What is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug abuse, while most prevalent in the United States, is a problem in many areas around the world. In the United States alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs—more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin—resulting in the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdose, with opioid prescriptions being the leading cause. Other commonly abused prescription drugs besides opioids include stimulants, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants.
Warning Signs & Risks
Different opioids affect the body at different rates. Some are fast-acting, meaning their effects take place in a short amount of time and are then eliminated from the body soon afterward. Medium- and long-acting opiates take longer to produce effects and stay in the body for a longer duration of time. Also, there are different strengths and types of opioid. For example, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Regardless of the potency and duration of action, the signs and symptoms of opioid intoxication are the same and listed below:
- Pupillary constriction
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression (slow shallow breathing)
Prescription drug abuse is serious and often deadly. That’s why it’s important to reach out for help. Our professional consultants will answer questions, provide insight, and offer guidance—without judgement or pressure. If you or someone you know needs help, please call today.
Methamphetamines have been derived into prescription drugs to treat ADHD. Methyphenidate (Concerta), atomoxetine (Straterra) and dextroamphetamine/amphetamine (Adderall) are central nervous system stimulants used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. When medically prescribed for ADHD, this class of drugs helps regulate central nervous system functioning and assists people with ADHD with thought and behavior (primarily impulsiveness) disorders. However, this class of prescription drugs is widely used for non-medical purposes and as a result is known to be a very commonly abused prescription medication, especially among college-aged individuals.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that Adderall and its counterparts are taken by 6.4% of all full-time college students age 18 to 22 years. These medications are taken orally, crushed and inhaled (“snorted”), or mixed with water and injected directly into a vein (known as “slamming”). Twice as many prescription stimulant users, compared with non-users, also binge drink. Prescription stimulants are known to increase energy and concentration. That’s why many college students use these drugs to study all night for a big exam or even use this drug at parties mixed with alcohol to enhance the effects of euphoria. Beans, pep pills, double trouble, black beauties, dexies, and speed are common street names given to this class of prescription drugs.
Prescription Nerve Pills
Benzodiazepines (commonly referred to as “nerve pills”) have been widely used since the 1960s for alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Benzodiazepines are also known for their strong addiction potential and have resulted in approximately 8,000 overdose deaths in 2015 in the United States. Their withdrawals alone can result in seizures and even death.
Individuals taking benzodiazepines usually need to be slowly weaned in order to prevent deadly withdrawals. Benzodiazepines (“benzos”), are commonly abused prescription medications that are known to “take the edge off” and are dangerously lethal when mixed with alcohol. There are short-acting, medium-acting, and long-acting benzodiazepines that are prescribed for different purposes. For example, long-acting benzodiazepines such as Klonopin (clonazepam), Valium (diazepam), and Librium (chlordiazepoxide) are used to help alleviate symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal and seizure disorders, whereas Xanax (alprazolam), a short-acting benzodiazepine, is often used to treat acute anxiety or panic attacks. Medium- or intermediate-acting common benzodiazepines such as Ativan (lorazepam) are commonly prescribed for seizure disorder and rarely prescribed as a short-term treatment for insomnia.
Prescription painkillers—commonly known as opioids or narcotics—are generally prescribed to treat severe short-term pain or pain associated with palliative care. However, opioids have the highest abuse potential and rate out of all prescription drugs. Common prescription opioids include morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, tramadol, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and codeine.
According to statistics, opioid dependence affects approximately five million individuals in the United States each year and is responsible for 17,000 deaths each year in the U.S. The abuse potential for opioids begins at a young age, usually during adolescence or early adulthood, and continues into middle and late adulthood. America makes up approximately 5 percent of the world’s population, but it is responsible for 80 percent of the consumption of the world’s opioid supply. That’s why it has one of the largest opioid crises in the world. Prescription opioids are primarily responsible for this crisis, resulting in 46 deaths per day in 2012 alone.
Prescription stimulants, when not taken as prescribed, can have some serious side effects and addiction potential. The following are known side effects associated with this class of prescription drug abuse:
- Increased blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
- Excessive wakefulness resulting in delusions and sleep deprivation
- Emotional lability
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Dry Mouth
The side effects of benzodiazepine toxicity can range from drowsiness to respiratory depression and unresponsiveness. The combination of benzodiazepines and alcohol or benzodiazepines and alcohol can be deadly. The following is a full list of side effects resulting from benzodiazepine ingestion:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Altered mental status
- Respiratory depression
Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment
As with all drug treatment programs, our prescription pill abuse approach takes the individual into account. Our goal is to stabilize the client, establish a secure environment and routine, and address the underlying issues that led to the drug use and abuse. This treatment is done in an attempt to treat the whole person—physically, mentally, emotionally, and with consideration of the family and support structure. That’s why a combination of psychotherapy and pharmaceutical treatments are considered. This might include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, individualized counseling, family support, nutrition, and wellness programs.
We’re Here For You
If you or someone you know is struggling, we’re here for you. Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program specializes in treatment for mental health, substance abuse, and dual diagnoses, by creating unique programs to help every individual find their way to recovery. For more information, resources, or to consult with one of our specialists, call 714.828.0808.