Prescription drug abuse involves taking drugs that have been prescribed to another person, taking more drugs than you have been prescribed, or taking the drugs in a way other than you should- perhaps by chewing them when they should be swallowed. Individuals might abuse prescription drugs to get high, or because they are trying to stop feeling pain or to increase performance somehow.
Prescription drug abuse is illegal and dangerous. Prescription medications are the most commonly abused drugs after marijuana and alcohol. Prescription drugs are only safe if they are taken exactly as the doctor says. If you feel any problems while you are taking the drugs, you can tell your doctor and get help to adjust the prescription. If you take prescription drugs without the doctor’s approval, you are acting illegally and hurting yourself too.
Commonly abused prescription drugs are:
- Opioids (OxyContin, codeine, Vicodin, Percocet)
- Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall)
- Depressants or Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium)
Signs and Symptoms or Prescription Drug Abuse
The symptoms caused by the abuse of prescription drugs vary according to what type of drug is being abused. Generally, they fall in line with the following broad categories:
Opioid abuse can cause feelings of drowsiness, stomachache, and constipation. When they are taken in combination with other medicines or in excessive amounts, they result in an inability to breathe, which sometimes causes a fatal overdose.
Stimulant abuse causes pressured thinking or movement, paranoia and an increased heart rate. Body temperature can increase to dangerous levels with the abuse of this drug. Often, people who abuse stimulants develop anxiety that someone or something is out to harm them.
Depressant abuse slows down motor function. Speech can become slurred and hard to understand, and a person will become uncoordinated and sleepy. Breathing becomes shallow and the results are fatal in some instances. 1
Taking drugs in a way that they are not prescribed to be taken can result in addiction. The following are common signs of dishonest prescription drug use and addiction:
- Asking for more prescriptions
- Making excuses to get more prescriptions
- Taking the prescriptions of family members or friends
- Taking a prescription after it is no longer needed
- Consuming prescriptions with alcohol or other drugs
- Spending large amounts of time thinking about the prescription
- Stealing or borrowing money to get prescription drugs
- Decreased interest in social activity
- Decreased manifestation of self-respect
- Increased irritability and angry outbursts
- Depressive moods and poor performance in responsibilities of daily life 2
Integrated Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
Some take prescription drugs to attempt to relieve physical or emotional pain. This pain is better treated by seeking professional treatment. When the addiction is treated, there is also major consideration given to the underlying causes that led to the addiction’s development in the first place. With treatment, the addicted person will learn to manage future pain and anxiety in a balanced way.
Prescription addiction does not heal emotional or physical anguish. It results in turmoil and a cycle of physical addiction that alters the thoughts and personality of the addict over the course of time. Acquiring and using the drugs might take priority over providing physically and emotionally for the family. Severe conflict and pressure in the family circle can be the sad result, sometimes resulting in violence or economic hardship. Treatment will include family problems and provide counseling that will help to restore healthy and loving relationships. The entire family is hurt by one person’s addiction- together, however, they can heal.
Prescription Drug Addiction and Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders
Sometimes, drug abuse results in the development of a mental health or personality disorder. Other times, substance abuse is the result of an uncomfortable mental health disorder. These mental health problems can be in the form of a depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, or some other sort of mental condition. In extreme cases, a person with a mental health disorder can be impossible to communicate with. Some might feel that the mental disorder and addiction are too inter-complicated to treat successfully. However, teams of specialists are trained to do just that. Actually, as one disorder is healed, the co-occurring disorders generally improve alongside. In a safe and loving way, mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders will be decoded and treated at the same time.
Support for Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drug addiction must not be left untreated. If you have questions regarding your own use of prescription drugs, talk openly to the doctor who prescribes them to you. If you are suspicious that someone in your family is taking prescriptions unwisely, closely monitor all prescriptions that come in and out of the home. Inpatient and outpatient treatment can heal addiction.
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. “Prescription Drugs.” Found online 2/16/16 at: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs.
2. Mayo Clinic. Prescription Drug Abuse. Symptoms. Found online 2/16/16 at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/basics/symptoms/con-20032471.