In the year 2017, it was estimated that approximately 18 million people misused prescription medications at least once in the past year. Opioid overdoses from prescriptions were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999. A final shocking statistic is that the number of prescription drugs being prescribed by doctors since the ’90s has increased. You might be asking yourself how these statistics could be so bleak? How could this be happening with medications that are regulated and prescribed by licensed practitioners? It’s not like we haven’t known these drugs are incredibly addictive, and research continuously provides us with better insight. So what’s up?
Are You Complying or Abusing?
Prescription drug abuse is defined as ingesting prescription medication in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed by the doctor (using someone else’s prescription counts too). This is sometimes termed nonmedical use of prescription drugs. Even if you take the prescribed meds for pain, as you were directed to, are you taking them on schedule? Or a little too often? Are you enjoying the feel-good feeling it might cause? Do you find yourself looking forward to the next dose? If this is so, you may be misusing.
There are three classes of medication that are commonly misused:
- Opioids: Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Morphine
- These are used to treat pain and are sometimes prescribed after major surgeries or dental work.
- Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants: tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics such as Valium, Xanax, Ambien, Luminal
- These are prescribed for anxiety, acute stress, panic, and sleep disorders.
- Stimulants: Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin
- These are typically used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and even obesity. It’s not uncommon on college campuses to come across popular “study drugs” like Ritalin or Adderall, especially during midterms and finals.
Why Misuse Happens
The demographic that tends to be most involved in prescription misuse is young adults ages 18 to 25. However, those over 25 are still vulnerable. Factors that influence prescription drug misuse include age, gender, ease of access, and misunderstanding the nature of the drug itself. For example, some may think that because a doctor prescribed a medication, it is safe, so they let their guard down. They might even believe that it is better to use prescription drugs to self-medicate over street drugs for the same reason. Also, not true. Some may simply not understand the drug’s addictive properties and the associated risks. The seriousness of having such classes of medications on hand should not be understated and communicated clearly to patients by their physicians. Unfortunately, this clarification isn’t always made.
Patients can also run into trouble when taking a prescribed drug in conjunction with other prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, legal substances like alcohol, and illegal substances like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. This kind of cocktail is a recipe for, potentially, death. There is a very real risk of your heart-stopping and going unconscious.
Another factor to consider is mental health. Those already dealing with disorders like anxiety, bipolar, and depression are at a double risk of prescription drug abuse because of:
- Their compromised mental state
- The desire for relief from associated symptoms
- Increased access to medications due to medical history
Co-occurring mental health and substance abuse can worsen an already sensitive situation.
Environmental conditions are also relevant to prescription misuse. Some may be experiencing abuse in the home or at work. Others may have experienced a devastating, life-changing event. Some people may not be living the life they want to or are deeply unhappy, lacking meaningful relationships and self-achievements that would make it all worth it. Your environment and life experiences may trigger the development of a mental health disorder and lead you to prescription and illegal drugs and alcohol.
Signs of Misuse
For opioids, slowed breathing, poor coordination, and worsening/increased sensitivity to pain with higher doses could indicate misuse. With CNS meds, memory loss, slurred speech, and low concentration are red flags. And finally, stimulant abuse shows us something a little different: high blood pressure, increased body temperature, insomnia, and anxiety. Some common behaviors among those who misuse prescriptions are requesting early refills, continually “losing” medications, or requesting prescriptions from multiple doctors.
Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse
While prescription drugs can improve lives, they can also destroy them. It is estimated that approximately 50% of patients do not take their prescribed medications correctly. If you or anyone you know is suffering from prescription drug abuse and addiction, then the first thing to know is that you are not alone. There is no shame in experiencing addiction. Every person on this planet experiences an issue with themselves some time or another, whether it is drug-related or not. Life impacts each person differently.
Luckily, accessible treatment facilities aim to help people detox and recover from drug addiction. Many facilities understand that there may be an underlying cause of the addiction and work to treat the root of the problem. There may be something missing in your life that you have not addressed, and you might need help with doing so. Getting to the root of the problem can change your life.
Millions of Americans, year after year, suffer from prescription drug addiction. Ease of access and physician miscommunication could be reasons for this, along with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. One might think that prescription drugs are not as “bad,” unethical, or dangerous to take compared to their illegal counterparts, but is this true? Prescribed medications can just as easily be abused and result in severe health conditions and even death. An overdose could happen to you or someone you care for. But you are not alone. Oceanfront Recovery has Addiction Treatment Programs designed with the full continuum of care in mind. Our Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Center focuses on Adderall, Suboxone, Oxycontin, Xanax, and Codeine addiction. We care about your individual needs and want to get you back to a stable, satisfying, and independent life free from addiction. Treatment can change your life. Give us a call for more information at (877) 279-1777.