Prescription drug abuse often starts due to an ignorance of their highly addictive nature and a lack of taking them as prescribed. It often starts in a persons teenage years or young adult years because many young people don't understand that abusing these types of substances can quickly become as bad or even worst then street drugs.
Some of the more highly addictive medicinal substances that carry a high potential for abuse includes opiate painkillers such as hydrocodone, depressants such as Vicodin and stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.
These drugs can be abused and become addictive to even patients who have legitimate prescription from the physician.
History of prescription drug abuse and addiction
Prescription drug addiction dates back many years when people used to abuse laudanum (mixture of alcohol and opium).
Normally, this drug was a remedy for diarrhea, coughing, anxiety, sleeplessness and pain. It reached the addictive stage when women who had problems with emotional issues, menstrual cramps, pregnancy and childbirth could seek for an addictive substance from doctors and get it, as they were not allowed to be seen in bars drinking.
Then came morphine, which was used as a painkiller by American civil war fighters in 1827. It was addictive, but this was overlooked.The addiction from morphine was to be counteracted by the use of heroine.
In those days, most of these drugs were under patent law protection, so their ingredients remained secret despite them being addictive.
Since taking these kind of drugs was allowed, people did not care about the potency or frequency of drugs, never minded exceeding the recommended instructions, and this resulted in them becoming a drug addict.
Their bodies become tolerant to these drugs and hence they had to take a higher dosage to feel the desired results.
Statistics of prescription drug addiction
According to a survey in USA, the biggest percentage of deaths from drug overdose is due to prescription drug addiction. In 2005 their were 22400 drug overdose deaths in the USA, of which 38.2% were as a result of opioid painkillers overdose.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration, in the US in 2007, more than a thousand people died of the abuse of fentanyl, a painkiller.
Medical risks of prolonged prescription drugs abuse
The set of risks one faces from prolonged abuse of prescription medicines can differ from one drug to another, but across the board, here are some of the risks.
- Drug tolerance, making one need more and more of a drug to feel its effects, hence drug dependence.
- Damage and failure of such organs as liver and kidney.
- Psychological cravings and addiction.
- Decreased cognitive function.
- Mental health symptoms such as depression and paranoia
- Withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug. Such symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sweating, shaking, nervousness, depression and uncontrolled leg movement.
- Accidents can occur when the drugs interfere with your driving by causing impaired thinking and judgment.
- Poor performance in school whereby the once mood changer and anxiety chaser drugs becomes addictive and gives you opposite results.
- Stealing prescriptions from friends and family whenever one needs’ to fulfill the desired results.
- Dropping out of school due the frustrations resulting from drug abuse and poor academic performance.
- Poor performance at job and hence loss of the job.
- Putting you in legal troubles. For example being jailed for misusing drugs since it is illegal. The abuse of drugs can also increase the likelihood of committing crimes.
Treatment of prescription drug addiction
Addiction to any illicit or prescribed drugs can be treated effectively, according to proven studies. Once the abused drug and the individual’s needs have been evaluated, treatment may incorporate components such as detoxification, counselling and addiction medicines, usually administered at drug and alcohol rehabs.
Patients of drug addiction may be helped to make a full recovery through behavioral or/and pharmacological treatment.
Behavioral treatments aim at stopping drug abuse and teaching the body to function without drugs, stop cravings, avoid situations luring to drug abuse and handle a relapse if it occurs. Behavioral treatments could involve; individual and family counselling, cognitive therapies and contingency management for smooth recovery.
Pharmacological treatments aim at counteracting the effects of the drug on the brain, which help a lot with withdrawal symptoms.
For the best results, it is important that a patient gets a combined treatment approach whereby both behavioral and pharmacological treatments are applied.