Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse is one of the worst epidemics in the United States. Where before it was only a problem amongst adults, with diagnoses like Attention Deficit Disorder prescription drugs are even being prescribed to children. The prescription drug industry accumulates $800 billion a year and shows no sign of letting up. And, to only compound the issue, a large number of people go without prescription drug addiction treatment every year.

The drugs that are most commonly abused are those with psychoactive effects – those that affect the mind. There are three ways a prescribed medication is abused: 1) taking a drug that is prescribed to someone else, whether that person is a friend or family, 2) taking more than the recommended dose on the label, or 3) taking the drug for its psychoactive effect. Amongst teenagers, the most common method drugs are abused is by receiving them from friends or family members.

In schools, ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] and ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] are the most common diagnoses. Children and teenagers are told their lack of concentration in school, or their hyperactivity, is due to a medical condition. To increase their academic performance, children are prescribed Ritalin. If a child runs out of medication or forgets theirs at home, they just “bum” one off of a friend. Ritalin is a stimulant, so it acts on the same transmitter in the brain that cocaine does. Repeatedly seeking the euphoric feelings that the drug gives the user ultimately leads to addiction and abuse.

Types of Prescription Drugs

There are three classes of prescription drugs that are abused most commonly: opiods, stimulants, and depressants, all with different health effects when abused.

Prescription Opioids

Opioids are pain medication, which includes hydrocodones like Vicodin, Oxycodones (OxyContin), and hydromorphoines like Dilaudid. When opioids are abused, they cause drowsiness, constipation, and can even depress breathing depending on the amount taken at one time. Opioids that are snorted or injected have a higher probability of causing difficulties breathing. This makes opioid abuse extremely dangerous. More people have died from overdosing on prescribed opioids than all other drugs combined.

Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Codeine also fall into these categories. Acute effects include pain relief, drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and in some euphoria. When taken by other methods besides prescribed, such as snorting or injecting, there is an increased risk of a depressed respiration, which could lead to coma and death. Withdrawal symptoms include muscle and bone pain, restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and leg movements. Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone are the prescribed as treatment options for these opioids.

Prescription Stimulants

Drugs categorized as stimulants include dextroamphetamines (Dexedrine), amphetamines (Adderall), and methylphenidates like Ritalin and Concerta. Abusing stimulants can seriously affect the cardiovascular system. The drug raises the heartbeat and causes the body to heat up. This can lead to dehydration, hyperthermia, and seizures. High doses of stimulants can cause psychoses like paranoia and delusions.

Acute effects include increased alertness, attention and energy. Negative health effects include a dangerously high heart rate, increased body temperature and a high risk of cardiovascular failure and seizures. Several withdrawal symptoms include depression, fatigue, insomnia or hypersomnia, night terrors and psychomotor retardation.

There are no FDA-approved treatment options for stimulant addiction. There are rehabilitation options, which will be further explored below.

Prescription Depressants

Finally, there are the depressants, also known as central nervous system depressants. Diazepam (Valium) and Alprazolam (Xanax) fall under this category as well as Nembutal. Depressants do just as the name implies, depresses the brain activity – slows it down – and can cause sleepiness. Withdrawal symptoms are most prevalent with this type of medication as it is very addictive.

These drugs can also include sleeping pills and anxiolytics. Acute effects include drowsiness and relaxation. Withdrawal symptoms include seizures and abrupt cessation. It is recommended that people addiction to prescription sedatives undergo medically supervised detoxification.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Everyone’s body is different. Some can take various drugs and never experience any of the negative effects. Others become addicted with one use and begin causing problems for themselves at every turn. Understanding the signs of drug abuse is important to help a loved one, or even yourself. Most drug abusers use drugs because they cause “good feelings” or because the drugs release them from the bad ones. Many addicts do not even recognize that they have a problem. The drug problems sneak up on them, causing them to use more and more over time as their body become accustomed to the substance. Placing yourself in environments where there is drugs are used only increases your probability of using.

Addicts use drugs for various reasons. They may feel that drugs have a value or need. Prescription drugs definitely fall into this category. If you take drugs to relieve yourself from pain long after a surgical procedure, to give yourself energy when you’re feeling depressed, to increase your focus if you’re feeling groggy, and so on, you could be dependent. This is most certainly true if you take more than the recommended dosage. They feel drugs fill a void in their lives. If you have so much negativity happening in your life – lack of companionship or friends, unemployment, and so on – that you use drugs to feel numb, you are certainly in danger of crossing over the addict bridge.

Prescription Abuse vs. Addiction – Signs Someone Needs Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

It is important to note the while abuse is a problem, there is a difference between abuse and addiction. Here are a few common signs that someone has an issue with drug abuse:

1)    Neglecting Responsibilities – if you are having problems at work, school, or in your family life (punctuality issues, failing classes, neglecting your children) because of your drug use, you might be abusing your prescription.

2)    Risky Behavior – Drinking alcohol while under the influence of your prescription drug, or driving after taking pills that might cause drowsiness are signs of possible drug abuse.

3)    Legal Issues – If your drug usage is causing you to become a person of interest to the police, or if you’ve already been arrested for things like disorderly conduct or driving under the influence, you might be abusing your prescription.

4)    Relationship Issues – Abusing a prescription might cause you to bring problems into your intimate relationships. You and your partner might be fighting more than usual; you might see your friends or family begin to shun you.

In contrast, here are some signs of drug addiction:

1)    Tolerance – You are addicted if you have to take more of the drug for it to have an effect.

2)    Avoiding Withdrawal – If you take drugs to avoid the negative effects, you have an addiction problem.

3)    Loss of Control – If you find yourself taking more of the drugs than you thought or planned to, you might be suffering from addiction.

4)    Seeking the drug – If you become overly concerned with how you’re going to get another pill, you have an addiction problem.

5)    Abandoning Activities – If you have begun to stop doing things you use to enjoy, like writing, or a sport, because of your drug usage, you might have an addiction problem.

6)    Continuing Usage – If you know using your prescription pills the way you have been is hurting you, yet you continue to use, you are addicted.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

Behavioral therapy is part of the road to recovery. It helps engage the addict in drug rehab treatment and gives them an incentive to get and stay sober. Depending on the type of addiction, there are different behavioral therapies that have been known to be effective.

For stimulant addictions, the Matrix Model and the 12-Step Facilitation Therapy are recommended. In the Matrix Model, the recovering addict works closely with a qualified therapist where they learn the critical issues of addiction and receive support and guidance. They also learn about self-help programs. The 12-Step program is facilitated to engage the addict in 12-step self-help groups, and thereby encouraging abstinence.

Contingency Management is a therapy treatment in which the patient is given tangible rewards for positive behaviors, therefore encouraging abstinence. This technique gives the patient a “real” thing to look forward to and encourages good behaviors. This therapy is recommended for stimulant and opioid addictions.

One of the main therapies that are most successful for treating prescription abuse do not use replacement or other drugs to gain sobriety in patients. For more information on prescription drug addiction treatment contact us today.

See our custom graphic on the prescription drug problem:

prescription drug use


National Institute on Drug Abuse – – –