Prescription Drug Addiction
Did you know that prescription drugs caused more deaths among those who abused them than those who abused amphetamine, heroin, meth and cocaine combined? Indeed, the abuse of so-called legal drugs has become rampant in the United States and other countries around the world. What makes the problem such a pressing issue is the fact that the users have grown younger, with 13 and 14 year olds as the average ages for those who abused painkillers and over-the-counter medication for the first time. Parents should rightfully be concerned especially since most these drugs are found right in their very own medicine cabinets.
Prescription medicines are beneficial in curing various ailments when they are taken following the physician’s orders and used to treat a condition that the drug was intended for. However, when these criteria are not met, prescription drug abuse occurs. There are various ways for legal drugs to be abused. It all begins with improper use, such as taking the medication intended for someone else. For example, a friend who happened to be visiting your house complains of pain and out of your sheer concern, you offer a painkiller to provide relief. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that majority of teenagers who abused prescription medication obtained these without any cost on their part because they were provided by relatives or friends.
Another way by which prescription medicines get abused is when they are not taken as prescribed. This can occur when you take in more than what was ordered or when the tablets are crushed and inhaled instead of being taken orally. Doing any of these things makes the drug enter the person’s bloodstream much faster than they normally would and makes its effects more pronounced which could sow the seeds for abuse.
The third method by which prescription medication is abused is when they are taken other than the condition for which they were intended. So if a medicine is supposed to treat cough but when you use it to get high then that’s already a form of over-the-counter drug abuse.
The reason why prescription and OTC medication get prone to abuse when they are not used as intended is because they act on the brain in the same way. Medications used to treat pain bind to the same receptors in the same manner as heroin. The cough suppressant drug dextromethorphan works on similar receptors like that targeted by ketamine. Stimulants focus on the same neurotransmitter systems as cocaine. Thus, when these medicines are taken as prescribed, they work to alleviate symptoms and treat the ailment. However, when these are taken when a person is well, the drugs affect the brain in the same way as street drugs, producing feelings of pleasure which causes users to recreate the experience constantly, leading one to become addicted.
Abusing prescription medication has dangerous side effects. For example, stimulants cause body temperature to rise, the heart to beat irregularly, seizures and even death. Opioid pain relievers, in particular, depress breathing, making them very dangerous. Cough medications like dextromethorphan affects motor function, elevates blood pressure and increases heart rate. In general, abuse of prescription medication can alter decision-making and even lead users to take risky behaviors like having unprotected sex.
If you or your loved ones are abusing prescription drugs, it’s important to get prompt intervention. Behavioral therapy and other strategies can facilitate recovery and enable your loved one to lead a drug-free life once more.