Prescription Drug Abuse and Addicitions

What is a Prescription Drug Addiction?

An addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. Often, it’ll cause the sufferer to seek drugs and use them despite any side effects. Further, if the abuse and addiction go far enough, the brain functions and structures can be changed. While the use of prescription drugs will start voluntarily, it can end with abuse as the body becomes dependent on the drug.

This dependency can lead to an impulse to take more drugs. It can take a healthy person to extreme levels to obtain the medications that they take, especially if they experience intense desires to take more drugs.

Which Prescription Drugs are Most Commonly Abused?

There are three classes of prescription drugs that are most widely abused, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They are:

  1. anxiety and sleep disorder medications that use benzodiazepines or are used for central nervous system;
  2. opioids that are used for pain treatments;
  3. stimulants used for attention deficit disorder or narcolepsy.

A to Z list of commonly abuse prescription drugs:

View the Entire List of Addictive Prescription Drugs

How Do Opioids Work on the Brain and Body?

Codeine and morphine prescriptions have increased since the 1990s. An aging population and a great prevalence of chronic pain can be accredited with this. Other, but slightly less common, drugs in the opioid class include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydrocodone with acetaminophen
  • Fentenyl
  • Meperidine
  • Methodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxycodone and naloxone
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen

As pain killers, they do quite well at managing pain. They even improve the quality of life for those who have some sort of chronic pain. When used for short-term management or under careful supervision from a doctor, using drugs in this class will rarely lead to an addiction or an impulse to abuse the drugs. Used over the long term, however, it can lead to a physical dependence on the drug. This kind of use can also lead to addictions. In an overdoes, opioids can have a life threatening effect. If they are used in conjunction with central nervous system drugs, severe depression or death can occur.

The drugs here are abused because of the euphoria the users can feel. It’s usually a mild feeling. However, drugs such as OxyCotin are inappropriately used or snorted to enhance this effect. They can also be improperly injected for the same reason.

How do CNS Depressants Work on the Brain and Body?

CNS depressants work by affecting the neurotransmitter GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA slows down activity in the brain, which results in a calm feeling and drowsiness. This is why this class of drugs is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other sleeping disorders. Commonly, they are also used for anesthesia, to treat seizures, and as mentioned earlier, sometimes insomnia.

Like most drugs, after using the CNS depressants for a few days or weeks, you may need to up the dosage to feel the same calming effect or feel the same drowsiness. CNS depressants also slow down the heart, and can lead to death in the same way that alcohol can. If you take CNS depressants for an extended period of time and suddenly stop, it can have life-threatening consequences. Withdrawal seizures are also a possibility.

How Do Stimulants Work on the Body and Brain?

Stimulants will do what the name implies – they stimulate the body. They can increase heart rate, open blood vessels, and open the pathways of the respiratory system. Blood sugar and blood pressure can also increase.

While initially used to treat obesity and asthma, today they are often used to treat ADD, ADHD, narcolepsy, depression, and other problems that could require stimulation.

Under supervision, they are safe, especially when in appropriate doses and at appropriate times. However, when the pills are crushed for a high or used for other purposes, stimulants can lead to on-going abuse issues or addiction. When used with decongestants, they can cause irregular heartbeats. High doses of stimulants result in high body temperatures.

Why is Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise?

No one is quite sure why the abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise. The most common thought, however, is that because so many more drugs are available and many more prescriptions are being written for the commonly abused drugs and other drugs, there is simply more opportunity to abuse the drugs. A quick search online reveals thousands of online pharmacies that make it much easier for anyone – even a child or a teen – to get a hold of these highly addictive drugs.

Teens are the ones who are most at risk now. They often talk about having “prescription parties”. These are parties where the teens gather at someone’s home, and everyone has brought one or two of their parents’ medications. The pills are mixed in a bowl – not crushed – and the teens take the pills that look the best. However, the biggest problem is that the teens often don’t know which have serious side effects or could be dangerous if mixed with other drugs or with alcohol.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted and Others Don’t?

Addiction risks vary from person to person. However, a person’s biology, social situations, and environmental factors can all make a difference in the addiction risks. Friends can be a big risk for someone who is susceptible to peer pressure. Age at which addiction begins also constitutes a risk. The lower the age, the higher the risk of abuse and addiction.

How Do I Know if I’m Abusing Prescription Drugs?

Using more than what your doctor prescribes for daily or weekly use is a good sign. For example, a prescription for twice a day being used three or more times a day. Another sign is that you’re calling in refills more often or asking for a higher dose. If you’re using them when you’re bored or for another reason, you may be abusing the prescription.

Pharmacies may call your bluff if they notice you’re getting prescriptions for the same controlled drug from multiple doctors. False or altered prescriptions are another reliable way pharmacies may know.

Are There Some Guidelines for Using Prescription Drugs Safely?

Tips for this come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They include:

  • asking your doctor before increasing or decreasing a prescription
  • honestly informing your doctor about any past history of substance abuse
  • don’t use other people’s medications, and not allowing them to use yours
  • never try to stop your medications by yourself
  • crushing or breaking pills is a big don’t, especially for time-released pills
  • follow medication directions carefully
  • make sure you know and are clear about any side effects during driving or other daily tasks
  • make sure you know how your prescriptions may interact with other drugs or over the counter drugs

These are the best tips that can be given.

Is There Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction?

The short answer is yes; there is treatment. The long answer is that it depends on what your situation is. Nonaddictive medicines (methadone, buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone, naltrexone, etc.) can help addicts kick the habit. Treatments combined with therapy are the best treatment for addicts to reach success.

Are There Any Warnings for Using Opioids, CNS Depressors, and Stimulants?

Opioids should not be used with anything that falls into the CNS depressor category. Examples include alcohol, general aesthetics, antihistamines, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines.

CNS depressors shouldn’t be used with anything that will do the same thing. The examples above are good examples of things that shouldn’t be mixed with other CNS depressors. Some over the counter allergy and cold medications should be avoided, as should all opioids.

Stimulants shouldn’t be used with over the counter decongestants, antidepressants without doctor’s supervision, and some asthma medications. The doctor will know which to prescribe and which not to.

How Can I Help a Loved one Who Is Addicted to Prescription Drugs?

The first thing to do is to talk to health care professionals. Helpful referrals can come from them if you get to them fast enough. Most of these programs will use outpatient care (IE the family member will be at home but will have to go in) with therapy to help cognitive behaviors. Medications are also an option that many programs will utilize if they can.

The next thing you should do is talk to the person you’re worried about. You should be ready for denial and resistance from the family member you’re concerned about because it’s normal. Serious consequences are usually a requirement before they will be willing to accept that they have a problem. However, you should stand there beside them and be willing to help them.