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Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction

Prescription drug abuse and prescription drug addiction may mean different things. A person can abuse a drug one time by simply taking a drug that was prescribed for someone else and not intended for their own use. Prescription drug addiction refers to the person who has become dependent on the abused drug, and needs it compulsively to either function or feel the high the drug offers.

Prescription drug abuse includes taking a prescription drug intended for a family member or friend or taking a prescription drug when not needed for health reasons. Prescription drug abuse has been on a continuous uphill path in recent years.

Prescription Drug Addiction

Addiction is “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity”.

Prescription drug addiction is a chronic disease. Someone addicted to prescription drugs seeks the rewards the brain gives when taking the drug. Taking a prescription drug is a voluntary action, but after some time, the brain seeks the intense feelings caused by the drug, and the voluntary action becomes an addiction. Prescription drug addiction includes those who have become dependent on a prescription from their doctor, and continue to falsely report pain or illness to extend the prescription, or also someone who will steal a prescription drug from a family member or friend.

Some of the signs of prescription drug addiction are:

  • Continuing to take the drug after it isn’t required by a physician.
  • Acquiring a higher tolerance to the drug, therefore needing to take more.
  • Feeling moody, depressed, sick, nauseous, or shaky when not taking the drug.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Letting the drug affect relationships, work, life choices and not caring about the outcome.

Drug abuse isn’t just about illegal drugs. Legally prescribed medications are abused more than any other drug in the U.S. These medications are prescribed for a variety of issues, such as:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Sleep problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Depression

These drugs require a visit to the doctor, a diagnosis and a prescription. But in many cases, the person becomes dependent on the drug, will continue to need the drug, and will go to many lengths to get their hands on the drug.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Prescription Drug Abuse

These drugs include opioids, which help reduce the intensity of pain; central nervous system depressants, used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and stimulants, to help with symptoms of ADHD. These prescription drugs are commonly known by these names:

  • Percocet
  • Methadone
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Ambien
  • Tramadol
  • Suboxone
  • Subutex
  • Ultram
  • Fioricet
  • Trazadone
  • Nembutal
  • Lunesta
  • Roxicodone
  • Cough and cold medicines

While most use prescription drugs for legitimate reasons, many will continue to use them even after the original reason is no longer valid. Another growing problem is the ease in which doctors will prescribe a larger amount than actually needed.

In a 2017 article for NPR, Michelle Andrews talked about being prescribed the painkiller Percocet for a minor outpatient knee procedure.

When I got home and opened the package to take a pill, I discovered that there were 42 inside. Talk about using a shotgun to kill a mosquito.

These situations happen more often than not, allowing the patient to fill larger prescriptions than actually needed, opening the door to abusing the drug and becoming addicted. Prescription drug addiction is just as dangerous as being addicted to an illegal drug, and what makes them so tempting is that they are more easily accessible.

Prescription Drug Abuse Risk Factors

Anyone can abuse a prescription drug and become addicted, but experts have found that there are certain risk factors that play a role:

  • Mental Illness
  • Family history of addiction
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Access to prescription drugs (family member, friend)
  • Age (Prescription drug abuse is most common in ages 18-25)

Getting Help With Prescription Drug Addiction

If you or someone you know is abusing a prescription drug or has become addicted to a prescription drug, there are ways to get help. Talk to your doctor about the issue, talk to a family member or friend, or contact a professional facility to help you get on the right track.