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Around the world, prescription drug abuse is a growing problem. Misuse of prescription medications can lead to addiction and can result in serious consequences, as data from the last 15 years reveals. More individuals are being sent to the emergency room, and deaths from overdoses have risen dramatically.
Though many find it an uncomfortable topic, learning more about prescription drug abuse is one of the best ways to address the issue. By knowing which medications are most likely to be abused and the signs of misuse and addiction, you can better manage your own pill use, and keep an eye on the well-being of those you care about.Prescription pill abuse can affect anyone. By learning more, you can be better prepared to monitor signs of misuse, hopefully preventing addiction from arising.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs & Symptoms
Many drugs can be used in ways that they are not intended to be used. A few types of prescription medications, however, are much more likely to be misused than others.Opioids, used to treat pain, are some of the most commonly abused drugs today. Many substances fall under the category of opioid drugs, including codeine, morphine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and more. Symptoms of opioid abuse may include: constipation, euphoria, nausea, confusion, drowsiness, slowed pulse, poor coordination, and confusion. At higher doses, or with increased use, users may feel the need to increase their dosage to maintain a sense of pain relief, or may even notice a heightened sensitivity to pain in general.Sedatives, often used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, are also commonly misused. Depressant drugs may include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleeping pills. Common signs of abuse include symptoms generally associated with a sedated state, such as drowsiness, dizziness, slowed breathing, confusion, unsteady gait, and poor concentration and memory.
Stimulants are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and occasionally other conditions such as narcolepsy. Though stimulants can also increase alertness for individuals who do not have ADHD, these drugs tend to lead to symptoms such as high blood pressure, reduced appetite, irregular pulse, insomnia, paranoia, anxiety, and agitation.
If you suspect that someone may be abusing one of their prescription medications, you may also notice general changes in their behavior. Mood swings or changes in sleeping patterns and energy levels may be noted. An individual may begin acting suspiciously regarding their prescriptions, such as requesting early refills, “losing” their prescriptions, or seeking to borrow or buy medication from others. Some individuals may begin stealing medication from friends and family members, or may seek out medication from multiple doctors.
If you notice these behaviors in someone you care about, consider sitting down and talking to them. Don’t jump to conclusions, but simply express that you’ve noticed some changes in their behavior, and that you’re worried about them. If you respond with openness and understanding, you may be able to start an honest dialogue regarding their mental and physical health. Perhaps the misuse of prescription drugs is actually just a symptom of a larger problem. By offering your non-judgmental support, you can help get to the root of the issue before seeking out professional help.
Causes & Risk Factors
Often, prescription drug abuse is simply the result of a poor decision that has gradually spiralled out of control. Many become addicted to painkillers, for instance, after being prescribed these medications following surgery. An individual in a high-pressure job may be offered an ADHD pill to help boost their energy and focus during a stressful time at work; after noticing an increase in their mood and efficiency, this person might purchase more pills. Someone dealing with severe anxiety and depression might take a sedative to simply knock them out, helping them to cope with the pain of their day-to-day existence. Most of us can relate to these desires. The allure of escaping pain, depression, anxiety, or fatigue is something most of us can understand.
Occasional misuse of a prescription medication, however, can quickly spiral into abuse and, later, full-blown addiction. At a certain point, an individual may need to take more of a drug to maintain its effect, or simply to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring. Those who have a family history of abuse problems, or have past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol or nicotine, may find that they become more easily addicted to prescription medications. Those with certain mental health conditions may also be at greater risk of addiction. Sometimes, it is simply one’s environment that puts one at risk. A doctor may prescribe an individual with an excessively high dose. Someone might have access to a variety of prescription medications in their home. Sometimes, a friend or peer may recommend using a prescription medication for off-label use.Older adults may mistakenly believe that prescription drug abuse is something that only affects teens and younger adults. This, however, is far from the case. Older adults are frequently prescribed opioid medications, for instance, to help them manage their pain. Seniors are also more likely to take multiple medications, which may also increase their risk of addiction. Combining strong prescription drugs with alcohol can also put individuals at greater risk for drug abuse or addiction.
If you feel that you or someone you care about may be hooked on a prescription medication, don’t feel ashamed to reach out and ask for help. Prescription drug addiction is becoming increasingly common, and though you may feel responsible, there are many factors that put individuals at risk of addiction. Over-prescription of strong medications, for instance, is a growing problem around the globe. By putting aside feelings of shame, you can seek out help and get on the path to recovery.
If you or someone you care about is having trouble managing their use of prescription medications, talk to a medical professional regarding treatment options. Counseling, detoxification, and other forms of support may be offered as a means of helping those who are struggling to get off of a given drug. Treatment methods will vary depending on the particular medication in question.There are often many complicated emotions surrounding addiction. It can be extremely challenging to talk to our loved ones about such problems, regardless of whether we’re addicted ourselves or are witnessing someone’s addiction. Denial, frustration, and anger are commonly felt when confronting an addiction problem. Talking about one’s issues can feel scary or humiliating. Remember, however, that dealing with this problem honestly and openly is the best path towards recovery. Instead of reacting strongly, strive to be patient, sympathetic, and understanding.
If you feel that you, a friend, or a loved one may have a problem with prescription drug abuse, address the subject as soon as possible. By discussing the problem and forming a treatment plan, you just might save a life.
Photo: Photo: Krzysztof Mandrysz / Pixabay