Recognizing Prescription Drug Abuse

The use of prescription drugs for non-medicinal purposes has been on the rise steadily since the 1990s. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly three out of four drug overdoses are due to prescription drugs like painkillers. In 2008 alone, prescription drugs were involved in over 14,000 deaths. Right under marijuana and alcohol, these types of drugs are among the most commonly used substances. These rank higher in drug-related deaths than cocaine and heroin combined, making it a serious and fatal addiction.

Many people think that because these drugs are issued by physicians, they are safe to use. This fallacy is dangerous as it can lead to overdoses, misuse and abuse of drugs, and unintentional addiction. In fact, when misused, prescription drugs can adversely affect the user.

prescription drugs

Types of Prescription Drugs

An estimated 20 percent of the US population (48 million) abuses prescription drugs, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD). These substances, when used non-medicinally carry a high potential for abuse and addiction. Pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives are among the most commonly used of this drug category.

  • Popular painkillers like OxyContin are used to treat pain. Other opioids include codeine and morphine. These block the pain receptors in the brain, altering the user’s perception of pain and pleasure. These are highly addictive and especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
  • Others prescription drugs like CNS depressants, suppress the brain’s central nervous system and can be used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Valium, Xanax and Librium are among CNS depressants. These pills slow breathing and heart rate, causing a potentially fatal reaction when paired with alcohol and other drugs.
  • Stimulants do the exact opposite of depressants in such that they speed up the body’s processes. Heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure can elevate and contribute to a sense of euphoria in the user. Examples of stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine. They appear to enhance focus and reduce hyperactivity, but they can lead to addiction and cause seizures and heart irregularities.

Recognizing Prescription Drug Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that physicians can serve as the first step in recognizing an individual’s drug addiction. The NIDA estimates that more than 80 percent of Americans have been to see a physician in the last year. With that high instance of healthcare visits, physicians are in a position to identify persons who may exhibit signs of prescription drug dependency. Signs of addiction can include:

  • Stealing or falsifying drug prescriptions
  • Selling prescription drugs
  • Appearing anxious, restless, overly excited or sedated
  • Intense and excessive moodiness; periods of mania or depression
  • Change in sleep habits; increase or decrease in sleep; insomnia
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Frequently “losing” prescriptions for medication, requiring additional doctor visits to “re-up” on medication
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor in order to obtain more of a drug

Recognizing prescription drug use may be harder than with most illicit drugs due to the fact that prescription drugs are generally distributed by doctors and other physicians. But by understanding the symptoms and signs of prescription drug abuse, it may be easier to help yourself or a loved one seek treatment for addiction. Our experts here at The Oaks at La Paloma can help you find a way out of prescription drug addiction. We offer specialized individual treatment plans that focus on abstaining from drug use and identifying the underlying causes for addiction, so you can achieve a life of balance and sobriety.