Prescription drug abuse is broadly defined as taking prescription medications—usually prescribed by a healthcare professional—in ways different from the usage guidelines of the expert. Prescription drug abuse includes altering the prescribed dose intake or using these drugs to get ecstatic feelings. Prescription substance abuse also involves taking someone else’s prescription drugs, even for legitimate reasons like pain. The most commonly misused prescription drugs today are:
- Opioids: Physicians often prescribe opioids to relieve pain. Examples of opioids are drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Codeine.
- Depressants: This category of drugs helps relieve anxiety and serves as sleep-inducers. Medicines in this category include Xanax and Valium. They are also known as Benzodiazepines.
- Stimulants: This group of drugs is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Drugs in this category include Adderall or Ritalin.
Opioids are the most abused prescription drugs of all three; in 2021, among people aged 12 and older, 1.8% had been diagnosed with a prescription opioid use disorder in the past 12 months. The treatment rates for prescription abuse disorders and deaths due to abuse show the increasing trend of prescription substance abuse. In 2021, approximately 5859 people died from abusing prescription drugs by overdosing on antidepressants.
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Adverse Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse often leads to severe physical and mental health complications in people. People who abuse prescription drugs become dependent on them for their daily functioning in the long run. They would need to use these drugs to maintain their prior level of performance. In some cases, prescription drug abuse may also lead to death. Here are some health consequences of abusing prescription drugs that one should be aware of:
Abuse of opioids can lead to slow and ineffective breathing, which leads to hypoxia. Hypoxia means reduced oxygen availability to the brain and other vital body tissues. This condition can result in long-term health disorders such as coma, permanent brain damage, and death in severe cases. Other harmful effects of opioid prescription abuse include the dangerous interaction of opioids with other medications and improper body regulation. Discontinued usage of opioids after repeated misuse leads to severe withdrawal symptoms such as muscle and bone pain, Sleep problems, uncontrollable jerky movements in the leg, diarrhea and vomiting.
Adverse effects of abuse of depressants include slurred speech, confusion, headache, light-headedness, memory problems, etc. Overdosing on this drug group can also lead to hypoxia and long-term conditions, as mentioned above. Long-term use of these drugs would increase the need for a higher dose to achieve similar effects. This increased need for a higher dose can also lead to dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms when users stop abruptly. Some of these withdrawal symptoms include episodes of seizures, shakiness, anxiety, and hallucinations.
The adverse effects of prescription substance abuse of stimulant drugs include psychological manifestations such as psychosis (often marked by hallucinations), anger, and paranoia. Overdosing on these drugs often induces restlessness, tremors, rapid breathing, confusion, and aggression. Discontinued usage of these drugs also leads to withdrawal symptoms which include frequent feelings of tiredness and fatigue, depression, and sleep problems.
Preventing Prescription Substance Abuse
Reducing the rate of prescription substance abuse is the responsibility of healthcare professionals and patients. Professionals can be deliberate to watch out for non-medical usage of prescription drugs. Clinicians can also refer patients who need help to appropriate quarters. Clinicians should also be suspicious of prescription substance abuse if they observe an increase in medication refills and unscheduled requests. Also, pharmacists are well-placed to instruct patients on medication adherence and detect false prescriptions and the adulteration of prescriptions. Educating patients on the dangers of prescription substance abuse will also go a long way in ensuring that patients comply with clinicians’ instructions and shy away from abuse.
Patients can also help reduce prescription substance abuse rates by following professionals’ directions, being aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, and storing their medications safely to prevent easy access for other persons who might misuse them.
Research shows that substance use disorders, including prescription substance abuse, can be treated effectively. Treatment often involves the integration of multiple approaches, such as detoxification, counseling, and medication use.
At DetoxLA, we offer person-centered rehabilitation services to help persons living with substance use disorder achieve optimal health and well-being while assisting them in detoxifying. Our state-of-the-art detoxification program provides an avenue for individuals to get enough time to relax and focus on the restoration of their health while we provide enough support to ensure stable recovery.
If you struggle with prescription substance abuse or have a loved one who does, contact us today and let us partner with you in your journey to optimal well-being and fulfillment.