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A drug is prescribed to a patient from a well-intentioned, medically-trained and licensed doctor for medicinal purposes. At some point, this prescription becomes a part of a growing trend called prescription drug abuse. How does this happen and why?
How Prescription Drugs Are Often Abused
Drug misuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and quite possibly death. According to the CDC, the United States is in the midst of a prescription drug abuse epidemic. There are a few common ways that prescription drugs are misused.
Taking a prescribed medication not intended for you:
Even if you take prescribed medication for its intended use (e.g. to relieve pain), if the prescription is written for another individual, that is prescription drug abuse. A doctor considers a patient’s history, physical well-being, and several other factors before prescribing a drug, and taking another person’s medication is not safe.
Taking a prescription in a way that it wasn’t prescribed:
If you decide to take more than what was prescribed, take at different times, in higher doses, or take it in a different form (e.g. crush pills in order to snort them), this is also prescription drug abuse.
Taking a prescription drug to get high:
If you no longer need the prescription for its intended use but continue to take the drug to feel high (as some prescription drugs produce this side effect), this is prescription drug abuse.
Taking a prescription drug with other drugs:
If you decide to play mix and match with illegal drugs, alcohol, and/or prescription drugs without consulting with your doctor, this can be deadly. This is considered misuse, and it is very dangerous.
Why Prescription Drugs Can Be Unsafe
Almost every medication has side effects, some of which are more serious and dangerous than others. The most common prescription drugs that lend themselves to drug abuse (discussed below) have some of the most dangerous side effects. There is a reason these drugs require prescriptions. Well-trained doctors take into consideration the risks versus the rewards when deciding whether to prescribe any drug with serious side effects. With that said, there are several reasons why a well-intended drug may end up on the “unsafe” list.
But A Doctor Prescribed Them:
If a doctor prescribed the drug, it must be safe, right? Although drugs prescribed by our doctor are typically safe to use, this is only true if they are taken as directed! These drugs have powerful side effects. Just because a doctor wrote a script for the medication doesn’t mean that they don’t have the potential to be misused or cause addiction.
Misusing or Misunderstanding the Dose:
When a doctor prescribes a drug with a specific dose, they take into consideration how long it will take for that drug to dissolve, get into the bloodstream, and affect the brain. If a drug is misused in any way – if it is taken more frequently than prescribed, crushed instead of swallowed in pill form, or taken at a higher dose than intended – it will affect the body and brain differently, putting you at risk for addiction and overdose.
Not Understanding the Side Effects:
In addition to how the drug is intended to help the body, there are other effects that can be uncomfortable. If you don’t understand the side effects, you may take more of the medicine to help you alleviate them. In addition, if you don’t take the medication as prescribed or if you take it with other drugs, the side effects can be worse.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs: The Most Dangerous
The prescription drug abuse issue continues to drag, and it starts at an early age. Among teens ages 14 and up, prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused substances (alcohol and marijuana are the first two). Like adults, teens abuse prescription drugs for a variety of reasons including to get high, help with pain, to party, or to help with “life” like school or losing weight.
Being informed about which drugs are the most commonly abused can better prepare you and your loved ones for taking them if they’re ever prescribed, or deciding whether you want to take them in the first place. These are strong drugs, and if misused they can be equally as dangerous as illegal drugs.
Opioids: These are commonly used to relieve pain. They include oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone (Dilaudid).
Depressants: These are commonly used to relieve anxiety and/or help with sleep. They include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), Ambien, clonazepam (Klonopin), sertraline (Zoloft).
Stimulants: These are commonly used to treat attention deficit order. They include amphetamine (Adderall), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), methylphenidate (Ritalin).
Getting Help with Prescription Drug Abuse
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know may have an issue with and abusing prescription drugs, don’t wait to seek help. You can start by contacting your physician to ask questions and seek information. He or she can make recommendations and perhaps refer you or your loved one to a medically-supervised addiction treatment and rehab center. It’s never too early or too late to start the recovery process, and it’s important to know you’re not alone. For more information on helping yourself or a loved one with a prescription drug abuse addiction, you can get help about Beach House Rehab Center’s drug detox and drug rehab programs so you can get freedom from addiction for you or a loved one.