Prescription medications are one of the most commonly abused types of drugs out there. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future Survey statistics published in 2016, 18% of high school seniors have used prescription medications recreationally at one point in their lives, with twelve percent using prescription medications in the last year. This number is actually down from previous years, but still alarmingly high.
Prescription drugs can be quite dangerous and abuse can cause serious consequences. Abuse of prescription medications can cause a variety of harmful side effects including addiction, mental health disorders, anxiety, memory loss, withdrawal symptoms and overdose. According to DrugAbuse.gov, there were about 570,000 ER visits due to nonmedical use of prescription medications. From 2005 to 2009, emergency room visits involving prescription medications increased almost 83%.
With many prescription pills, overdose is a real possibility. Even if an individual does not overdose, there are dangerous side effects. Long-term abuse can cause lasting effects on our minds and bodies that can take years to correct. Although they’re legal in certain cases and prescribed by doctors, they are not entirely safe. Prescription medications may have important clinical and medical benefits, but when misused can have incredibly harmful side effects.
Symptoms of abuse of pills may include:
There are many factors that go into the abuse of a drug by an individual. Like any type of drug abuse, there are risk factors for developing addiction. There are also a few reasons that people turn toward prescription drugs. First, they are relatively easy to secure. People can get prescription medications from their doctor with proper medical reasons, from friends, or find them in medicine cabinets. Over 80% of eighth graders report that it is easy to get prescription medications according to NIDA. This ease of acquisition makes them a popular choice for young people.
Another factor that may go into the high rates of abuse is that there has been a perception that prescription medications are relatively safe. This perception has changed in recent years, but in previous decades people as a whole thought prescription medications must be safe because they are prescribed by doctors and legal. This is partly true; these drugs are much safer when taken as prescribed. However, long-term use of drugs like benzodiazepines can produce serious dependence even if the pill is being taken exactly as prescribed.
Many prescription drugs are addictive both physically and psychologically, whether we’re using them recreationally or as prescribed. Here are a few classes of drugs that are often abused.
Benzodiazepines are one of the most dangerous classes of drugs out there. Although they get less press than opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines are extremely dangerous when abused. They are highly addictive, easily accessible, and can be lethal in cases of overdose or unmonitored withdrawal. Common benzodiazepines are Xanax®, Valium®, Klonopin®, and Librium®. Often prescribed for anxiety disorders and seizures, benzodiazepines are classified as tranquilizers.
Individuals build tolerance and dependence really quickly when taking benzodiazepines. Although they can be helpful when used correctly, there is a huge potential for misuse. When detoxing from benzodiazepines, death is a true possibility. Because benzos act on the GABA receptors in the brain, withdrawal can cause seizing of muscles, comas, and ultimately death. To come off benzodiazepines, it is crucial to do so with the help of medical professionals in order to keep yourself safe!
Learn more about benzodiazepine withdrawal and treatment at https://ElevationBehavioralHealth.com/klonopin-withdrawal-symptoms.
Opioids are perhaps the most well-known of prescription medications that are abused. Common opioid painkillers include Vicodin®, Oxycontin®, Percocet®, and Norco®. Many cases of heroin addiction begin with prescription painkiller abuse. One of the dangers here is that people may be prescribed these medications to help them through an accident, surgeries, or chronic pain. Although the painkillers may be necessary and helpful, the person eventually develops a physical dependence.
Opioids are highly addictive, and when a person stops taking these pills they may find themselves experiencing quite unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Even if taken completely as prescribed, the dependence may result in a detox process that brings strong discomfort. Even after quitting the opioids, problems may persist. Individuals may also experience depression after quitting opioids, as opioids can cause dopamine depletion.
Like benzodiazepines, opioids present a serious risk of overdose as well. Also like benzos, mixing opioids with other drugs, especially alcohol, can be fatal. When taking these drugs, we have to be careful. When coming off these drugs, we should seek professional help from the appropriate person in order to ensure our safety and comfort.
Stimulants are another class of abused prescription medication. Examples of stimulant medications include Ritalin®, Concerta®, and Vyvanse®. These drugs are most commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder, sleep disorders, and treatment-resistant depression. They were once prescribed to help treat asthma and as a diet aid, but as abuse has become more common the prescribing doctors have grown more careful. These drugs are often abused for their uplifting effects. Students and workers commonly abuse stimulants in order to focus longer and retain energy during busy times.
Stimulants have a reputation of being pretty safe, especially among teens and young adults. However, overdose is a real possibility on stimulants. Taking too high of a dose may result in increased body temperature, high blood pressure, and seizures or heart failure. Although these stimulants are not believed to be as addictive as benzodiazepines or opioids, they still have a huge risk of addiction. Even with regular prescribed use, an individual may develop physical dependence on the drug.
These are the three most common types of prescription medications that are abused. Remember that if you’re struggling with your use of prescription medications to reach out for help. You’re not alone, and there are trained experts out there who can help you come off the medications in the safest way possible.