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History of Prescription Drugs

It might be easy for you to distinguish a prescription drug from an over-the-counter drug. If you’d like to buy an over-the-counter drug, you can simply walk into the store and grab that item off the shelf. If you need a prescription drug, however, you need a permission slip from a doctor. This system has become so familiar to modern consumers that you might not think much about the laws and the planning that went into developing this system. Knowing a little more about the history, however, might help you to understand prescription drug addiction just a bit better.

The Birth of an Industry

If you wanted to purchase a medication prior to 1952, you could walk into a pharmacy or visit your local druggist and simply ask for what you wanted. Some labeling laws required manufacturers to write down what the drugs contained, and some producers could face retribution for selling things that were impure, but consumers weren’t required to do much of anything at all.

This changed with the passage of the Durham-Humphrey Amendment. According to a JAMA article published about the issue in 1952, the amendment was designed to split drugs that could safely be administered without a doctor’s help from drugs that had some specific dangers and should be closely watched by doctors. These medications would be marked with the label, “Caution: Federal law prohibits dispensing without prescription.” The prescription drug industry was born, and consumers had a role to play in ensuring the rules were followed properly.

*Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs are designed to be provided by doctors because they have been determined unsafe for consumers to take on an unsupervised basis. If you’re taking prescription medications without the assistance of your doctor, or you’re taking your prescription medication in ways your doctor never intended, you are abusing those drugs.

Targeting Consumers

While prescription drug manufacturers often worked with doctors, trying to convince them to prescribe new medications they had developed, much of this changed in the late 1990s. At that time, according to an article on the issue published by Minnesota Medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed rules regarding advertising. Now, manufacturers could develop ads that were made for consumers just like you. This lead to multiple ads on television and in magazines with phrases like:

  • Talk to your doctor to find out more.
  • Do you have this disease? We can help.
  • Ask your doctor about this medication.
  • Ask your doctor if this medication is right for you.

Targeted ads like this can help people find out about the medications that could help, but it’s also possible that they have encouraged consumers to think about pills when they think about cures. You might not consider a visit to the doctor complete unless you emerge with a prescription in your hand. It’s possible that targeted ads have contributed to prescription drug use, abuse and addiction as they have made prescription drugs both more accepted and more prevalent in society.

*Who Regulates Prescription Drugs?

The decision to place a drug in the prescription category resides with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also monitors how those drugs are used by consumers, and keeps track of any adverse symptoms people deal with after taking the medication. The FDA has been closely monitoring the prescription medication addiction issue, trying to come up with strategies that could help.