Prescription Drug Abuse


Prescription drug abuse is the intentional use of medicinal drugs without a prescription. Prescription drugs are the most used drug among Americans second only to marijuana. Even though these Drugs have medicinal purposes they also pose a serious health risk when they are abused. The medications most commonly abused are pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives.


Why Prescribed Drugs Are Abused


People have the misconception that Prescription medications are safe to consume because a doctor can prescribe them for medicinal purposes. Because of this people believe that these are safe alternatives to other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. According to the 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 40% believe that prescription medicines are “much safer” to use than illegal drugs. Furthermore, the same study concluded that 31% believe there’s “nothing wrong” with using prescription medicines without a prescription “once in awhile.” The Prescribed drugs are taken to get high, to counter anxiety, pain, or handle sleep problems. People believe they can take these medications under any circumstance and feel comfortable taking them without any repercussions.

Prescription Drug Availability


Medications are more available than ever. Doctors are prescribing more medications than ever before. Online pharmacies make it easier than ever to have these drugs shipped to your door even without a prescription.  From 1991 to 2009, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to almost 40 million, a 35 million increase in prescriptions yearly. Opiod (drugs such as Vicodin, Oxycontin) painkillers increased from 45 million prescriptions per year to 180 million. That’s a 135 million a year increase in an extremely addictive pain suppressing medication. This huge rise in prescriptions into society has put these drugs in extremely easy access to anyone.


Types of Prescriptions That Are Abused


The most commonly used medications are Opioids, Tranquilizers, and Stimulates. Opioids are used to treat pain. Prescription opioids act on the same receptors as heroin. Some medications in this class are Vicodin, Loritab, Oxycodone, and Oxycontin. These medications are extremely addictive and have very harsh withdrawal symptoms.


Tranquilizers and sedatives are prescription medications that act as central nervous system depressants. Barbiturates are prescription sedatives or “sleeping pills” and benzodiazepines are prescription “tranquilizers. These medications include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, to name a few. Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers work by slowing the brain’s activity, when an individual stops taking them it can cause seizures and other harmful consequences.


Stimulants are used to treat ADHD, Narcolepsy, and neurological disorders. This class of medications increases brain activity. Some of the medications included in this class are Ritalin and Adderall. Taking large amounts of these medications can result feelings of hostility and paranoia. This can also lead to cardiovascular failure or lethal seizures.


Dangers of Abusing Medications


Like all drug abuse, prescription drug abuse has serious health risks. Each class of medications that are abused have dangers and risks affiliated with their use and when abused have more critical symptoms and problems.


Opioids are analgesic meaning a pain relieving medication. In addition to their effective pain-relieving properties, some of these medications can be used to relieve severe diarrhea or severe coughs. Opioids can be taken many numbers of different ways. Abusers usually start by orally taking them then moving to crushing them into powder and ingesting them nasally them. These opioids can also be injected intravenously which is extremely dangerous. Some of these medications come with a time release which slowly releases the drug into the body over a period of time. When this coating is removed and snorted or injected it causes a rapid release of high amounts of the drug into the body. This has caused many reported overdoses and deaths.


Opioids act by attaching to specific receptors in the body and brain which affects the control of movement moods and physiology, which includes digestion, body temperature and breathing. Opioids can produce drowsiness, cause constipation, and depending on the amount taken slow respiratory breathing. In large amounts ingested could cause severe respiratory depression or death.


People who use opiods for a long period of time will develop a physically dependency to these medications. They will cause withdrawal symptoms that include, muscle and bone pain, restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes and involuntary leg movements. Individuals who abuse or are addicted to prescription opioid medications can be treated.


CNS Depressants have similar actions in the brain; they enhance the actions of the neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric acid. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that facilitate communication between brain cells. This causes decreased brain activity which gives the person a calming or drowsy feeling. CNS medications are usually taken orally but can also be ingested nasally. CNS depressants are highly addictive. Even with regular, prescribed use they can easily lead to a psychological and physical dependence. Discontinuing prolonged use of high doses of CNS depressants can lead to withdrawal.


Because they work by slowing the brains activity, a potential consequence of abuse is that when one stops taking a CNS depressant, the brains activity can rebound to the point that seizures can occur.


Stimulants have chemical structures that are similar to the brains neurotransmitters called monoamines. These stimulants increase the level of these chemical in the brain and body. This causes increases blood pressure, heart rate and constricts blood vessels. This gives the body an increase in dopamine which gives the body a sense of euphoria. When misused stimulants can be very addictive and can result in irregular heartbeat, dangerously high body temperatures and potential for cardiovascular failure or seizures. Taking high doses of stimulants for short periods of time can cause paranoia and hostility in individuals.


To get help now for yourself or a loved one who is struggling with any type of prescription drug abuse problem, call Narconon now at 800-468-6933.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
National Institute on Drug Abuse