WHAT IS PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE?
One of the most significant substance abuse problems in America is the prescription drug abuse. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2005 to 2011, some 15.7 million Americans had used prescription drugs for “non-medical” purposes.
Most people begin using prescription medications for perfectly valid medical reasons, under a physician’s supervision, and with a legal prescription.
There can be many valid reasons for prescription use, like pain management following surgery, psychiatric diagnoses, insomnia, or other problems. Depending upon the medical need, use of prescription drugs can last for weeks, months, or even years.
Under these circumstances, even people under medical supervision with no history of substance abuse can find themselves developing a drug habit. For people who have a substance abuse history – or who are predisposed to developing addiction – prescription drug abuse can quickly lead to dependence, and then to full-blown prescription medication addiction.
WHAT ARE COMMONLY ABUSED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS?
The more commonly abused prescription drugs generally break down into three categories: Central Nervous System (“CNS”) Depressants, Stimulants, and Opiods.
- Benzodiazepines. Common names include Klonopin® (clonazepam), Xanax®, Ativan®, Librium®, and Valium® (diazepam). These drugs are sometimes referred to as “benzos,” “tranquilizers,” and “downers.” These drugs are used as sedatives, tranquilizers, anti-anxiety drugs, muscle relaxers, and anti-convulsants.
- Barbiturates. Common names include phenobarbital and Brevital®. These drugs are sometimes referred to as “barbs,” “downers,” “sleepers,” or “yellow jackets”. These drugs are used as sedatives and anesthetics.
- Sleeping Pills. Common names include Ambien®, Sonata®, and Lunesta®). These drugs are sedative drugs used to treat sleep disorders, like insomnia.
This class includes the amphetamine drugs including methamphetamine. Common prescription names include: Adderall®, Dexedrine®, and Ritalin®. These drugs are sometimes referred to as “black beauties,” “speed,” and, “uppers”. These drugs are used to treat conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Narcolepsy.
- Natural. Common names include codeine and morphine. These drugs are used as anesthetics, for pain relief, and to treat coughs.
- Semi-Synthetic. Common names include Duramorph®, Vicodin®, Norco®, Lortab®, oxycodone (Oxycontin® and Percocet®), Dilaudid®, Demerol®, Darvon®, Opana®, Fentanyl, and Actiq®. These drugs are sometimes referred to as “oxy,” “percs,” “footballs,” “blue heavens,” and “demmies.” These drugs are used to treat pain.
- Synthetic. Common names include Duragesic®, Sublimaze®, methadone, Methadose®, and Dolophine®. These drugs are used for pain management and the treatment of opiod addiction.
WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE & ADDICTION?
Often, prescription drug abuse begins by taking more than the prescribed dosage. Abusers may also change the method of ingestion for a quicker or stronger high (like crushing and snorting pills, or dissolving them and injecting). Many prescription drug abusers will also use the prescriptions of friends and family for recreational use.
Some signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse include:
- Prescriptions begin running out faster
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
- Stealing, forging, or selling prescriptions
- Repeatedly “losing” prescriptions so more must be written
- Ingesting medication in private (when no one is looking)
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE & ADDICTION?
The dangers presented by prescription drugs addiction vary depending upon the type of drug.
CNS Depressants/Sedatives: can cause memory problems, low blood pressure, and slowed breathing. Overdose can cause coma or death.
Stimulants: can cause high blood pressure, high body temperature, rapid breathing and heartbeat, hallucinations, unconsciousness, chest pains, seizures, muscle cramps, and dizziness. Overdose can result in heart attack or stroke.
Opioids: can cause low blood pressure, slowed breathing, seizures, muscle spasms, and unconsciousness. Overdose can cause coma or death.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG WITHDRAWAL?
Withdrawal symptoms vary depending upon the drugs abused. Withdrawal syndrome (the name for all of the withdrawal symptoms taken together) can begin within a few hours of stopping the drug. Users who have a short-term, less intense addictions may be able to quit without any medical help for withdrawal symptoms (called “cold-turkey”). Users with full-blown addiction should consider a medically supervised withdrawal.
CNS Depressants/Sedatives: Withdrawal from sedatives can be extremely dangerous. Symptoms can include; insomnia, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tremors, incoordination, restlessness, blurred vision, sweating, delirium and seizures. People suffering from an addiction to sedatives should seek medical assistance before stopping drugs.
Opioids: Withdrawal from opioids can be very uncomfortable, but is not usually considered to be life threatening. Withdrawal symptoms begin within a few hours of stopping, and generally peak between 24-48 hours later. Symptoms can include: intense cravings, insomnia, restlessness, sweating, nausea and vomiting, achiness, headaches, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and moodiness.
Stimulants: Withdrawal from stimulants can be uncomfortable, but is not usually considered to be life threatening. Symptoms can include: fatigue, insomnia or excessive sleep, difficult moving or excessive movement, and vivid, unpleasant dreams.
If you or someone you love is showing signs of withdrawal, you should seek medical assistance immediately.