In the United States alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs. In turn, this abuse can become an addiction, often impacting your life in negative ways. Prescription addiction can result from a variety of reasons. In some cases, someone builds a dependence on a drug that their doctor has prescribed them. On the other hand, others acquire the prescriptions illegally or through a friend, using the drugs to self-medicate, get high, work, or study.
Oftentimes, prescription addiction leads to life-threatening consequences. In fact, some experts argue that prescription drug addiction is even more dangerous than addiction to illegal drugs, such as heroin or meth, due to the easy access and lack of social stigma around them. Once dependence and addiction set in, many people find it very difficult to stop using. For this reason, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of prescription addiction and the treatment options available as soon as possible.
What are Prescription Drugs?
The term prescription drugs— otherwise referred to as prescription medications—refers to any type of pharmaceutical drug sold legally through a prescription issued by a licensed medical professional. Oftentimes, doctors prescribe these drugs to treat either pain or mental health disorders. Many chronic pain patients, in particular, use prescription painkillers to manage their pain, especially if alternatives don’t work for them. Unlike over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, you cannot obtain these drugs without a prescription. In most instances, they are harder to acquire because of their addictive properties. Furthermore, without proper doctor supervision, the potential for abuse is high. The most common ways prescription drug misuse and addictions form include:
Consuming more frequent or larger than recommended dosages
Refilling a prescription without your doctor’s approval
Taking someone else’s (usually a friend or family member’s) prescription
Purchasing the drug illegally from another person
Which Types of Prescription Drugs are Most Likely to be Abused?
Prescription drugs serve a variety of purposes, so the potential for abuse differs depending on what your doctor has prescribed you. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include opioids, stimulants, central nervous depressants, and antipsychotics.
Oftentimes, the terms “opiate” and “opioid” are used interchangeably, although a subtle difference exists between the two terms. Opiates are derived naturally from the poppy plant. One example of an opiate is heroin.
Opioids, on the other hand, refer to the broader term of substances that bind to the brain’s opioid receptors, where the brain controls pain, reward and addictive behaviors. While all opiates are opioids, not all opioids are opiates. Some opioids are found in nature, while others are created synthetically. Both opiates and opioids are highly addictive, so don’t be fooled because opiates are “natural” and some opioids are synthetic.
When prescribed, these drugs treat pain and serious illnesses. Examples of prescription opioids include:
- hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- oxycodone (OxyContin)
Prescription stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy. Oftentimes, they’re used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Examples of prescription stimulants include:
- dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
- dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (Adderall)
- methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
CNS depressants slow brain activity and are often used to treat anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and insomnia. Classes of CNS drugs include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics, and barbiturates. They include but are not limited to:
- diazepam (Valium)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- zolpidem (Ambien)
- phenobarbital (Luminal)
Antipsychotics primarily treat and manage psychosis, including for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Oftentimes, they are used in conjunction with other types of meds. Examples include:
- aripiprazole (Abilify)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- risperidone (Risperdal)
Although all these drugs have medicinal properties, they are highly susceptible to abuse because of the effects they produce such as an increased ability to focus, relieve pain, or decrease stress.
The Most Commonly Abused Drugs in America
Currently, America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths attributed to prescription painkillers, namely opioids, were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999. Other prescription medications can cause overdose and death as well. Each year, tens of thousands of people die from overdoses or other related causes. While many factors determine how susceptible you are to addiction, such as age, weight, and family history, these prescription medications have the highest chances for abuse:
What are the Symptoms of Prescription Addiction?
Any person taking a medication not as directed by a medical professional is abusing that drug. When that drug comes from classes of medications like opiates and amphetamines, abusing them can lead to deadly consequences. Be on the lookout for these types of dangerous behaviors:
- Needing more of a medicine than prescribed
- Taking medication in any other way than as directed such as chewing, snorting, or smoking pills
- Changes in behavior and mood
- Inability to sleep or relax without taking the drug
- Requiring larger and larger amounts to feel the same effects from the drug
- Needing to borrow money to pay for extra amounts of the drug
- Wanting to quit taking the drug, but not being able to
Early detection is vital. Over time, people become dependent and eventually addicted to these drugs. In the worst cases, this can lead to dangerous situations where users turn to street drugs when they run out of their prescription.
How Can People Overcome Prescription Addiction?
If you or someone you know is abusing prescription meds, seek help right away. Prescription medications change the chemistry of your brain. For this reason, quitting cold turkey is not an option for most people. If you quit too quickly, severe withdrawal symptoms and side effects, including seizure and even cardiac arrest, can occur.
Seeking the right kind of help is essential to overcoming your addiction. Different tiers of treatment exist, so talking to a medical professional for an evaluation is often helpful. Medically supervised rehabilitation programs provide safe environments that are effective for recovery from addiction. In these programs, doctors and nurses first help you through detox. Once detox is complete, medical professionals often work alongside caseworkers and therapists to provide interdisciplinary care during the many stages of recovery.
On top of that, programs designed to specifically target prescription addiction by working through your underlying physical or mental problems can assist you. Many people self-medicate with antidepressants to help them through undiagnosed mental health issues. Your doctor or therapist can help you find your proper prescription and give you other tools to manage your mental health. Reach out and contact a medical professional as soon as you can. They are often the ones who can help you understand the path forward best.
We can help you
At The Blackberry Center, you will have the opportunity to begin the journey to lifelong recovery in our state-of-the-art facilities.
If you or one of your loved ones are struggling with addiction, we can help. We use a personalized approach to addiction treatment. Our focus is on treating the disease, not the symptoms. We put our patients first every step of the way.
Our substance abuse-only treatment programs include detox, residential and PHP. Our on-site rehab programs focus on a comprehensive recovery approach. They address your physical, mental and spiritual needs for optimal wellness.
Your needs are unique. We treat you as such.
Reach Out For Help Today
We welcome you to The Blackberry Center. From support groups to individual therapy treatment options, we are here to fight the addiction battle with you.