Not Quite What the Doctor Ordered
It’s a common misconception that drug addiction is limited to substances like heroin, cocaine, and other “harder” drugs. However, the truth of the matter is that prescription drugs are one of the most commonly abused categories of drugs, coming in third behind alcohol and marijuana and just ahead of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.
This is due to a large number of factors, not least of which is the easy availability of prescription drugs. Addiction to prescription drugs can occur when they are taken In methods or dosages other than in which they are prescribed or when used by someone other than for whom they were prescribed in such a way that is inconsistent with it’s labeling.
The reasons a person can abuse prescription drugs vary. Some use them in order to feel good or to get high. Others think that prescription drugs are a safe and/or legal alternative to “street drugs,” when in truth, it is illegal to take prescription drugs without a prescription and just because they come from a doctor doesn’t necessarily make them safer to abuse.
Sometimes these drugs are taken to be accepted by one’s peers or to experiment with substances. Painkillers and tranquilizers are sometimes abused in order to relieve tension or to relax, while stimulants are sometimes abused to reduce one’s appetite. Then sometimes these drugs are taken just to feed the addiction.
What Types of Drugs Are Most Often Abused?
The most common prescription medicines abused tend to be stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives, and painkillers, in no particular order. Prescription painkillers are usually in the opioid family, including drugs like codeine, morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, also known as OxyContin and Vicodin, respectively. Opioids are extremely addictive, are especially dangerous if mixed with alcohol, and can slow down a person’s breathing and heart rate to dangerous, even life-threatening levels.
Sedatives and tranquilizers are often prescribed to treat sleep disorders, panic attacks, and anxiety. These drugs are central nervous system depressants, or CNS depressants, called barbiturates or
benzodiazepines. Commonly known CNS depressants are Librium, Valium, and Xanax, and these drugs slow down the brain’s normal functions, making the user sleepy or drowsy.
When abused, these drugs can slow down breathing and heart rate, especially if combined with other medications, including prescription drugs, alcohol, or even over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines. After a long period of abuse, withdrawal symptoms can include dangerous seizures.
Lastly, stimulants are the category that has probably gotten the most publicity, due to the big deal about Ritalin in schools years ago. Drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrin are stimulants and increase energy, attention, and alertness in the user by increasing the effects of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, constricting blood vessels to increase blood pressure and heart rate, and opening pathways for the respiratory system.
They are often prescribed for depression, narcolepsy, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and can sometimes induce a feeling of euphoria in the user. When abused, however, stimulants are highly addictive and can cause seizures, irregular and rapid heartbeat, and extremely high body temperature.
What Can Be Done To Help?
Addiction is a progressive disease, which means that if it is left untreated, it will only get worse as time goes on. It will not get better on it’s own, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Addiction is the same, whether it’s to legal or illegal drugs, and rehab is no different.
While there is no cure for addiction, it is a disease that can be managed and lived with. There are millions of people living in recovery, leading happy, healthy lives free of the chemicals that once held their lives prisoner. Recovery is not a destination so much as it is a journey or manner in which one chooses to live their life. Once the haze of addiction has been lifted, one can truly begin to experience life again without the constant cravings and withdrawals.