Prescription Drugs

Availability and access to prescription drugs, including opioid pain relievers, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants, has become a major public health concern with the surge in overdose deaths, emergency room (ER) visits, and hospitalizations due to prescription drug misuse.

While the majority of the people who take prescription medications use them as intended; a significant percentage of people use prescription medications for nonmedical reasons. Prescription drug abuse can have serious health consequences and can significantly increase the risk of adverse side effects, overdose, and death, especially when a person takes them in greater quantities or for reasons other than prescribed.

What is prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug abuse refers to taking medications differently than prescribed or taking them without a prescription. Nonmedical use of prescription drugs refers to taking them in greater amounts, more often or longer than prescribed, or without a prescription, to get high.

Commonly abused prescription drugs

Although a significant percentage of the population that is prescribed such medications takes them responsibly and as intended, when abused prescription medications can be addictive and dangerous.

Following are the three main types of prescription drugs that are commonly abused:

  • Opioid painkillers (e.g., codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, oxycodone, etc.), that block the sensation of pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and throughout the nervous system
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants (also referred to as tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics), including benzodiazepines, barbiturates and non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, that slow brain activity by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to make people feel calmer, sedated and relaxed
  • Stimulants: Stimulant medications, including amphetamines such as Adderall and methylphenidate (e.g., Concerta, Ritalin), prescription stimulants that are commonly prescribed for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), that raise heart rate, blood pressure and can strain the heart, potentially having fatal cardiovascular consequences

Prevalence of prescription drug abuse

Thousands of people begin taking prescription medications for nonmedical reasons, or reasons other than prescribed, every year. According to the latest data, in 2016, an estimated 6.2 million Americans, aged 12 or above (2.3 percent) misused prescription drugs (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives) at least once in the past month with about 1 in 60 adolescents aged 12 to 17 (1.6 percent) currently misusing prescription drugs. Of the four categories, prescription pain relievers were the most commonly misused drugs. Additionally, there were:

  • 3 million people (aged 12 or above) who reported misusing opioid prescription pain relievers
  • 0 million people (aged 12 or above) who reported misusing prescription tranquilizers
  • 7 million people (aged 12 or above) who reported misusing prescription stimulants
  • 5 million people (aged 12 or above) who reported misusing prescription sedatives

Of all the age groups, young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 often have the highest rates of nonmedical prescription medication use. Young people who take prescription medications for nonmedical reasons are more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink heavily and use marijuana, cocaine and other illicit drugs.

Prescription drug abuse: Signs and symptoms

Regardless of their chemical makeup, prescription drugs generally work by suppressing or promoting chemical reactions in the brain. Considered one of the most poorly recognized forms of chemical dependency, the earlier the drug abuse gets detected, the better chances one has at recovery.

Following are some of the common signs of prescription drug abuse:

  • Noticeable mood swings
  • Poor judgment
  • Changing sleep patterns
  • Lying or stealing to obtain drugs
  • Anger, irritability and hostility
  • Stealing or forging prescriptions

One of the signs of prescription drug addiction includes secretive behavior.

Dangers of prescription drug abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription drug abuse has contributed to significant morbidity and mortality in the United States, as well as a dramatic rise in the number of emergency room visits, overdoses and deaths. It can contribute to harmful physical and mental health consequences, especially when used in combination with alcohol, other prescription medications and illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin.

The signs of prescription drug abuse vary greatly depending on the type of drug that is being abused. For example, prescription opioid drug abuse can be life-threatening as high doses can depress respiration to the point where breathing stops. Prescription opioid painkillers are the most commonly abused prescription drugs and contribute towards more than half of all overdoses and deaths in the United States.

Consequences of prescription drug addiction

Most drugs of abuse, including prescription medications, affect the brain’s reward system and lead to tolerance or the need to take more of the drug to feel a “high.” People who repeatedly take prescription drugs can also develop physical dependence and experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking the medication on their own. Withdrawals can be so severe that they prompt the person to start using the drug again, making professional prescription drug addiction treatment necessary.

Prescription drug addiction is another consequence of prescription drug abuse and misuse. Addiction is when a person compulsively takes drugs despite negative or harmful consequences that result from his or her drug use and neglects all other important areas of his or her life.

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Prescription drug rehab

A serious medical condition, prescription drug abuse and addiction is not only a burden to the user but his or her immediate family and friends. Owing to their addictive nature and severe withdrawal symptoms, addiction to prescription drugs requires professional treatment at certified rehab facilities.

A comprehensive prescription drug addiction treatment program combines medically-supervised detox program along with counseling and therapies. Considered the first step in drug addiction treatment, detox at prescription drug detox centers helps one get rid of toxic substances from the body and helps one manage the withdrawal symptoms. A successful detox is then followed by therapies that help uncover any medical or mental condition that may be responsible for addiction and teach useful life-skills to the user to help him or her identify trigger situations and assist in their recovery.

Why choose Sovereign Health?

At Sovereign Health, a comprehensive treatment for prescription drug addiction involves a holistic combination of prescription drug detox treatment along with behavioral therapies. In addition to offering professionally-administered detoxification treatment services, each of our clients is presented with numerous treatment modalities including cognitive remediation, neurofeedback, and relapse prevention.

Prescription drug addiction treatment at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility offers comprehensive and individualized treatment plans to women who have a substance use disorder due to prescription drugs. At Sovereign Health of Arizona, women’s drug rehab involves detox from drugs along with counseling and therapies in a private, safe, and supportive environment. A leading trauma-treatment service provider, trauma-trained therapists at our state-of-the-art facilities provide a combination of individual and group therapy sessions, education, evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and experiential therapies such as yoga, meditation, and expressive arts therapy. All aspects of women’s health and well-being are included as part of our holistic treatment approach to prescription drug rehab.

For more information about prescription drug addiction recovery or specialized treatments for mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility, please call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our representatives.

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