What is Prescription Drug Abuse?
While most people think that pills inside of little orange bottles are safer when compared to street drugs like cocaine and heroin, it is still illegal and highly risky to use unprescribed drugs. In many cases the effects of prescription drug abuse can result in more addictive characteristics. The availability of prescription drugs tends to make these more easily abused in households with children in middle and high school. However, abuse can happen at any age and you may have experienced borderline abuses yourself if you have engaged in any of the following behaviors:
- Use of medication without a prescription
- Use of medication in way other than prescribed
- Use of medication for the experience of feelings elicited
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are divided into 3 categories: Opioids (pain killers), depressants (CNS) and stimulants.
Most Abused Opioids
The first category, Opioids, fool the brain and spinal system by preventing the brain from feeling pain. While there are real reasons to use Opioids such as relieving injury-related pain, it is important to know that experiencing these symptoms is not enough without proper consultation and prescription from a Doctor. Three of the most abused opioids are:
Most Abused Depressants
The second category of most commonly abused prescription drugs are Depressants which have a direct effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS). High-strung individuals experiencing tension, stress, anxiety and panic attacks are typically prescribed depressants to help them slow down brain activity by increasing the neurotransmitters resulting in a relaxed effect. Three of the most abused depressants are:
Most Abused Stimulants
The third category of abused prescription drugs are Stimulants, which have the opposite effect of depressants by increasing brain activity. One of the most common conditions for which people are prescribed stimulants is ADHD. While stimulants can result in greater awareness and energy, they can also cause the body temperature to dramatically rise and cause heart failure or seizure. Two of the most abused stimulants are:
Recognizing & Treating Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is not as simple to identify as television and movie characters display. Most of the time these characters portray individuals who have been abusing drugs for a long period of time and were not able to see the early signs:
- feeling the need to use the drug
- change in mood
- change in weight
- change in interests
There are two categories of addiction treatment - behavioral and pharmacological. While behavioral treatment trains you to change your patterns and decision-making, certain chemical addictions need to be treated with a systematic declination of cravings and consumption with medication to overcome withdrawal. While prevention is the best intervention, treatment should be sought immediately as prolonged abuse of prescription drugs has been proven to result in more overdose deaths than harder street drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse
The good news is that active efforts over the past two decades to bring awareness have helped decrease prescription drug abuse according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA):
"Researchers have seen a decline over the past five years in use of prescription pain medicine.The rate of abuse of the painkiller Vicodin, for instance, has dropped significantly from the peak abuse use five years ago, according to Volkow. She credited an increase in education campaigns and an increased awareness in the health care system about the abuse for slowing the abuse of these drugs. Government drug buy-back programs have also had an impact, Volkow said."
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