Prescription Drug Use and Abuse

Prescription drugs are a key part of the American healthcare industry. In many cases, these medications, like amoxicillin for an infection or statins for high cholesterol, are an essential part of preserving bodily functions and fighting diseases. In others, however, drugs are more commonly provided for comfort and quality of life, like analgesics, or painkillers, to minimize pain from surgical procedures or benzodiazepines to control mood and anxiety. Despite approval from the Food and Drug Administration, all prescription medications are not made equal – and they’re not all safe for use without strict oversight by a medical professional. And, as with any drug that impacts the brain, many have the potential for abuse and prescription drug addiction.

Addictive Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are named as such because they require a script from a doctor and are not available over the counter for purchase. For this reason, many individuals believe that prescription drugs are safe for use with no risk of addiction or other damaging side effects.

While true in the case of most drugs – a course of antibiotics is unlikely to cause significant consequences – many prescription medications aren’t as innocent as they appear on the surface. A wide range of available options contains similar structures and functionality to street drugs, putting millions of unsuspecting patients at risk.

Opiates for pain, for example, are extremely addictive substances that offer a similar experience to heroin. This class of drug functions by affecting opioid receptors in the brain, using neurotransmitters to provide a pleasurable sensation in place of pain. While critical after a large surgery, broken bone, or other periods of serious pain, painkillers are easily addictive when taken without a doctor’s supervision. In 2015, one in three patients was prescribed an opiate painkiller after visiting with a doctor – approximately 38% of the country. Sales of these medications have quadrupled over the last 20 years, despite no overall change in reported pain levels.

Benzodiazepines are also extremely addictive when taken over a longer period of time. These drugs, which are often classified as mood stabilizers and tranquilizers, are offered to patients to decrease anxiety, insomnia, and risk of seizure. However, when used long-term, patients may find that it is hard to live a normal life without interference from prescription drugs. Roughly 5% of adults take benzos at any given time, with rates increasing with age.

How Does Prescription Drug Abuse Start?

Prescription drug addiction most often begins with a simple script from your doctor during the course of a routine treatment. From painkillers provided after surgery to Ativan for stress and worry, the root of most drug abuse challenges begins with initial use.

Most patients user their prescription drugs as prescribed and move on, but others find the sensations provided to be too compelling to quit. This is especially true when doctors approve unnecessary refills, offering patients a larger-than-necessary supply of drugs.

The process of addiction starts slowly. Users take drugs as prescribed, but when the effects aren’t as strong as desired, doses become larger and larger. Alternately, patients continue taking drugs after a recommended cessation point or visit other doctors looking for more relief, leading to broader access than suggested. In general, the tipping point for addiction comes when patients start to ignore prescribed doses or duration.

In a select number of cases, addiction begins when teens or young adults find access to drugs that do not belong to them and take them deliberately to get high. Often consumed in higher doses over shorter periods of time, this kind of recreational abuse increases the likelihood of addiction.

Due to the general inaccessibility of prescription drugs without doctor interference, many addicts eventually make the switch from legal opiates to illegal ones. Heroin incidence is 19 times higher for those who started with a prescription drug addiction.

Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction behaves in a similar way to street drug addiction. Most patients manifest physical, emotional, and behavioral signs, including:

  • Sneaking around and lying to mask use
  • Extreme overactivity or lethargy
  • Missing obligations at school, work, or with family
  • Performance issues at work
  • Financial recklessness
  • Compromised judgment
  • Inattention to personal hygiene
  • Change in eating habits followed by weight loss or gain
  • Argumentativeness and defensiveness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies

Withdrawing From Prescription Drugs

Withdrawing from prescription drugs use is quite similar to withdrawing from any other form of drug: users experience several days to weeks of headaches, nausea, paranoia, trouble sleeping, irritability, and health risks like seizures.

Symptoms of opiate withdrawal often begin within the first 24 hours and last around a week in total. Users experience muscle aches, anxiety, excessive sweating, and chronic insomnia, which gives way to diarrhea and abdominal cramping, dilated pupils and blurry vision, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure. When treated by a doctor, medications like clonidine can be used to address these side effects.

Prescription drug detox can take longer, but severity varies based on the type used and duration of use. In general, patients experience side effects like agitation and restlessness, stomach cramps, nausea, tremors or seizures, and confusion for a week to ten days.

Call Lumiere Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with a prescription drug addiction in Florida, give Lumiere Detox Center a call now at 855-535-8501. The specialists at our detox and treatment program in Florida are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about the admissions process. Break free from addiction now and live the life you are destined for.