many ways, including:  

UNINTENTIONAL

  • Developing an addiction to a particular prescribed medication even when the patient takes it according to a prescription.
  • Needing more and more pills after developing a Drug Tolerance, which is a condition where the patient’s body has gotten used to the drug. The previously-prescribed dose doesn’t cause the expected effects anymore.

INTENTIONAL

  • Taking medications for non-medical reasons. For example, the user takes stimulants or CNS depressants for euphoric high or intense calmness caused by those potent drugs.
  • Forging prescriptions and doctor shopping for obtaining more prescription drugs.
  • Combining medications and other substances, such as alcohol, to experience more enhanced effects.

RISKS INVOLVED IN PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE

While we can’t underestimate the benefits of painkillers, we can’t ignore the side effects caused by those prescription medications. 

Thousands of younger individuals across the globe intentionally misuse prescription drugs now. Some young individuals with severe prescription drug addictions have even engaged in Pharmacy Burglary and Robbery, suggesting the severity of the issue. 

CLASSES OF RISKY DRUGS

Commonly-misused prescription drugs are from the following classes: 

  1. Opioids
    • These medications attach to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, blocking the brain from receiving pain signals. Many opioid painkillers also increase the feel-good chemical (dopamine) in the brain, resulting in an intense high or euphoria. 
  2. Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
    • This class of prescription drugs increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA and slows down brain activity. Calmness or drowsiness are the effects of these chemical reactions. 
  3. Stimulants
    • These medications increase brain activity. Elevated attention, alertness, and energy are the effects of it. 

People tend misuse prescription medications because they get addicted to these effects.

PREVENTING PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE WITH ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY

We can make use of advanced technology to prevent prescription drug abuse.

1) USING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (A.I.) & PATIENT DATA

Doctor Shopping has become one prime method of obtaining prescription drugs. A patient or a healthy individual visits multiple doctors and gets prescriptions for opioids, stimulants, or CNS depressants. 

Even developed countries like the U.S. face this issue, but the solution is complicated. Patient Data Security comes into play here. Therefore, the healthcare sector of a country can’t be a connected web in terms of patient data/records. However, we can make use of AI to understand other sensitive aspects. 

Can we categorize a patient as an individual who is more or less likely to misuse prescription drugs? Yes, of course. Some distinct genetics, age, behavior, living areas, communities, jobs, co-occurring mental health disorders, other habits, and living styles increase or decrease the risk of getting addicted to medications. Artificial Intelligence can help us understand such patterns in advance. For example, the doctor enters the patient’s data into the system, and the system categorizes the patient as High-Risk or Low-Risk for developing addictions. 

Next-gen healthcare systems can help the doctor determine the least addictive medication, depending on the patients’ category – High-Risk or Low-Risk. Can this prevent doctor shopping? It wouldn’t.

The current regulations on Patient Data Security are a concern here. Can we at least have a record of prescription drugs obtained by a patient (without their medical condition) in one database system? 

Many countries spend billions of dollars every year to save patients’ lives by health impairments caused by prescription drug abuse. The choice is between Patient Data Security and Patient Safety. 

Until the necessary changes are made, we can implement the most advanced technologies that are currently available. For example, every hospital or clinic requires Advanced Healthcare Solutions that automate and connect patient records to their pharmacy prescriptions. 

2) USING SAFER MEDICATION

Opioids, Stimulants, and CNS Depressants are medications prescribed for the majority of known health conditions. The whole world knows that these drugs are highly addictive. 

Can pharmaceutical companies make addictive drugs at least less addictive? Even now, doctors prescribe secondary medications that lower the addictive features of primary drugs. However, it is a less-productive approach as the patient can only take the primary medicine and leave the secondary prescription that cancels out the addictive features of the principal medication. 

The current technology and knowledge are sufficient to develop combined prescription medications. Pharmaceutical companies have to play a crucial role here by manufacturing hybrid drugs containing primary and secondary ingredients, minimizing adverse side effects. 

From discovery to approval, prevention of drug addiction should be a prime concern in the prescription drug development process. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Prescription Drug Abuse is a global concern, but advanced healthcare solution providers can figure out ways to prevent it. Drug Safety should be a prime topic of Value-Based Healthcare. Though patients may abuse medications, their loved ones can put the blame on the healthcare sector by saying, “why are you prescribing medication that is addictive?” While they do have a point, it is better to take preventing measures to minimizing the abuse of prescription drugs.

Prevention is better than cure. Spending millions of dollars on treating patients for drug addictions isn’t the right solution. We should prevent it in the first hand. 

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