2013 年 133 巻 6 号 p. 617-630
The nonmedical use of medications, including psychotropic drugs, is a growing health problem in Japan. According to a nationwide survey of mental hospitals, the proportion of patients with sedative (mainly benzodiazepine)-related disorders has more than doubled over the last decade. An association between psychotropic drug overdose and suicide risk has also been reported. Furthermore, over-the-counter drug abuse is still a serious problem in Japan. In recent years, pharmacists have been expected to act as gatekeepers, making timely identifications of suicide risk or substance abuse and directing these individuals to appropriate medical care facilities. In August 2012, the revised Comprehensive Suicide Measures Act identified pharmacists as one professional group that should act as gatekeepers. This article begins by reviewing the fundamental terms involved in understanding the nonmedical use of medications, including abuse, dependence, and intoxication. The current situation of substance abuse and dependence is then introduced through a summary of several epidemiological surveys conducted in Japan. Finally, the role of pharmacists as gatekeepers in preventing substance abuse and dependence on medications is discussed.