Jennifer Carey ’01 Tackles Medication Abuse
With Fellowship, Alumna Researches Ways to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is experiencing a massive prescription drug abuse epidemic. In 2008, an average of 7,000 Americans per day began abusing prescriptions for the first time. A physician in emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jennifer Carey ’01 sees the results of this abuse on a daily basis and is looking to find ways to combat the problem.
With financial support from the Dr. Mary P. Dole Medical Fellowship, an Alumnae Association fellowship that is typically awarded to a Mount Holyoke alumna who holds a Doctorate of Medicine degree, Carey is working to create and implement a focused curriculum to help young doctors and doctors in training make more informed decisions when prescribing medication to their patients.
As a first step in her project, Carey is analyzing gender differences among those who abuse prescription medication and has found that “although males abuse prescription medications more frequently, females tend to be more susceptible to severe or life-threatening outcomes.” As a next step, she will examine the prescribing habits of physicians in an effort to help them identify at-risk and high-risk individuals early on.“Though doctors play a large role in minimizing overdoses,” Carey says, “physicians in training often lack education in identifying patients at risk for medication abuse or overdose, or do not have a good understanding of how to safely prescribe medications.”
Ultimately, Carey says, “there are multi-factorial problems that we encounter in the medical field regarding unsafe or unnecessary prescription writing.” By helping physicians at the start of their careers become more equipped at identifying high-risk individuals, Carey hopes to make an important impact in ebbing the tide of prescription abuse in the United States.
—By Camille Malonzo ’16
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October 27, 2014