Addicted: How far will we go?

February 13, 2018


Just another day working in the pharmacy: A customer brings up a small plastic card specifying which Sudafed product they wish to buy from behind the counter.  
They explain to me how they think it is so inconvenient that they can’t just buy the product off the shelves.  We ask them to agree to a statement that they will use the product lawfully, collect their signature and log their information with the state’s methamphetamine program.  
The patient, with their nose dripping and voice congested, leaves unhappy that the transaction took so long.
Perhaps we’ve all heard the saying: It takes a few bad eggs to ruin the whole batch.  
With addicts pushing the limits on what items they will try to manipulate to get a high, product restrictions are getting tighter for the masses.  
No longer are the days that you can purchase a simple Sudafed product to relieve congestion symptoms without an elaborate routine because the ingredients in it are being used to make methamphetamine.  
Pharmacies must keep a close eye on the number of grams of pseudoephedrine purchased per person in a set time period to ensure that it is being used for the right reasons. 
While this measure may be effective to prevent the product from getting in the wrong hands, it is often seen as an inconvenience and a time-consuming measure to those patients needing quick relief.  
However, the problem doesn’t end with Sudafed.
In an article posted by CNN Jan. 31, the Food and Drug Administration is asking manufacturers of over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications to change product packaging due to growing abuse.  
Addicts have been taking upwards of 50-300 pills of Immodium (Loperamide), an anti-diarrheal medication, per day.  Taken in these large doses, the medicine can cause a high similar to heroin, morphine and oxycodone. 
However, taking these large quantities is not without risk: Heart problems and death have resulted.  As a result, the FDA has asked Loperamide manufacturers to package the product in smaller quantities, such as in boxes good for two-day or short-term usage.  
Yet again, this could pose an inconvenience barrier to the patient needing the medication on a longer-term basis.
In another example, there are now warning labels on cough and cold medicines such as Robitussin DM and Mucinex DM, warning parents to look out for signs of drug abuse in their teens taking the product.  
The Dextromethorphan in the product has been used by adolescents to elicit hallucinations but can also result in vomiting, accelerated heart rate, and brain damage (WebMD).  
Even Dramamine, the medicine used by persons who experience motion sickness on car rises, planes or cruises has been used to cause hallucinations or an opioid-like high.  
The problem with this abuse is that the Diphenhydramine in the medicine is dosed based off of body weight and tolerance, so overdose is very easy to achieve, resulting in fast heartbeat, coma, heart attacks or even death.  If abused for the long term, depression, liver and kidney issues, memory damage and eye pain have resulted (ISMP).
In last week’s State of the Union address, President Trump emphasized the startling truth of the opioid epidemic facing our country.  
With “174 deaths” occurring due to opioid abuse each day in 2016, it is no secret that the drug war needs to be fought.  
However, I challenge our nation to combat not only behind the counter or on the streets drug abuse but to turn its focus to our local community pharmacy shelves.  
Signs of abuse are occurring right in front of us, and we can purchase these items legally and without a prescription. 
Until our nation finds a solution to this epidemic, perhaps our pharmacy shelves will continue to feature stricter purchasing guidelines and less product availability to the public. 
Alexis Nieszczur is a fourth-year English major. 

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