Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug abuse is the use of prescription drugs in ways not intended by the prescribing doctor; this includes taking a higher dosage than prescribed, or taking the drugs for a longer time period than prescribed. While most people take medicines only for the reasons their doctors prescribe them, an estimated 48 million Americans have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons and can then develop a prescription drug addiction. This represents 20 percent of Americans. Studies show that these numbers are continuing to rise from adults and adolescents, making prescription drug abuse a serious and growing problem in the United States.

The most commonly abused prescription drugs are Opioid painkillers

  • Commonly Abused Painkillers: Oxycodone, OxyContin, Roxicet, Roxycodone, Percodan, Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Darvocet, Morphine, Demeral
  • Generally Prescribed For: post-surgical pain relief, chronic pain management
  • Short Term Effects of Usage: block the perception of pain in the brain, and produce feelings of euphoria and pain relief
  • Side Effects Include: nausea, unconsciousness, coma, confusion, severe respiratory depression or death following a large single dose, slowed breathing rate with potential for breathing to stop, loss of fertility, increased risk of choking, low blood pressure, depression

CNS depressants (sedatives and tranquilizers)

  • Commonly Abused Depressants: barbiturates and benzodiazepines including Xanax, Valium, Librium, Klonopin, Ativan, Phenobarbital, Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal
  • Generally Prescribed For: anxiety, sleep disorders, panic attacks
  • Short Term Effects of Use: reduced pain and anxiety, feeling of well-being, lowered inhibitions
  • Side Effects Include: drowsiness, confusion, unsteady gait, impaired judgment, involuntary rapid eye movement, memory problems, respiratory depression and arrest, overdose can cause coma or death
  • At risk for seizure if stop using once addicted

Stimulants

  • Commonly Abused Stimulants: Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Concerta
  • Generally Prescribed For: narcolepsy, ADHD, or obesity
  • Short Term Effects of Use: increase in alertness, attention, and energy
  • Side Effects Include: dangerously high body temp or an irregular heartbeat after taking high doses, cardiovascular failure, lethal seizures, feelings of paranoia, weight loss, agitation, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, hallucinations, increased risk of stroke

Possible Indicators that a person is abusing prescription medications:

  • Take more than is necessary for pain control, or a higher dose than prescribed
  • Take prescription drugs to get high
  • Use prescription drugs for a longer period of time than prescribed
  • Seek excessive pain medication after pain management has been achieved
  • Continually “misplacing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • “Doctor Shopping”: seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor to get more prescribed
  • Develop an increased tolerance for the prescription drug
  • Continue use of prescription medications to avoid withdrawal
  • Go to great lengths to get the drug, including writing fake prescriptions, and stealing from pharmacies
  • Continued use of prescription medications in spite of clearly adverse consequences
  • Demonstrate overall loss of control or obsessive-compulsive drug seeking behavior

Information provided by National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institutes of Health

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