Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

A Gift from Whitney Houston That Could Save Your Life

Writing on the day of Whitney Houston’s funeral, the circumstances surrounding her tragic death, regardless of the ultimate findings of the autopsy, have brought the whole nation to a heightened awareness of the dangers of drug interactions. “Drug interactions” refers to combining two or more drugs in a person’s system. One of those drugs is frequently alcohol. The IPRC has created several new resources, including one (Prescription Drug Abuse Electronic Resources) entirely devoted to electronic resources about prescription drug abuse and treatment. These web sites, fact sheets, research findings, videos and other resources are all immediately accessible from your computer or i-phone.

source: http://rootsbd.com/music/live-whitney-houston-funeral-hd-streaming-online

Selecting the topic “Drug Interactions,” 14 electronic resources are offered. They include a webcast (Drug Abuse and the Boomer Generation), videos (Prescription Drugs: Killing More Than Pain, and a video from the FDA on acetaminophen in prescription combination), pamphlets (As You Age…A Guide to Aging, Medicines, and Alcohol; Aging Medicines and Alcohol), info sheets (Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines; and Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse: A Parent’s Guide), journal articles on the topic, and statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Several of the resources focus on older adults, others on adolescents, college students and the general population.

The IPRC also has DVDs for free loan (via FedEx) within Indiana that address prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse. (To borrow up to three DVDs by mail, consult the web site, select the title you want, and call (812/855-1237) or email (drugprc@indiana.edu) to arrange for the loan.) Examples of titles are:

  • Not What the Doctor Ordered;
  • Easy Access: The Abuse of Legal Drugs;
  • Abusing OTC Drugs;
  • Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs; and
  • The toolkit -- Maximizing Your Role As a Teen Influencer (with focus on prescription drug abuse)

We learn from the 2009 DVD from the Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force that more people die from prescription drug abuse than from illicit drugs.

Looking again at the search engine of electronic resources available from your computer, i-pad, and i-phone, we learn from the SAMHSA statistics that about a third of emergency room visits associated with misuse of prescription drugs are for nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, especially narcotics and benzodiazepines, commonly taken in combination or with alcohol. (Emergency Department Visits Involving NonMedical Use of Selected Pharmaceuticuals, [2011]). Over 95% of treatment admissions for benzodiazepine addiction are for its use in combination with another drug, most often a narcotic. Admissions for benzodiazepine addiction tripled in the decade 1998-2008 (Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions for Abuse of Benzodiazepines, 2011). Another statistical resource discusses “ED Visits Involving the Muscle Relaxant Carisoprodol,” which in combination with alcohol or other drugs can result in accidental overdose, contributing to the doubling of ER visits associated with this drug from 16,000 to 32,000 from 2004 to 2009 (SAMHSA, 2011). Among older adults the types of drugs most commonly abused are Central Nervous System (CNS) drugs like pain relievers, anxiety medications, and sleep aids.

Teens are abusing prescription drugs at record levels. The resource Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse: A Parent’s Guide (from timetotalk.org) describes this problem and the increased dangers of its use in combination with alcohol or other drugs. It describes signs and symptoms and offers suggestions for prevention.

While drug interactions happen to people at all ages, the most common drug problem among older adults is misuse of prescription drugs. According to the webcast Drug Abuse and the Boomer Generation, half of all emergency room visits by older adults are directly or indirectly related to alcohol and/or other drug misuse. Reactions to multiple prescribed medications that are not well monitored by a patient’s doctor, changed in metabolism due to aging, and combinations with over-the-counter drugs used to self-medicate all contribute to the high incidence of negative drug interactions. The FDA has recently highlighted the dangers of acetaminophen, which is often included in combination with prescribed drugs, to which a patient unwittingly adds yet another dose of acetaminophen, not realizing it was already part of the other medication. Taken in excess it can cause liver damage and even death. (FDA Clamps Down on Acetominophen in Prescription Drugs, 2011)

There is a commonly believed myth or misconception that if two medications are each safe when taken separately, they will be safe if taken together in combination. This myth is attacked in the video, Prescription Drugs: Killing More Than the Pain, and the information sheet, Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines, lists medications that can result in severe interactions with alcohol. Categories of drugs with potentially harmful interactions include blood pressure medications, antibiotics, cholesterol medications, seizure medications and cold medicines. It also points out that women and older adults are at higher risk.

Perhaps Whitney Houston, besides her musical legacy, has given the gift of life to those individuals (and the families and friends who would have mourned them) who may have learned through her tragic story, to be mindful of the potentially lethal consequences of mixing medications, prescription or over-the-counter, with one another or with alcohol. Please take advantage of the IPRC’s Search Prescription Drug Abuse Electronic Resources web page and share this message with others.

by Barbara Seitz-De-Martinez, 2/20/2012