Prescription drug addiction is a prevalent issue in the United States, and many of those addicted may not even realize that their drug use is actually abuse. While prescription drugs can be obtained illegally, many times abuse is developed through a legitimate prescription. A variety of prescription drugs are intended to only be taken over a short period of time to relieve stress, anxiety or pain. Once an individual begins to take these medications without the correct dosage or a doctor’s recommendation, their tolerance levels can rise and addiction can set in. Even if an individual obtains prescription drugs illegally, they may feel as though they are innocently self-medicating and not causing any harm.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the second most common illicit drug, next to marijuana, are prescription pain relievers. The main types of prescription drugs are opiates, sedatives and stimulants.
Opiates are primarily prescribed to help with pain management. This can compound into an addiction if an individual has chronic pain and is reluctant to give up their prescription medications. Opiates can be highly addictive and require the need to take more in order to achieve the same effect, leaving a person with a high tolerance to their medication. Physicians usually prescribe opiates for acute pain and are not meant for long term sustainability. Common prescription opiates are codeine and vicodin.
Sedatives can be prescribed if an individual is going through a highly stressful situation or is dealing with acute anxiety. Much like opiates, these prescription drugs are not meant for long term use and can lead to abuse if not monitored by a physician. Common sedatives are benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
Stimulants can come in the form of a prescription and sometimes over-the-counter. These can be prescribed for concentration, and also as a chemical used in weight-loss drugs. Stimulants can be effective as an appetite suppressant, but can lead to other side effects such as confusion, lack of sleep and nervousness. The initial benefits of prescription stimulants will not last over time, and therefore, should only be used under the constant supervision of a physician. Common stimulants are amphetamines and adderall.
Prescription drug abuse is often hidden by users who have a preexisting condition or ailment that they can pin their behavior on. It is important to closely observe whether loved ones taking prescription medications have become further withdrawn or seem out of touch with reality. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that over 6 million people have used prescription drugs non-medically in the past month, thus not all prescription users are treating ailments or using them for medical purposes.
Of the two drug categories, Schedule I and Schedule II, Schedule I drugs are rarely prescribed and are highly addictive in nature. Schedule II drugs, such as opiates, sedatives, and stimulants are commonly prescribed and can lead individuals to believe these are safe to use for both medical and illegal, recreational purposes. The reality of it is that prescription drugs can be highly addictive and can change the chemical makeup of the brain. The CDC has reported that almost 15,000 people die every year from overdoses involving prescription painkillers. This showcases the danger that prescription drugs can pose on a person, and that use of these drugs is not be deemed safe for everyone.
Prescription drugs can alter one’s mind and because of this, detox while in recovery must be administered in order to wean an individual off of the medication. Many times addicts who are seeking prescription drug rehab have built an extremely high tolerance to prescription drugs and cannot just quit cold turkey. Therapies within treatment must help the individual by using positive reinforcement to discover why being sober is the best alternative. This behavioral change may happen gradually over time, and those that seek out treatment for prescription drug addiction will be more successful if they can fully commit to recovery and aftercare programs.
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