Prescription drug abuse is the use of medication without having a prescription or in a way other than the one prescribed for the feeling and experience. Someone taking medication other than the patient for whom the medication was prescribed, or by taking them in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription medication is the third most abused substance. It is estimated 48 million people which is about 20% of the population aged 12 and above have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime.
- One in six teenagers takes prescription medication to get high
Prescription Drug Abuse
Opiate abuse is the most commonly abused prescription medication.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 26 to 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. In the United States an estimated 2.1 million people suffer from prescription drug use related to prescription pain reliever abuse.
- 207 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain medications in the U.S. last year
For many people the initial drug abuse is voluntary. With time the changes in the brain caused by repeatedly abusing the drug affects ones self-control and ability to make sound decisions. The person gets impulses to take more drugs.
Categories Of Medications
- Opioids—prescribed to treat pain
- CNS depressants—prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
- Stimulants—prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy
Opioids is the term used for all the opiate family of drugs, prescribed to relieve pain. Here is a list of some of the most common opioids:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
- Oxycodone (Tylox, Oxycontin, Percodan, Percocet)
- Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
- Codeine (Empirin with Codeine, Fiorinal with Codeine, Robitussin A-C)
- Fentanyl & Heroin
CNS depressants, also known as sedatives or tranquilizers are substances that slow down the brain’s activity. This property makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. It also opens the door to being abused.
- Barbiturates (Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Phenobarbital)
- Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin)
- Sleep Medication (Ambien, Sonata , Lunesta)
Stimulants increase alertness, attention, energy, and they elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. They do not get prescribed very often anymore due to increase concerns for abuse.
- Amphetamines (Biphetamine, Dexedrine, Adderall)
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin)
The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Medications
There are three classes of prescription drugs that are commonly abused. They are;
- Opioids, used to treat pain, 56% of those who abuse pain relievers got them from family or friends
- Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants are used to treat panic attacks, tension, anxiety and sleep disorders
- Stimulants used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy
The common result of abuse of prescription drugs is addiction. Drug abusers even prescription drugs tend to have trouble with the law, at school and at home. Abuse of prescription drugs has serious risks to the abusers health. Abuse of opioids can lead to vomiting, reduced cognitive function, decreased respiratory function and in extreme cases coma or death. The risk is even higher if the opioids are taken with other substances such as alcohol.
Abrupt stopping or reducing the use of CNS depressants can cause seizures. Mixing them with other medications or alcohol can slow ones heartbeat and cause death. Abusing stimulants is known to cause heart failure and seizures. Mixing them with other drugs could cause dangerously high body temperature or the victim could have an irregular heartbeat.
The symptoms vary depending on the class of drugs abused. Here are the 3 categories of prescription drugs, opiate, sedatives and anti-anxiety and stimulants. Each has its own set of symptoms specific for each type.
- slowed breathing
- poor coordination
- slowed breathing
Sedatives and anti-anxiety medication
- unsteady walking
- slurred speech
- problems with memory
- poor concentration and dizziness
- reduced appetite
- high body temperature
- irregular heartbeat
- paranoia and agitation
Signs & Symptoms
If you suspect your family member or a friend is abusing prescription drugs, compare their behaviors below. They are a few signs to be on the lookout for;
- Losing their prescriptions so more prescriptions can be written
- Seeking prescriptions from many doctors
- The person appears high, sedated or unusually energetic
- Decrease or increase in sleep
- Excessive hostility or mood swings
- Taking higher doses than those prescribed
- Forging or stealing prescriptions
Prescription medications can produce serious adverse health effects, including abuse and addiction. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in America. It is estimated over 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers alone. It is very easy to become dependent on any of the various prescription and over-the-counter medications. Getting help for a prescription or over-the-counter drug abuse problem is a matter of life or death.
Prescription abuse is a very subtle problem. It can convince someone there is nothing wrong, when in fact, there is something very wrong. Please don’t wait until it’s too late.
If you or someone you know is abusing any type of prescription medication, we are here to help. Taking pills in an inappropriate manner is nothing to be ashamed about. Pain medications and ant-depressants are powerful mood-altering substances. It is very easy to become dependent on them without even realizing it.
Addiction to drugs whether illicit or prescribed is a disease that can effectively be treated. Treatments take into account the needs of the individual and the drug that they abuse. Successful treatment incorporates several components including detoxification and counseling. For a patient to fully recover they need multiple courses of treatment.
There are two main categories of treatment; behavioral and pharmacological. Behavioral treatment help the patient to stop using by teaching them how to function without using drugs, how best to deal with cravings and how to handle relapses. Pharmacological treatments include use of other medications to treat the patient. Just like any other addiction treatment works best if the patient seeks treatment early.
Individuals who abuse or are addicted to prescription opioid medications can be successfully treated. Treating prescription drug addiction is different than treating other drug abuse problems. In the case of people suffering from chronic pain, for example, they may need to take prescription medication.