These days, it seems that drug abuse is everywhere you look. Little over one in ten Americans report having resolved a drug addiction. It’s most likely even more than this since many people are in denial about their condition.
A common stereotype about drug addiction is that it happens to someone once they “fall in with the wrong crowd.” To many people, the plethora of complicated drug addiction causes gets reduced to a moral failing.
However, this is reductive and incorrect and hides important issues related to drug addiction, such as the misuse of prescription drugs.
Prescription drug addiction is one of the most pressing drug-related problems of today. It’s difficult to resolve because normal measures to prevent drug addiction often don’t work when a person gets prescribed these drugs. What difference does living in a “good” neighborhood make if you’re prescribed opioids by your doctor and wind up addicted?
As you could probably already tell, prescription drug addiction is a difficult, troublesome, and complicated topic. This article will break down everything from hard statistics to simple definitions to complicated social trends to paint you a better picture of the world of prescription drug abuse.
However, not everybody winds up addicted to prescription drugs. So why does it happen to those unlucky ones?
When we take drugs consistently, our bodies build up a tolerance to them. This means that they are no longer as effective — you may need a higher dose to feel their effects. One can observe the same process in someone drinking alcohol for the first time and becoming intoxicated extremely easily.
Patients might find that their original dosage is no longer working, so they take it upon themselves to up their dosage. This, in turn, can lead to them becoming addicted. This is a pervasive case when the patient is suffering from pain and struggling to find relief.
Another common instance happens when a patient finds that they no longer need a powerful drug. They stop taking it but experience intense physical withdrawal symptoms. To stop the suffering, they start retaking their prescription drugs and become addicted.
However, while the above examples might be the rule, there are always exceptions. Many people take indirect routes down the road of prescription drug addiction — usually by taking someone else’s drugs.
A teenager looking for a high might raid their parent’s medicine cabinet, take some prescription drugs, and wind up addicted. Someone else could also borrow or downright steal the prescription drugs of someone they know. This can seem innocuous — I’m in a lot of pain right now, and she won’t miss one— but it can lead to deadly addictions.
It’s also possible for someone to seek out prescription drugs and wind up addicted. Someone with a past opioid addiction might lie about pain to get prescribed opioids. This is especially difficult to prevent since opioids are prescribed based on symptoms that a doctor can’t measure.
Considering the wide romanticization of mental health disorders popular on the internet, a person might very easily convince themself that they have a mental health disorder and seek medication. A college student could also fake ADHD to get prescribed Adderal or Ritalin.
We’re not telling you to mistrust your doctors, but medical incompetence can become extremely dangerous when it comes to prescription drugs. A doctor can very easily misdiagnose a serious problem and prescribe prescription drugs when they aren’t necessary.
While the above examples show how individuals get addicted to drugs, we also wish to provide you with some of the reasons prescription drug abuse is such a widespread problem.
Many suspect that part of the problem is excessive amounts of ads that drug companies dole out. When people are constantly bombarded by ads for prescription drugs (which often market themselves as a solution — as a way to make the world less miserable), they’re far more likely to seek them out.
You’ve almost definitely heard a commercial say — ask your doctor about x-drug if you’re experiencing x-symptom. But shouldn’t the doctor be prescribing drugs as they see fit, rather than patients asking for the drugs they want, like shopping for food in a supermarket?
When breaking down the problem of prescription drug abuse, it’s also important to understand which drugs are abused the most. Let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous prescription drugs.
Opioids are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Over 15 million people find themselves addicted to prescription opioids every year — that’s over three times the entire national population of Ireland.
Opioids are a drug chemically similar to our body’s natural opioids “endorphins,” used to relieve pain. They’re a potent pain reliever and are generally only used for the cases of the most extreme pain. Opioids are found in the poppy plant’s seed, and they’re medically similar to the drug heroin.
Opioids are often prescribed to help people get over excruciating surgeries, such as dental surgeries. They can also be used to treat the pain from serious sports injuries and cancer.
Opioids are considered safe for short-term, medically supervised use. However, they’re highly addictive and very easy to overdose on. They also produce a distinct euphoric effect, which can cause many people to seek them out to achieve a high.
Opioids become especially dangerous when someone uses them in conjunction with alcohol.
CNS (Central Nervous System) Depressants include barbiturates and benzodiazepines (or Benzos). They’re also called tranquilizers and work on calming people who are in agitated states. They’re often used to treat short-term effects of mental health disorders but aren’t safe for long-term use.
CNS depressants are also highly addictive and only recommended for short-term use. They’re useful for treating manic episodes of bipolar disorder and helping people sleep when they experience bouts of insomnia. Just like other prescription drugs, they should not be taken with alcohol at all.
While the “lows” of bipolar disorder are often focused on because they can lead to suicidal thoughts, missed work, and depression, the “highs” can be just as dangerous if left unchecked. Symptoms such as decreased appetite, nervousness, and hypersexuality can be just as destructive if not managed.
Unfortunately, prescription drug abuse is most common among young adults in the age group 18 to 25. While these people are far less likely to experience the injuries often associated with opioid use, their decreased sense of responsibility might lead them into trying prescription drugs. They might come into it expecting a similar experience to smoke marijuana or drinking alcohol and wind up addicted.
The younger demographic is also more likely to suffer from a romanticized notion of mental health disorders. They might seek out mental health treatment — and drugs — at any means necessary.
People who have misused other substances are also far more likely to abuse prescription drugs. If you or someone you love has experienced addiction in the past, it’s best to stay cautious when getting prescribed serious drugs. You/said loved one could wind up experiencing similar feelings and falling down a familiar road.
However, while the above issues are important, the most common reason people misuse prescription drugs is to deal with pain. It’s hard to blame people who suffer from pain and wind up getting addicted to opioids. Physical pain — especially chronic — can lead to mental health disorders and the destruction of a way of life.
This is why it’s important to seek mental health treatment in addition to physical health treatment when you seek out pain.
The best way to prevent prescription drug abuse is to share the information that we have. Educate yourself about the ill effects of abuse before you take any new drug. If you have a friend who’s about to be prescribed a serious medication, send them this article.
We should also take steps to reduce the romanticization of prescription drugs. Prescription drugs are a solution, but they cannot treat every problem. When you plug the wrong solution into a problem, you wind up creating more problems for yourself.
While prevention is important, it’s even more important to make sure those suffering from addiction get help. Let’s look at a couple of options.
If a drug addiction has gotten truly out of hand, a detox program is essential. When you’re addicted to hard drugs such as opioids, your body develops a physical dependence. It can be excruciating to feel to undergo withdrawal, which often develops drug addictions.
Often, people trying to kick their habit by themselves wind up giving up because of the harsh effects of withdrawal. Detox programs are available to manage your symptoms, provide you with methadone (a substitute for your drug), and make sure you don’t slip back into abuse so that you can start your healing.
The next step after detox programs is residential treatment or an inpatient program. Someone undergoing residential treatment will experience 24/7 monitoring of their symptoms and condition. They’ll see various doctors, interact with other people suffering from addictions, and talk to therapists so that they’re ready to face the world without their addiction.
For those addicted to opioids, bridge treatment is also an option. The bridge device is a neve stimulator worn around the ear, which reduces the pain of withdrawal symptoms. It is considered a more humane way to deal with withdrawal symptoms, which will be painful no matter what.
IMS or Incidental Medical Services are services provided during recovery from addiction. It’s another way to reduce the mental and physical symptoms of addiction and help integrate people back into the world of everyday life.
At restore, doctors can administer these treatments any day, any day of the week, so patients can always get the help they need.
Though many Americans are familiar with drug abuse, not many are aware of the misuse of prescription drugs. However, there is a panoply of reasons people wind up addicted to prescription drugs, different types of drugs people can get addicted to, and different societal reasons why the problem exists.
Luckily, there are also a lot of treatments out there to help people out.
For more information, contact us today.
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4.National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 13). What is the scope of prescription drug misuse? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse
5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, C. F. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR2-2015/NSDUH-FFR2-2015.htm