When people hear about drug abuse and dependence, they usually think about illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. But substance use disorders can also involve prescription drugs, including medications that are widely used.
Prescription drug abuse causes serious health problems and interferes with people’s ability to work, go to school, and maintain strong relationships with family and friends. It may also lead to legal problems and a criminal record. Understanding the abuse of prescription drugs is important for both prevention and healing.
What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?
When people abuse prescription drugs, they aren’t taking the drug within the limits of a doctor’s instructions. They aren’t following the orders of a legal prescription. The amount of the drug they take or the frequency with which they take it may go against medical orders. Also, their method of ingestion may be unsafe. For example, people addicted to a prescription drug sometimes crush pills and snort them.
Another form of abuse involves combining drugs unsafely, leading to potentially deadly drug interactions. People may also risk serious legal and social repercussions by trying to obtain the drugs without a legitimate prescription.
In 2017, roughly 18 million people in the U.S. reported misusing prescription drugs at least once during the past year. Sometimes, drug abuse begins when people attempt to self-medicate an underlying health problem. Other times, they seek prescription drugs for recreational purposes or for other reasons that aren’t directly connected to an illness.
Abusing prescription drugs may lead to drug dependence or addiction. In cases of addiction, people come to crave the drug. They build a tolerance to it and need bigger doses or more frequent ingestion to achieve the same effects as before.
Which Types Of Prescription Drugs Are Commonly Abused?
News reports of the nation’s opioid crisis frequently mention prescription painkillers, such as medications containing codeine and oxycodone. The following are the most common drug categories:
Opioids And Opiates
Prescription painkillers are also known as opioids. Opioids are a class of synthetic drugs (made in a lab), which includes hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), methadone, and fentanyl. Opiates are chemical compounds that are extracted or refined from natural plant matter (poppy sap and fibers). Examples of opiates include heroin, morphine, and codeine.
Opiates are a class of drugs that work by directly depressing the central nervous system. These drugs are commonly taken to relieve chronic pain. However, due to their potency and powerful ability to get the job done, it’s common for people to become dependent on these medications. As a result, taking them often causes addictive behavior. In 2019, prescription opioids led to an average of 38 overdose deaths per day among Americans.
Opioids include substances that can be used for relief from pain in patients undergoing surgery or those suffering from terminal illnesses like cancer because they cause less nausea than other types of medicine would while relieving additional symptoms.
The Power Of Opioids
People who become dependent on, or addicted to one particular opiate or opioid drug may find that switching them can help maintain their addiction. A person’s tolerance for drugs will go down if he/she substitutes another type of medication.
Although, this isn’t true with heroin since it has a much higher potential for becoming habit-forming than prescription pain relievers do. Many people who become addicted substitute other types of medications after running out of these prescriptions due to lack of both availability and cost. No matter what substances you abuse there are risks involved.
Doctors often prescribe opioids to relieve chronic pain. However, it’s important for patients who have been prescribed these drugs and their doctors to understand that there is a risk of addiction even if they don’t misuse or abuse pharmaceuticals can lead people into heroin use because the rush associated with using them makes up for any difficulty in getting an effect from less powerful illegal alternatives like cocaine or marijuana.
Central Nervous System Depressants
These include benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, which doctors commonly prescribe for anxiety or insomnia. Barbiturates, such as medications containing phenobarbital, are another example of prescription depressants. Often, people abuse these drugs by combining them with alcohol or with opioids.
In contrast to depressants, stimulants speed up the activity of the nervous system. They cause an elevation in heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. Examples of prescription stimulants include Ritalin and Adderall. Heart attacks and seizures are among the major risks of abusing these drugs.
Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse
When people begin abusing prescription drugs, their behavior typically changes in noticeable ways. In some cases, however, the initial signs of drug abuse remain subtle. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between signs of drug abuse and situations where people haven’t received an effective prescription for their medical issues. People may be visiting multiple doctors because they genuinely need better treatment.
Seeking More Of A Drug
However, certain behaviors are warning signs of drug abuse. People abusing prescription drugs may demand frequent refills. They may pretend to lose a prescription in the hopes that a doctor will write another one. Also, they often ignore instructions on dosage and other safe practices.
In some situations, people resort to faking symptoms. Or they continue claiming to need a drug even after they’ve healed from their medical problems. Other times, people attempt to obtain drugs without a legal prescription. They forge or steal prescriptions, steal or ask for medications from relatives and friends, or rely on a dealer who sells prescription drugs illegally.
Carelessness And Neglect
When a drug problem worsens, people’s behavior often becomes more careless or even reckless. They may combine their drug use with activities that shouldn’t be performed under the influence, such as driving. Also, they may take drugs in dangerous combinations, such as barbiturates mixed with alcohol.
Carelessness doesn’t always involve immediate physical danger. People abusing prescription drugs may ignore obligations and neglect promises they’ve made. They may start missing appointments, social events, classes, work meetings, and family dinners. Relationships or activities that they used to care about now receive less attention.
Drug abuse changes health habits as well. When people struggle with abuse or addiction, they tend to eat more poorly. Maybe they bathe less often or spend less time exercising. They may wind up sleeping too much or losing a great deal of sleep.
When abusing stimulants, people may become more irritable, aggressive, and fearful. When abusing sedatives or opioid painkillers, they may become more unfocused and lethargic.
People who used to be alert and energetic are now perpetually drowsy and withdrawn. Trustworthy people are now unreliable. If they don’t have easy access to the drug they’re using, they may erupt in rage or resort to stealing. Their loved ones sometimes feel as if they’re in the presence of a stranger.
Mental health suffers from drug abuse and addiction. New psychological problems arise, and existing problems become worse, causing painful changes to people’s moods and personalities.
Health Effects Of Abusing Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs differ in how they affect the brain and the rest of the body. How a person will react to drug abuse also varies based on age, existing medical problems, the amount of drug consumption, and other factors. The following are general lists of short-term and long-term risks. These lists aren’t comprehensive.
Short-Term Effects Of Prescription Drug Abuse
- Overdoses, including fatal overdoses.
- Heart attacks and strokes.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Anxiety, depressed moods, and agitation.
- Nausea, loss of appetite, and constipation.
- Poor motor control and balance.
- Slurred speech.
- Forgetfulness and confusion.
- Heightened aggression.
- Poorer decision-making abilities, which can lead to deadly accidents.
Long-Term Effects Of Prescription Drug Abuse
- Poorer mental and physical health from nutritional deficiencies, broken relationships, job loss, legal problems, and other sources of stress.
- Diminished cognitive functioning, including problems with memory, attention, and speech.
- Damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, brain, and other organ systems throughout the body, resulting in a variety of chronic illnesses.
- Mood disorders and other serious psychological problems.
- Powerful addiction.
Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment At Illinois Recovery Center
When people develop an addiction to prescription drugs, they’re susceptible to serious withdrawal symptoms. These include seizures, painful cramps, heart palpitations, and vomiting. As for psychological effects, the possibilities include brain fog, intense paranoia, and despair.
Withdrawal management is one reason to go to prescription drug addiction rehab. Compassionate and knowledgeable professionals can help monitor your symptoms, give you healthy relief, and ensure that you’re receiving medical attention when necessary.
Recover Effectively From The Cycle Of Addiction
There are also other compelling reasons to attend a rehab program. Illinois Recovery Center views people in a holistic and personalized way. The program doesn’t treat drug addiction as an isolated problem. Instead, each works on their overall mental and physical health, on changing habits, and on figuring out how to rebuild their life.
To increase the chances of successfully fighting drug abuse and addiction, professional treatment is vital. Illinois Recovery Center offers people healing and hope. It gives people the support they need to regain control and enjoy a meaningful, rewarding life that’s free from prescription drug abuse.