Physicians prescribe medication all the time. These medications, when used as directed are helpful but certain types of medication are regularly abused, resulting in addiction. In many cases, this misuse is not intentionally caused to “get high” but in others, that is the sole intention. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same. Deaths from opioid pain relievers, one of the most abused types of prescription drugs, exceeds the number of deaths of all illegal drug deaths put together. The misconception that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs is not only wrong, it is dangerous.
Prescription Drugs Most Abused
There are three types of prescription drugs that are commonly abused. These are:
- Central nervous system depressants used to treat anxiety such as Xanax
These come in a variety of names, but the three categories constitute millions of prescriptions each year. Considering that number, it is easy to see that these drugs are easily obtained, which makes them easier to abuse than illegal street drugs. It also makes it easier to hide an addiction than most street drugs, making them even more dangerous.
How Are These Drugs Abused?
With illegal drugs, it is simple to know when you are abusing them. With prescription drugs, however, it may not seem so obvious at times. The three main ways that abuse occurs are:
- Obtaining them illegally with the express purpose of getting high. As with anything that has the ability to get someone high, any f these medications can find themselves on the street for sale. People steal the medications or sell their own prescriptions.
Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drugs, like most drugs, work in the brain. Different ones target different neurotransmitters (the brain’s “messengers”) to illicit certain sensations, such as stimulation, sleep or calm.
Stimulants such as Ritalin target the same areas as Cocaine. They increase alertness, speed up your heart, constrict blood vessels and open up the lung’s breathing pathways. Taking too high of a dose of these can cause a heart attack or stroke. The biggest danger in stopping these without supervision is the tendency they have of causing a sudden crash into depression, which has its own harmful consequences.
Opioid pain relievers like Oxycontin work on the brain much like heroin. When taken as prescribed, and usually short-term, these work to eliminate pain. They can cause a mild feeling of euphoria. Your body develops a tolerance to the medication over time and increasingly larger doses are needed. When opioids are taken with either alcohol or other medications, an overdose can occur that leads to coma or death.
Depressants cause a reaction similar to the club drug GHB. These medications work on the brain to slow brain activity, which causes drowsiness and a calm feeling. These are often safe to take for a short period of time, under doctor supervision. When taken regularly, however, addiction occurs. These are the most dangerous to stop taking on your own as they need to be slowly decreased or seizures may occur.
Prescription Drug Rehab
The initial stages of prescription drug rehab are to rid your body of the medication. With all these, careful medical monitoring is done to make sure adverse reactions don’t occur. This stage is followed by some combination of individual, group and family therapy. During this stage, you are taught healthier ways to deal with adverse emotions, how to resist temptation in regards to returning to the drug abuse and possibly referrals to pain management experts who can help eliminate the initial cause of taking the medication in some cases. Each person is evaluated and given the follow-up treatment that will work best for their individual circumstances.
It will be necessary for you to avoid the addictive medication and any others that may cause addiction, throughout the remainder of your life. It is important that you discuss your past addiction with any medical doctor you visit. This will enable that doctor to look for alternative treatments that may help you avoid getting addicted again. While it is often more difficult avoiding addictive prescription medications than it is avoiding illegal street drugs, but you can do it. Enlist the ongoing help of addiction treatment center support groups and remain honest with all future doctors. a prescription drug addiction does not have to shadow the rest of your life. With strength, determination and the support of others, you can make it.