Prescription drug abuse occurs when a patient takes their medication for a reason not listed in their prescription. Abusing any drug, which includes prescription ones, can change how your brain functions. Most people start by choosing to take these medications, but after a few months, the changes in their brain impact their self-control and ability to make healthy choices; this can leave a person with an intense urge to take drugs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these three classes of prescription drugs are the most abused:
Opioids Doctors have been prescribing high levels of opioid painkillers to patients since the early 1990s due to the rising age of the U.S. population, which means more people are living with chronic pain. Common prescription drugs include codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. Opioids are known for causing temporary joy, and some people with an addiction illegally snort or inject them to achieve this effect.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants: Doctors prescribe CNS depressants to patients with anxiety and insomnia. Taking this medication can help patients achieve a calm state of mind and help them fall asleep, but some people who are addicted begin to take larger doses. A person might develop a high tolerance, meaning they need to take more medication to achieve the desired effect.
Stimulants: These drugs provide a person’s body with a jump-start, giving them a boost in energy, alertness, and attention. They can raise a person’s heart rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure, which can narrow their blood vessels and open their airways. Doctors typically prescribe this medication to those with asthma, obesity, ADHD, depression, narcolepsy, and other conditions. Individuals who become addicted to this drug may crush the pills and snort them, leading to high body temperature and uneven heartbeat.
Prescription drug addiction is treatable, and treatment options vary depending on the drug and an individual’s needs. Generally, detoxification, counseling, and psychotherapy (talk therapy) are the three main components of treatment. A licensed drug counselor or other addiction specialists can provide a person with individual, group, or family counseling, which can help a person with the following:
Withdrawal can be dangerous, which is why a person should only detoxify under a doctor’s care. Here are a few ways a person with an addiction can receive help:
Opioid withdrawal: Opioid tapering involves decreasing the dose of medication until a patient no longer needs it. A doctor may inject a patient once a month with an injection that helps them stay off opioids during recovery.
Withdrawal from anti-anxiety medication and sedatives: It may take weeks for a person to taper off of this medication slowly. A doctor may prescribe other types of medication to a patient to help them stabilize their mood.
Stimulant withdrawal: Treatment generally focuses on tapering off the medication to relieve withdrawal symptoms, such as sleep problems, tiredness, and depression. Some people may choose to stay at an inpatient treatment center that can provide them with personal care and the tools they need to improve their quality of life.