It’s a mistake to think of drug addiction being confined to a furtive addict shooting up in some deserted building – addiction may be no further away than your own medicine cabinet. However, many people, either intentionally or unintentionally, become addicted to prescription medication every day. While adults make up a sizeable portion of those who become prescription drug addicts, a sizeable number of these people are also those in their teens or twenties. Prescription drugs, when abused, are not any safer than street drugs and can result in the same problems associated with them:
- Secretive behavior
- Change in interests, or no interests
- Denial of any problem
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Mood changes
- Visiting many doctors to get more prescriptions
Primarily because of the problem with people becoming addicted to prescription medications, it is now necessary to get your physician to renew your prescription after the original one expires, even if it’s for a chronic condition. Formerly, each prescription was open-ended, and could be renewed infinitely.
The Most Addictive Prescription Drugs
There are several families of prescription drugs that are most likely to cause addiction and they are used either for relieving pain or for psychological adjustment.
- Opioids are named for their similarity to, or from having been derived from opium. These drugs are used mostly for treating severe pain, and people who have just had surgery are generally given these to make them more comfortable. Some of the more common of these drugs are morphine, Percocet, and Vicodin. These medications are among the most frequently abused by teenagers, although there is a small chance of those who are actually using them for pain relief will become addicted.
- Insomnia or anxiety is often treated with central nervous system depressants (CNSs). As their name suggests, they tend to slow down the brain and body to allow sleep or reduce an excited mental state. These pills are often referred to as barbs, downers, and zombie pills.
- Stimulants are another approach to psychological difficulties, especially when other avenues of treatment have not worked. These drugs, generally Dexadrine, Ritalin, and Concerta, work to speed up the body. While their use is more restricted now, they still can cause side effects such as fast heartbeat and high blood pressure. The street names for these drugs include black beauties, uppers, and speed.
Not only is abuse of these prescription drugs hazardous enough in itself, when combined with other medications or alcohol, the breathing can be seriously impaired.
Prescription Drugs Are Not a Safe Way to Get High
Most fatal drug overdoses today are not due to crack cocaine or heroin; they can be laid at the door of prescription drugs. Over 100,000 people have to be taken to the emergency room every year because of misuse of prescription opioids. The huge number of pills manufactured each year, more than could conceivably be used for legitimate medical reasons, also guarantees that plenty of these drugs will be available on the street.
Teens often access the pills other family members are taking for medical conditions, and will often help themselves to whatever is in the medicine cabinet at friend’s homes. However, it is also easy to become hooked taking medication your doctor has prescribed – often under the premise that “If a little helps me feel better, think how I’d feel if I took more”. Obesity and aging will also mean that more people will be seeking relief from pain, which will put more people at risk of addiction.
Getting Back to Life
While misuses of prescription drugs may make a person feel better or happier temporarily, those who do take these drugs will often go through life in a haze, and often speak (after being cured of the addiction) of how many years were lost from their lives.
Overcoming addiction to prescription drugs can be every bit as hard as the problems experienced by ‘junkies’. Opioids, CNS medications, and stimulants all make changes in the ability of the brain to regulate its neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. As these drugs take over the function of the neurotransmitters, the brain ceases to produce them on its own, and this is precisely why it is so difficult to ‘kick the habit’.
Entering a drug rehabilitation facility is often the best way for these abusers to overcome prescription drug addiction and regain control of their lives. The structured setting, combined with medical and psychological help, is often instrumental in the recovery process. Prescription drug addiction can be overcome with the proper treatment, support, and care.
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