Created: 30 July 2013 | Written by Martha Maeda
Abuse of prescription drugs has become almost an epidemic in the US, yet many drug abusers do not even realize that they have a problem. Many people mistakenly think that prescription drugs are safe because a doctor prescribed them. Whenever you use a medication for the wrong purpose, or in larger amounts than prescribed, you are abusing prescription drugs.
When taken correctly, prescription drugs make our lives easier and help us to manage illness and pain. However, a prescription drug can be dangerous if it is not taken as instructed, or is combined with other medications or alcohol. Here are some guidelines for prescription drug safety:
Prescription drug addiction creeps up on you gradually. Consider this when you start taking a medication more frequently or in larger doses than the doctor prescribed, or when you begin taking, say, pain medication to try to relieve depression, anxiety, or sleeplessness — essentially not using medication for its prescribed purpose. You initially develop drug tolerance, meaning that your body no longer responds to the medication in the same way and the doctor must prescribe a stronger dose or a different drug. Gradually you become physically dependent on the drug and develop a need for it to feel normal; some may have cravings for it. When the effects of the drug wear off, you experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, shaking, sweating, nervousness, insomnia, aches and pains, or vomiting. While tolerance and physical dependence are physical changes in the body, they do not necessarily mean you are addicted. An addict continues to take drugs even when the consequences are obviously harmful and unpleasant, and is unable to stop even when he or she wants to.
Addiction is dangerous. Most addicts find they need stronger and stronger doses of a drug to get the same effects, which can lead to a drug overdose. Many medications are intended for only short-term use and can cause permanent damage to the heart, liver, or brain when used for extended periods of time. Since drugs affect perception and impair coordination and judgment, an addict is likely to be injured in a fall, cause a traffic accident, or make unwise decisions. Performance at school or work deteriorates. Changes in behavior and personality may drive away friends and family members, as the addict becomes self-absorbed and withdrawn. Drug addiction not only hurts the addict - it puts family members in danger.Four types of prescription medications are likely to cause addiction because they act on the brain: opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine), tranquilizers (benzodiazapines), sedatives (Xanax, Valium) and stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall and Desoxyn). The signs of addiction may vary depending on the type of drug, but they include:
Don’t ignore the warning signs. If you think you or someone you love might be addicted to prescription drugs, talk to your doctor. Drug addiction is a chronic disease, and the earlier it is treated the better the outcome. Medications are available to treat addiction to pain killers. Treatment may take place at home or in a rehabilitation facility. For all types of drugs, treatment begins with a period of detoxification. This is typically followed by counseling and behavioral therapy to address underlying emotional and psychological problems that contributed to the addiction. Detoxification should take place under medical supervision because the body could undergo severe and potentially dangerous reactions, including pain, nausea, and seizures. The detoxification period is only the beginning of a long process of recovery. Family members must always be vigilant for signs of return to drug use, particularly during times of stress or instability in the addict’s life.