Prescription drug abuse is a lot more common than one would think, and is currently on par as being one of the biggest drug threats in the nation. The prescription drug abuse problem is so bad, that an estimated 15 million Americans use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons annually. This means they use the prescription drug even though they have not been prescribed it for a condition, or use more of the prescription at a higher dosage than what was originally prescribed. Currently, prescription drugs are just behind marijuana in rates of abuse and are even more abused than other more hardcore illicit street drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines for example. The "pill popping" phenomenon is evident in every level of society and abuse of these powerful drugs is very dangerous and comes with risks. Prescription drug abuse isn't just a problem for individuals who abuse other illicit drugs. Abuse can develop even in the case of an individual who may have been legitimately prescribed a prescription drug for a physical ailment, anxiety or sleep disorder.
Prescription drug abuse can develop over time as a result of dependence to the prescription drug, both physical and psychological. While there are different types of prescription drugs that provide different types of relief from a varying set of illnesses and symptoms, most if not all can create dependence and this may not be evident until the individual stops taking the prescription drug. So someone who has just had major surgery and has been prescribed a prescription pain reliever such as OxyContin or Vicodin will take the drug just as prescribed until their prescription runs out. If they have taken it long enough at a high enough dosage, dependence will have developed and the individual will find that they will experience physical withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation of use of the prescription narcotic. This will create a desire or craving to take more of the prescription drug to relieve these symptoms. This is just one example of how prescription drug abuse can develop.
Illicit and recreational drug users also use prescription drugs to achieve the same effects that they try and achieve with illicit drugs. Prescription drugs can produce similar if not the exact same effects of most illicit drugs, and can be used to get high, to experience a sense of euphoria, or to experience a calming effect for example. While prescription drug abuse doesn't come with the same labels and stigma as illicit drug abuse, it is the exact same and addiction can develop just as easily and can have just as devastating consequences. Abuse of prescription painkillers creates the exact same effects and presents the exact same risks as abuse of heroin. To compound these dangers and risks, illicit drug users don't often take the time to examine common side effects or drug interactions and often mix illicit and prescription drugs in combination with each other or with alcohol, making the risk of dangerous side effects, overdose and death much greater.
Teen prescription drug abuse is also becoming an alarming problem, as most teens are under the common misconception that these types of drugs are safer to use than illicit street drugs. Teens will commonly steal their parent's prescription drugs, but the Office of National Drug Control Policy says that nearly half of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them for free from an acquaintance.
Teens abuse these prescription drugs recreationally, sometimes along with other drugs or alcohol. According to a reliable government survey, an estimated 12% of high school seniors are past month recreational users of prescription medications. Meaning, they had no prescription for the drug they abused and used the drug to get high.
The most common prescription drugs involved in prescription drug abuse are prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants. Opioids are narcotic pain killers which are typically meant for short-term use and are used to relieve mild, moderate or chronic pain. However, these types of prescription pain killers affect the same areas of the brain as heroin and opium for example. An individual who abuses this type of narcotic prescription drug can get the exact same intense rush and euphoric feeling, like when a heroin addict sticks a needle in their arm. This can become extremely addictive, and a prescription drug addict who is addicted to prescription pain relievers can have a pill habit which can cost them up anywhere from $150 to $400 per day. Types of prescription opioids commonly abused are codeine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, pethidine, hydrocodone, methadone, and morphine.
Benzodiazepines and Central Nervous System Depressants are prescription drugs which are types of sedatives or tranquilizers, mostly used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders. Barbiturates such as Mebaral, Nembutal and benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax are commonly abused for their sedating effects. Abuse of these prescription drugs is very dangerous, as users often combine these powerful sedatives with other drugs or alcohol which can very easily cause overdose. Additionally, because of the dependence that users develop to benzodiazepines and CNS depressants (which develops very quickly), withdrawal from this type of prescription drug is particularly dangerous and seizures are known to occur which could lead to death. Anyone who is abusing these types of prescription drugs should always seek medical assistance is intending to quit "cold turkey", as a doctor will very likely work to lower your dose gradually to avoid any potentially fatal seizures or other health consequences.
Prescription stimulants are becoming some of the most abused drugs, due to the stimulant effect that they create when used. Stimulants are typically prescribed for individuals who suffer from either attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and have even been used as a diet aid for individuals who struggle with obesity because as they are known to suppress appetite. Prescription stimulants are abused because individuals want to experience the increased alertness, attention, and energy that these drugs are prescribed for. What individuals who abuse stimulants don't realize or don't care to take into consideration is that prescription stimulants also elevate blood pressure and increase heart rate and respiration. Abuse of stimulants drugs is therefore extremely dangerous, and like other prescription drugs, using these powerful stimulants in combination with other illicit drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol greatly increases the risk of side effects, overdose and death.
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