One of the biggest drug abuse problems the United States is currently facing is prescription drug abuse. Unfortunately, many of the people who develop a prescription drug addiction start out with a legitimate prescription from their doctor. As they continue taking the prescription drug, they develop a tolerance, meaning they need to take more and more of the drug to receive the same painkilling effects. This leads them to take more than prescribed or seek out stronger medications.
Over time, many of these people develop a dependence on prescription painkillers, meaning their body adapts to always having the drug available. Because the body is so reliant on the painkillers, when a person stops taking them, they’ll experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Many people give in just to make the symptoms stop, creating an endless cycle of drug abuse that’s difficult to escape.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, with an estimated 5.1 million abusers in 2010. These are frequently prescribed to people for pain relief after an injury or surgery. Since the 1990s, doctors have drastically increased the number of opioid prescriptions they’ve written, which is one of the biggest causes for this surge in abuse. Examples of commonly abuse opioids include the following:
Of course, opioids aren’t the only type of prescription drug that people abuse. The second most abused drug in 2010 was tranquilizers, with 2.2 million abusers. An example in this category is benzodiazepines, which are used to help people sleep and relieve anxiety.
The third most abused drug was stimulants, with 1.1 million abusers. Stimulants can include drugs like Adderall, which is usually used to treat ADHD.
Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse
The signs of prescription drug abuse vary depending on which type of drug you’re taking. For opioids, you might notice the following symptoms:
- Poor coordination
Tranquilizers can produce the following symptoms:
- Extreme calm or euphoria
- Vivid dreams
- Clammy skin
- Shallow respiration
- Dilated pupils
- Problems with memory
If you’re taking stimulants, you’ll probably display symptoms that include the following:
- A lack of hunger
- Irregular heartbeat
Getting Help for Prescription Drug Abuse
If you try to stop taking prescription medication on your own, you’ll probably suffer unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as body aches, vomiting, sweating, and more. That’s why seeking professional assistance is so crucial.
The first step in getting clean is to enroll in professional drug or alcohol detox. In a drug detox program, you’ll receive 24/7 medical monitoring to manage the symptoms of your withdrawal. Doctors will take note of your progress and administer helpful medications as necessary to make the process go smoothly.
Once you’re physically free of the drug, you’ll still need help managing any mental or emotional addictions you have. Not all people who are dependent on prescription painkillers and other drugs have an addiction, but in any case, drug and alcohol rehab is the next step in maintaining long-term sobriety.
In prescription drug rehab, professionals will treat you with a variety of different therapies. The two main therapies used are behavioral treatments and medications.
Behavioral treatments usually consist of contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy and work to change your patterns of thinking. Medications, on the other hand, prevent you from relapsing by controlling cravings and relieving any lingering withdrawal symptoms.
With the right drug treatment program, you’ll have a much greater chance of beating your prescription drug addiction.