a man inhaling a smoky skull being sprayed from an inhaler

Inhaler Abuse

At one time or another, many of us have been prescribed what are sometimes known as “rescue inhalers.” They are usually one form or another of an Albuterol Sulfate Inhalation Aerosol, also known as VENTOLIN.

Over-reliance on reliever inhalers

“Albuterol is used to prevent and treat wheezing and shortness of breath caused by breathing problems such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,” according to WebMD.1 But according to a study by the Asthma Society of Ireland and hmRIreland, almost a third of asthma sufferers are at risk of dying due to an over-reliance on reliever inhalers.2,3

That’s right – dying!

Serious risks

The research examined the over-reliance on reliever inhaler medication by people with asthma in Ireland. Now, what does this have to do with COPD? According to an MD Magazine article: “Since asthma and COPD often go hand-in-hand, and previous studies have shown that as many as 80% of asthma patients do not properly use their inhalers, the researchers investigated the issue of incorrect inhaler use among COPD patients.”4

The Asthma Society study mentions that “three in ten sufferers use more than 12 reliever inhalers a year." Using three or more reliever inhalers a year indicates a person is at risk of a “severe asthma exacerbation”, while the use of 12 or more is an indication someone is at risk of an asthma-related death.5

I realize that COPD and Asthma are different diseases. But, I think abuse of any kind of inhaler with either disease is at best dangerous, and, at worst, deadly.

Overuse is rampant

Apparently, one in five people overuse their reliever inhaler during the first year of their diagnosis. The following year shows a six percent increase in the number of people using 12 or more reliever inhalers a year and a 17 percent increase in the number of people using three or more reliever inhalers per year.6

Also, in their year after diagnosis, 30 percent of children (newborn to 17-years-old) are overusing their reliever inhaler. Meanwhile, 60 percent of people aged 50 or over are overusing their inhaler in the year after diagnosis. The research also showed a trend where reliever over-use scales up dramatically after the first year and is very high by five years after initial diagnosis.

Maybe we should get one going

The chief executive of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Sarah O’Connor, said the research revealed that a large number of people in all age groups are overusing their inhalers putting them at risk of an asthma exacerbation or asthma-related death.

“If you are using your reliever inhaler several times each week, you are over-reliant on it and your asthma is not controlled,” she said. The Asthma Society of Ireland is launching a SafetyCare campaign - an initiative aiming to end asthma deaths in Ireland by making patients and the public aware of asthma management issues.5

I could not find a similar campaign for those of us with COPD who use/abuse inhalers. If there is not one, maybe we should get one going.

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