Prescription drug abuse is the misuse of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. Prescription drug abuse or problematic use includes everything from stealing prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. Prescription drug abuse may become ongoing and compulsive, despite the negative consequences.
Prescription drug abuse does discriminate and does affect all age groups, but it is increasingly more common in young people. The prescription drugs most often abused include opioid painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications, and stimulants.
Early identification of prescription drug abuse and early intervention may prevent the problem from turning into an addiction.
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the specific drug. Because of their mind-altering properties, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are:
Opioids, including oxycodone (aka Oxycontin, Roxicodone) and hydrocodone (aka Vicodin, Lortab, Norco), are used to treat pain and can have these signs and symptoms of abuse:
Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives, including alprazolam (aka Xanax), diazepam (aka Valium), and hypnotics, such as zolpidem (aka Ambien), are used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders and can have these signs and symptoms of abuse:
Stimulants, including methylphenidate (aka Ritalin, Concerta), dextroamphetamine, amphetamine (Adderall XR), and dextroamphetamine (aka Dexedrine), are used to treat attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders. Stimulants can have these signs and symptoms of abuse:
People abuse prescription drugs for many reasons, such as:
Many people fear that they may become addicted to medications prescribed for medical conditions, such as painkillers prescribed after surgery. However, people who take potentially addictive drugs as prescribed don’t often abuse them or become addicted.
Risk factors for prescription drug abuse developing include:
Prescription drug abuse in older adults is a growing problem, especially when they combine drugs with alcohol. Having multiple health problems and taking multiple drugs can put seniors at risk of misusing drugs or becoming addicted.
Abusing prescription drugs can cause a number of problems. Prescription drugs can be especially dangerous — and even lead to death — when taken in high doses, when combined with other prescription drugs or certain over-the-counter medications, or when taken with alcohol or illegal drugs.
Here are examples of the serious consequences of prescription drug abuse:
Because commonly abused prescription drugs activate the brain’s reward center, it’s possible to develop physical dependence and addiction.
Other potential consequences include:
Prescription drug abuse may occur in people who need painkillers, sedatives or stimulants to treat a medical condition. If you’re taking a commonly abused drug, there are ways to ensure prescription drug abuse prevention and decrease your risk of an addiction or dependency:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that overdose deaths from prescription drug abuse in the United States are at an all-time high. Millions of people are affected by this epidemic, from young adults to the elderly. If you or someone else like a family member is suffering from prescription drug abuse, seek addiction treatment.