There is almost no ailment that exists that does not have a prescription drug to help treat it. Prescription drugs can be a beneficial part of a comprehensive treatment program for many physical and mental health conditions.
For most patients, the use of prescription drugs is helpful, not harmful. However, if those medications are taken outside a doctor’s orders, or if someone misuses those drugs recreationally without a prescription, addiction can develop, and a slew of legal, social, financial and health problems may result.
The more you understand about how prescription drugs work and the potential risks that come with abusing them, the better you can identify a substance use disorder in yourself or a loved one and get the necessary treatment.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs include prescription painkillers, prescription sedatives and prescription stimulants.
Opioid painkillers are drugs prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. They are abused because of the euphoric high they can create. Someone who misuses opioids may do so by taking too much, crushing the pills before swallowing, snorting or injecting them, or taking opioids with alcohol or other mind-altering substances. The most commonly abused opioids include:
Painkillers may cause several short-term health problems, including nausea, respiratory depression, confusion, miscarriage, overdose and more. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can include bone and muscle pain, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, and many other symptoms.
Medications including Suboxone and Subutex are available to treat prescription opioid addiction, but medication alone is not enough. Behavioral therapies are recommended as well as long-term treatment, aftercare and support.
Prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disruption, sedatives slow the brain’s activity and can be highly addictive. Types of prescription sedatives include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep aids.
Short-term health issues caused by abuse of sedatives include confusion, low blood pressure, drowsiness, decreased reflexes and slowed breathing. Withdrawal symptoms include rebound anxiety, tremors, agitation and seizures.
While no specific medication is available for sedative withdrawal, symptoms may be managed by slowly tapering off the medication. Medical care is recommended in case of complications, and behavioral therapies can help the patient remain drug-free for the long term.
Prescription stimulant drugs are commonly prescribed to treat symptoms related to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Increased heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure are common effects of use. Examples of prescription stimulants include:
To misuse these medications, users may swallow them as is, or crush and snort or inject them after being dissolved in water. High doses of stimulants can result in seizures, heart attacks, overdose, and other medical emergencies. Long-term abuse of the drugs can lead to cardiac problems, paranoia, anger management issues, and/or psychosis.
Prescription stimulant withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia, intense fatigue, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts or actions. Long-term behavioral therapies and relapse prevention are recommended treatment options for those ready to overcome a stimulant use disorder.
Though it may seem that prescription drug use is inherently safe, a doctor should only prescribe these drugs after careful consideration of past medical history, symptoms, other medications and other issues. Taking these drugs outside of a doctor’s care or taking more than prescribed can lead to serious medical consequences, including death.
Consider the following data on prescription drug abuse:
Someone who is misusing prescription medications may exhibit a variety of signs and symptoms. While some symptoms depend on the specific drug, you may start to notice changes in their behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits or outward physical appearance.
Other signs a friend or loved one is misusing a prescription drug include:
While the short-term risks of prescription drug abuse are serious, the long-term risks of continued prescription drug abuse are just as dangerous. Some risks include:
Prescription drug addiction can happen even to those with a legitimate prescription. No matter how a substance use disorder begins, there are therapies and treatments that can help anyone stop using prescription drugs safely and start thriving in recovery. Most patients utilize a combination of treatments based on their past history of drug use and treatment attempts, as well as their goals for treatment and recovery.
Prescription drug addiction treatments include:
At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, our expert team of addiction professionals is committed to your recovery and long-term success. If you or a loved one is suffering from a prescription drug use disorder, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and how to get started on your recovery journey. When you call, your privacy is our top priority.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.