WHAT IS PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE?
One of the most significant substance abuse problems in America is prescription drug abuse. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2005 to 2011, about 15.7 million Americans used prescription drugs for “non-medical” purposes. In other words, nearly 16 million people used prescription drugs for recreational purposes.
Most people begin using prescription medications for valid medical reasons, with a legal prescription, and under a physician’s supervision.
There can be many valid reasons for prescription use, like cancer-related pain, 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.
When prescription drug use goes on for weeks or months, even people under medical supervision with no history of substance abuse can find themselves developing a drug habit. For people who have had substance abuse problems in the past, or who have a family history of substance abuse, prescription drugs use can can quickly lead to dependence or to prescription drug addiction.
COMMONLY ABUSED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
The more commonly abused prescription drugs generally break down into three categories: central nervous system (“CNS”) depressants, stimulants, and opioids.
- Benzodiazepines. Common names include Klonopin® (clonazepam), Xanax®, Ativan®, Librium®, and Valium® (diazepam). These drugs are sometimes referred to as “benzos,” “tranquilizers,” and “downers.” They 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”. They are used as sedatives and anesthetics.
- Sleeping Pills. Common names include Ambien®, Sonata®, and Lunesta®. These drugs are sedatives used to treat sleep disorders, like insomnia.
This class includes the amphetamine drugs like 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?
People taking prescription drugs often begin abusing them by taking more than the prescribed dose. Abusers may do things like crushing and snorting pills, or dissolving them and injecting in order to increase the high. Many prescription drug abusers will also use the prescriptions of friends and family if they can get them.
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
- Taking 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.
Benzos increase the risk of overdose and death when used in combination with opioids and/or alcohol.
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 drug. Withdrawal syndrome (the name for all of the symptoms taken together) can begin within a few hours of stopping the drug. Users who have a short-term addictions may be able to quit without medically managing withdrawal symptoms (called “cold-turkey”). Users with full-blown addiction should consider a medically supervised detox and withdrawal.
CNS Depressants/Sedatives: Withdrawal from sedatives can be extremely dangerous. People addicted to sedatives should seek medical assistance before stopping drugs.
Symptoms can include; insomnia, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tremors, incoordination, restlessness, blurred vision, sweating, delirium and seizures.
Opioids: Withdrawal from opioids can be very uncomfortable. But, opioid withdrawal is not usually 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 it’s not usually considered medically dangerous.
Symptoms can include: fatigue, insomnia or excessive sleep, difficult moving or excessive movement, and vivid, unpleasant dreams.
We can refer you to a detox facility where you can get the help that you need.