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How Does Prescription Drug Addiction Develop?

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How Does Prescription Drug Addiction Develop?

How Does Prescription Drug Addiction Develop?

When used as prescribed, prescription drugs can effectively treat a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions. However, prescription drugs can also be abused and misused, sometimes leading to the development of prescription drug addiction. Prescription drug addiction often develops due to either self medication, after being prescribed a medication with potential for dependence, and when an individual takes a medication for long periods of time without understanding the effects. Understanding what led to the abuse of a prescription drug can be helpful in treating the abuse or addiction and for that reason medical evaluations are very important in the recovery process. 

Several of the most frequently prescribed medications from doctors are the most addictive because of how they are made to alter brain chemistry. When misused or taken by prescribed individuals prescription drugs have a high potential for dependence. Most individuals who are prescribed medication for pain or anxiety don’t intend to become addicted. However, as the brain becomes accustomed with receiving large quantities of rewards, it starts associating the intake of painkillers with positive actions. Simultaneously, the negligible amounts of dopamine it receives from the normal activities no longer appear to be worth the effort.

Our brain then stops producing these chemicals on their own and relies on the drugs to produce them. Eventually, tolerance to the drug continues to grow and the brain begins to crave it in order to function. This is how prescription drug dependence develops. With many individuals not fully grasping that opiates and sedatives have extreme risks for dependence, in addition to them being prescribed to millions daily, risks of addiction are higher than ever.

Data indicates that over the past 20 years doctors have increased the amount of prescribed prescriptions and though there has not been a formal connection, the rates of prescription drug abuse have also similarly increased nearly 250%.  It is estimated that over 16 million people in the United States abuse prescription drugs, with over 2 million meeting the criteria for a substance use disorder.

People abuse prescription drugs for a variety of reasons, such as to relieve pain, aid in sleep, feel high, and improve mood. Abusing prescription drugs for multiple reasons is associated with higher rates of dependence, as is using prescription drugs to self-medicate physical pain or negative emotions.

When a person abuses substances over a long time, their brain undergoes functional changes. This includes the basic chemistry that allows a healthy brain to function. In the case of opiates (heroin, morphine, etc.), the centers in the brain that control pain and pleasure are affected. Eventually, the brain’s natural function and production of serotonin and dopamine (chemicals that make a person feel good) is slowed and even stops. This causes the person to be out of balance when the drug use stops causing severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms until the addiction can be properly treated.

The increase in prescription drug abuse has been accompanied by an increase in research into prescription drug rehab. Unfortunately, the majority of people struggling with prescription drug abuse fail to seek professional help.

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Which Prescription Drugs are Highly Addictive?

Several of the most frequently prescribed medications from doctors are the most addictive because of how they are made to alter brain chemistry. When misused or taken by prescribed individuals prescription drugs have a high potential for dependence.

Opiates and sedatives are both prescription drugs which are highly addictive because of their impact on the brains reward system. Opiates which are used to treat pain, are often abused when individuals develop a tolerance to the drug and decide to increase their dosage without speaking to their doctor. Additionally, some individuals seek out opiates for their numbing effects without speaking to a doctor at all.

Prescription opioids are the most common prescription drug of abuse. While about 4.9 million people are thought to have abused prescription opioids in 1992, that number was estimated to have risen to 12.5 million in 2012. The number of people receiving treatment for prescription opioid addiction is only second to treatment for alcoholism.

Treatment for prescription opioid drugs often involves transferring the patient to a drug known as Suboxone. Suboxone, which contains an opioid agonist known as buprenorphine, can help reduce carvings in a controlled manner. Extended treatment where doses are tapered off over several weeks appear to show the most successful results.

The second most commonly abused prescription drugs are classes of drugs with sedative properties, with are often used to treat psychiatric conditions. Misuse of prescription sedatives has been linked with falls and vehicular accidents, and withdrawal from high doses has the potential to cause symptoms such as seizures.

  • Sedative addiction is best treated by slowly reducing the dose in order to prevent the occurrence of serious withdrawal symptoms. Because misuse of prescription sedatives has been linked to attempts to self-medicate anxiety and other forms of psychological distress, health care practitioners may also consider prescribing drugs such as antidepressants in order to prevent relapse.
  • Stimulants are the third most commonly abused class of prescription drugs. Drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta are often used nonmedically by college students in order to enhance academic performance, though no evidence exists that the drugs have such an effect.
  • Antidepressants are not commonly seen as prescription drugs with potential for abuse. However, a class of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors and an antidepressant known as bupropion have both been cited as producing and being abused for their stimulant and euphoric effects.  

There are a variety of different effective, prescription antidepressants available today. This allows for misuse of prescription antidepressants to be typically handled by transferring the patient onto an antidepressant with different pharmacological properties.
Prescription drug misuse has certainly grown in the past few decades, but so have prescription drug rehab methods and treatments. It is important that prescription drug addiction is recognized for what it is, and that the proper help is sought.

 

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