What is Prescription Addiction?
Drugs prescribed by a doctor are supposed to help cure illnesses, combat emotional issues, and aid in pain management. However, there’s a fine line between taking a drug for health reasons and misusing it. When a person starts to take more than the recommended dose of a drug on a regular basis, they’re at risk of developing a prescription addiction. This can lead to a number of disastrous side-effects.
The opioid epidemic has been a huge problem in this country. Powerful painkillers like fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone have been responsible for serious addictions and even deaths for many years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 130 people die of an opioid overdose every day. That’s a staggering number. What’s even worse is that opioids are only one type of drug capable of causing a serious addiction. There are plenty of other drugs people frequently develop dependencies to.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Individuals often form addictions to medications after being prescribed them for a legitimate health issue. For instance, a person may need to take a pain killer after major surgery and start abusing the drug after they’ve developed a dependency. Or, a person may buy a prescription drug on the street and develop an addiction. That’s right, prescription drugs can be just as, if not more, addictive than illegal drugs. Some of the most common prescription drugs that cause dependency include:
- Painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, and Codeine.
- Central nervous system depressants, which include Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Halcion.
- Hypnotics, which include Ambien and other drugs used for sleep disorders.
- Stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and other drugs used to treat ADHD.
When abused, each of these types of drugs causes different symptoms and side-effects. However, one thing is true for all of them- long-term abuse and addiction can lead to severe physical and mental health issues. Often, a person who’s developed an addiction will start buying the drug on the streets when their prescription runs out. They may even start using illegal drugs that create the same intoxicating effect as the prescription.
If a loved one is suffering from any type of prescription addiction, it’s important they seek treatment as soon as possible. However, because a prescription addiction can often be hard to spot, it’s important you understand what symptoms to look for.
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What Are the Symptoms of a Prescription Addiction?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that an estimated 18 million individuals misused an addictive prescription drug in 2017 alone. The problem here is that once abuse begins, the potential for dependency goes up, and once a physical dependency starts to develop, addiction is imminent.
If you know someone who takes a prescription medication for a physical or emotional health issue, determining if they’ve developed an addiction can be difficult. This is largely due to the fact that they will have become used to the effects of the drug. Therefore, it’s much easier for them to function while under the influence.
It’s important to remember that each type of prescription drug will cause unique symptoms when a person develops an addiction. Let’s go over the symptoms of each class of drug.
Symptoms of Opioid Addiction
- Slowed breathing
- Stomach issues such as nausea or vomiting
- Slow reaction times
- Lack of motivation
- Social isolation
Symptoms of a Stimulant Addiction
- Mood swings
- Behaving erratically
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
Symptoms of Depressant Addiction
- Memory issues
- Concentration issues
- Slurred speech
- Trouble walking
- Sleeping more than usual
- Dry mouth
What Are the Symptoms of Prescription Withdrawal?
There’s a common misconception that addictive prescription drugs are somehow safer than illegal drugs. While medication prescribed by a doctor is controlled and manufactured by drug companies, they’re still as dangerous as many illegal drugs. Furthermore, prescription drug withdrawal can be just as dangerous too.
Withdrawal occurs when an addict stops taking a drug for a certain amount of time. Because their body has become dependent on the drug, a number of physical reactions occur when they stop giving the body what it wants. These reactions can be minor or extremely debilitating.
It’s important to understand that withdrawing from a drug without the help of doctors and substance abuse professionals can be extremely dangerous. If you suspect a loved one is going through drug withdrawals, it’s important you intervene immediately.
Like the different symptoms of prescription addiction, withdrawal symptoms vary from drug to drug. Let’s break down the symptoms for each.
Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms
- Flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose and muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms
- Severe Anxiety
- Anger or irritability
- Lack of motivation
- Increased appetite
Central Nervous System Depressant
- Decreased heart rate
- Weight fluctuations
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Achy muscles
What Are the Dangers of Prescription Addiction?
Any type of prescription drug can cause dangerous side-effects. According to AARP, around 45 million people go to the doctor or emergency room due to an adverse drug reaction. When prescription addiction occurs, the potential for serious health hazards increases.
Abusing prescription opioids, stimulants, central nervous system depressants and even sleeping pills can wreak havoc on the body. If an addict fails to receive treatment and maintains an addiction, the long-term repercussions could be devastating to both them and those around them.
Furthermore, a prescription addiction carries with it both physical and mental dangers. These side-effects could lead to serious limitations to a person’s ability to function normally and enjoy life on a daily basis.
Physical Health Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drugs have the ability to damage the brain, heart, and other vital organs. When this happens a person may require ongoing medical treatment or surgery. They may also become more susceptible to other illnesses.
Some physical dangers associated with long-term abuse may include:
- Liver damage or failure
- Heart attack
- Seizures or strokes
- Gastrointestinal issues
- High blood pressure
- Brain damage
In severe cases, these side-effects could be permanent. Many addicts have had to undergo liver transplants after years of abuse. This is due to the strain prescription drugs put on the liver.
Mental Dangers of Prescription Drug Addiction
The mental and emotional dangers of a prescription addiction can be just as debilitating of the physical ones. Long-term addicts often require years of substance abuse and emotional therapy in order to cope with life after addiction.
Many individuals who develop a drug addiction do so as a way to self-medicate against a preexisting mental condition. In fact, HelpGuide reports that around 50% of people suffering from mental disorders are also victims of substance abuse. In these cases, the addict is at risk of spiraling out of control.
Regardless of whether an addict suffers from a preexisting disorder or not, prescription drug abuse can lead to the following mental side-effects.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Low self-esteem
- Cognitive impairment
- Poor judgment
- Trouble concentrating
Drug abuse also affects a person’s behavior. This could lead to criminal activity, reckless behavior, and lashing out at family and friends. If you feel a loved one is going down this road, it’s important you help them find treatment before they compromise their future.
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