Prescription pill addiction involves more than opioids and other pain medications. Three large classes of prescription pills that are commonly abused include benzodiazepines, sleeping pills and stimulants. In a rapid response society, prescription medication has become the ultimate quick fix, from stressed out students cramming for exams, to ambitious professionals looking for an edge, to recovering soldiers returning from battle. And despite the death toll and the recurring headlines of Hollywood stars getting themselves into trouble, the rates of prescription pill addiction and addiction continue to steadily grow. The biggest area of concern however, may be in the misconceptions regarding the safety of prescription medicine. According to studies performed at the Mayo Clinic and US Department of Health and Human Services, many people, including parents, are often unaware of the dangers in providing prescribed medication to those who are not the intended patient.Signs and symptoms of intoxication and withdrawal vary depending on the specific class of prescription pills that are abused.
Benzodiazepines commonly referred to as “nerve pills” have been widely used since the 1960’s for alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Librium, Onfi, Klonapin, and Ativan and are commonly prescribed medications that are often sold on the street under the names benzos, valley girl, stupefy, moggies, Z bars, school bus and sleepers. Benzodiazepine overdose is dangerous but withdrawal from these pills is even more dangerous and can be life-threatening. Many teenagers will mix benzodiazepines with alcohol, which worsens the effects of both intoxication and withdrawal.
Adderall is a pill that contains a combination of mood altering stimulants (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) and is considered a central nervous system stimulant used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. Other medications that are similar to Adderall and are used to treat ADHD include Concerta (methylphenidate) and Ritalin (methylphenidate). When medically prescribed for ADHD these medications help regulate central nervous system functioning and assists people with ADHD with thought and behavior (primarily impulsiveness) disorders. However Adderall and these other prescription medications are widely used for non-medical purposes and as a result are known to be very commonly abused prescription medications, resulting in prescription pill addiction, especially among college-aged individuals. For this reason, Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. To provide some useful context, other drugs in this category include methamphetamine, cocaine, and oxycodone. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that Adderall is taken by 6.4% of all full-time college students age 18 to 22 years. Adderall is taken orally, crushed and inhaled (“snorted”), or mixed with water and injected directly into a vein (known as “slamming”). Twice as many Adderall users compared with non-users also binge drink. ADHD medications are known to increase energy and concentration and therefore many college students use this drug to study all night for a big exam or even use this drug at parties mixed with alcohol to enhance the effects of euphoria. These medications are also commonly abused in adults who have stressful and demanding jobs. Beans, pep pills, double trouble, black beauties, dexies, and speed are common street names given to Adderall.
Sleeping pills fall into a category of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. This category also includes barbiturates and benzodiazepines like Xanax. Unlike other drugs in this category, sleeping pills are non-benzodiazepine hypnotics. They are commonly known as “z-drugs” since they induce sleep. Ambien (zolpidem), Sonata (zaleplon) and Lunesta (eszopiclone) are three of the most commonly prescribed and commonly abused sleeping pills. Statistics show that 25% of individuals abusing sleeping pills have thoughts of suicide-related to drug use, over nine million individuals regularly use sleeping pills to help them sleep at night and over 30,000 individuals visited the emergency room in 2015 due to nonmedical use of the sleeping pill Ambien.