Prescription addiction refers to a chemical dependence on a drug that can be prescribed by a doctor. These are substances that are legal, but should only be used by the person for whom they are prescribed and in the manner directed by that person’s doctor. When someone uses a prescription that was not prescribed, or uses more than was directed, that person is abusing the medication. Anyone abusing a prescription is at risk for becoming dependent on it.
Prescription drug abuse is a major problem in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that it has reached epidemic levels. Overdosing on prescription medications is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. One-quarter of Americans over the age of 12 who start abusing a drug for the first time do so with a prescription, rather than an illicit drug.
Commonly abused prescriptions
Any prescription drug can be abused, but some are more susceptible to being misused than others. These are drugs that cause a euphoric feeling, that produce a sense of relaxation or that improve focus and wakefulness. These desired outcomes are why people abuse them, and how they end up becoming addicted to them.
The most abused type of prescription, and the kind that is the most addictive, is the opioid painkiller. These are medications that include the natural drugs codeine, morphine and thebaine, as well as their synthetic derivatives. There are many synthetic versions of opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and others. People abuse these drugs because in addition to being painkillers, they provide a high. Unfortunately, they are very addictive and it can be easy to become dependent on them quickly when misused.
Depressants represent another class of drugs commonly abused and include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep aids. Barbiturates are not commonly prescribed today because of how addictive they are. Benzodiazepines have largely replaced them as drugs used for relieving anxiety and panic disorders. Both these and sleep aids give the user a sense of relaxation and calm that make them susceptible to abuse. Some are truly habit-forming, while others can lead users to become psychologically dependent on them.
Finally, stimulants are also commonly abused and include amphetamines, methamphetamine and methylphenidate. These drugs are most often used to treat ADHD. They help ADHD patients focus and pay attention. The most common reason for abusing these types of drugs is as an aid to studying. High school and college students sometimes abuse stimulants because the drugs help them to stay awake and focus when they need to study or finish an assignment. Abusing them in this way can lead to addiction.
Preventing prescription drug addiction
Millions of Americans abuse prescription drugs every day and many of these people will become addicted. Many will have an accidental overdose and die as a result of their habit. Those that don’t die will experience health problems and may have other difficulties such as destroyed relationships, failed academics and financial problems. The issue of prescription drug abuse and addiction is a serious one and prevention needs to be considered.
To prevent addiction and abuse, it is important to keep prescription medications under tight control. Most people abuse prescriptions that were given to them or that they stole from a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet. Never let anyone else have your prescription, keep your drugs locked up securely and always follow your doctor’s instructions when using your own medication. Education is also important in preventing prescription addiction. Too many people still believe that all prescriptions are safe and carry low risks when abused simply because they came from a doctor. As more people begin to realize the dangers, the epidemic of drug abuse will hopefully recede.