Prescription Drug Abuse

1 What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is the deliberate consumption of a prescription or treatment medication that is not for its approved used.

Taking someone else’s prescription painkillers for your headache or back pain to more serious cases of injecting sedatives or inhaling ground-up pills to get high, are both considered problematic use or prescription drug abuse.

Drug prescription is regulated since most drugs, even if it causes negative effects, can be addicting and has the possibility of being abused if habitual taken more than its prescribed dosage.

There is no specific age group that is only affected by prescription drug abuse as at any point in time anyone can be affected if they allow it, but currently it is more prevalent in younger generation which is causing an increased concern.

Opioid painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and stimulates are the drug of choice that is mostly abused.

Early detection of signs of prescription drug abuse and proper as well as continuous intervention can hinder the problem from getting worse and turn into an addiction.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the specific drug.

The most frequently abused prescription drugs, because of its mind-altering effects, are:

  • Opioids such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone) and those containing Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco) which are pain medications.
  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and hypnotics such as zolpidem (Ambien) used to treat sleep disorders and an anti-anxiety drug.
  • Stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others), dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall XR) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), are treatment medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders.

Due to the effects of the various prescription drugs, signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse differ on what was consumed. Signs and Symptoms of prescription drug abuse of Opioid painkillers, Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications, include:

  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • reduced appetite
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • agitation
  • feeling high called euphoria
  • unsteady walking
  • high body temperature
  • slowed breathing
  • slurred speech
  • insomnia
  • poor concentration
  • elevated blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • poor coordination
  • memory problems
  • anxiety
  • increased pain with higher doses
  • slowed breathing, and paranoia

Other signs resulting from the increased dependency and frequency to have the prescription drugs leading to:

  • stealing
  • forging or selling prescriptions
  • taking doses more than prescribed
  • excessive mood swings or hostility
  • increase or decrease in sleep
  • poor decision-making
  • appearing to be high
  • unusually energetic or revved up
  • or sedated continually "losing" prescriptions

So more prescriptions must be written which leads to seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor. It is best that during the early stages of prescription drug abuse while you are still somewhat able to think straight and make right decisions while not under the influence of drugs, to right away seek medical help before things get out of hand as you might develop addiction which would make quitting way more difficult.

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3 Causes

There are various causes for prescription drug abuse that is greatly attributed to the weak coping mechanism of the person to stress and changes.

The cause for the abuse of prescription drugs in teens and adults are as follows:

  • to temporarily feel good about self or feel high
  • to relax and relieve tension
  • to lose appetite to eat
  • to experiment with the mental effects of the drugs as they feel that it would be an adventure
  • to maintain an addiction and prevent withdrawal
  • to be accepted by pears or social pressure
  • to try to improve concentration and academic or work performance brought by increased alertness

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of prescription drug abuse will be based on the completed medical history and answers provided by the person as well as the results of blood and urine drug tests.

While on the early stages of prescription drug abuse your family doctor may be able to offer some help with the problem. However, once it has progressed to an addiction then you will be referred to a facility that specifically handles such conditions.

Prior to your appointment with the doctor, here are some things to know about on how you can best prepare for your appointment.

It is important to have a complete list of all drugs that you are taking or have taken such as prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and herbs and supplements including the dosage and frequency. Key personal and medical information should also be listed, such as recent life altering changes and causes of major stresses.

Here are the questions that you can ask the doctor to better understand the condition:

  • How can I be cured and what are my treatment options?
  • How would I know that the treatment is working?
  • Would it help to seek consultation with a specialist?
  • How would treatment affect my underlying condition?
  • Can you provide me any reading materials I can study at home?
  • What other resources could you recommend that can be beneficial to my condition?

Here are some of the questions to expect from your doctor:

  • What prescription drugs do you take and had taken?
  • What is the dosage and frequent to which you have taken the medications?
  • When did you start using such drugs and what triggered you to use?
  • How serious are the symptoms you have been experiencing?
  • Have you abused or had any addition with drugs in the past?
  • Do you use recreational drugs? Do you smoke?
  • Do you have any family member who has had similar drug problem?

Regular blood and urine drug testing will also be recommended to monitor the person’s progress and effectivity of treatment.

5 Treatment

Treatment options for prescription drug abuse would mostly depend on the arising symptoms, effects or possible medical condition from the abuse.

Most often, the recommended treatment of choice is counseling or psychotherapy. Treatment may also necessitate withdrawal (detoxification), addiction medication and recovery support groups.

There are several group and individual therapies available that can provide counseling.

The benefits of counseling include:

  • it may help you understand or realize the reason why you started abusing prescription drugs
  • such as an underlying mental health problem or relationship problems
  • learn the skills or strategize to employ in resisting cravings
  • avoid abuse of drugs and help prevent recurrence of prescription drug abuse
  • learn strategies for developing positive relationships which will offer you the needed support while recovering
  • identify ways to engage in healthy activities that aren't related to drugs
  • and learn the steps to take if a relapse happens

Detoxification may be needed depending on the prescription drug taken and abused. Seek medical help in taking steps to undergo Withdrawal from the prescription drug as it can be dangerous and should be properly monitored by a medical professional.

Opioid withdrawal. Opioid tapering involves gradually decreasing the dose of medication until it's no longer used. Other medications, such as clonidine (Catapres), which is a drug mainly used for high blood pressure can be used to help manage opioid withdrawal symptoms during this process. Buprenorphine, buprenorphine with naloxone (Suboxone) or methadone may be used by doctors under specific, legally regulated and monitored conditions to ease symptoms of withdrawal from opioid painkillers.

Vivitrol, a version of the drug naltrexone, given by injection once a month by a health care provider may facilitate in having the person stay off opioids early in their recovery. Withdrawal from sedatives or anti-anxiety medications. If you've used prescription sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs for a long time, withdrawal from it may take longer than other prescription drugs because the body will not be able to right away adjust in the change or decrease in the dosage compared to the amount that was consumed before.

Additional medications during withdrawal may be needed to help stabilize your mood, manage the final phases of tapering or help with anxiety, and you would need to be under a care of a medical professional for proper monitoring and management. Stimulant withdrawal.

There are no approved drugs used for treating stimulant withdrawal. Treatment typically focuses on gradual decreasing the amount of medication taken and relieving withdrawal symptoms such as sleep, appetite and mood disturbances.

6 Prevention

Here are some measures to employ to prevent prescription drug abuse:

  • make it a point to check if you are taking the correct medication
  • properly communicate your signs and symptoms to the doctor to be given the correct medication and dosage

Prescription drug abuse may happen to people with an underlying condition who are needing painkillers, sedatives or stimulates as part of their treatment.

Advise your doctor of all the medications that you are taking including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, supplements, alcohol and possible recreational drugs use. Do not hesitate to work with your doctor even on extended period of time such as if you would want to know if the medication is already working.

Understand the reason for the medication as well as its desired and side effects that you can effect. Never use another person’s prescription, if you feel you need a certain medication then go to your doctor and make the necessary consultation.

Do not order medications online unless it is already a tried and tested side that you can trust. Prevention of prescription drug abuse on teens, include education on the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Be observant of your teenager’s behavior and openly communicate about his or her challenge.

Encourage your teenager to engage in healthy extracurricular activities such as sports. Also, safely keep and lock your prescription medications and make sure that your child does not have access to it. You must also keep track on the remaining quantities.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the homeopathic remedies for prescription drug abuse include:

  • Nux Vomica for narcotics,
  • Sulphur,
  • Avena Sativa to help detoxify the body from drugs,
  • Natrum Mur,
  • Arsenicum,
  • Cannabis Indica for managing the symptoms.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Coping with the stress of dealing with a family member who has prescription drug abuse poses several challenges to the person, family and friends. The best way to deal with this condition is to ask for help and guidance by joining a support group.

Research on available support groups such as a 12-step program, a help from your church or minister or a faith group and other support services that may be undergoing the same challenges.

You may worry about what other people will say or think about you once they found out your condition as they may judge you, criticize you or treat you differently.

But, you have to think of the long term benefits of seeking help through counseling. On the other hand, if you have a friend or a relative of a person with prescription drug abuse, it may be difficult in the beginning especially if the person refuses the help offered but you would need to be more patient and understanding as well as be persistent in continuously show support and offer help.

An Intervention may also be employed which can help motivate the person to seek help. You may need to consult an intervention professional, an addiction specialist, psychologist or a mental health counselor on how you can best help your loved one.

9 Risks and Complications

Here are the risk factors to prescription drug abuse:

  • past or present addictions to other substances
  • including alcohol and tobacco
  • family history of substance abuse problems
  • younger age, especially the teens or early 20s
  • certain pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • exposure to peer pressure or a social environment where there's drug use
  • easier access to prescription drugs, such as having prescription medications in the home medicine cabinet
  • lack of knowledge about prescription drugs and their potential harm

Commonly on older adults, presence of multiple health problems and taking multiple drugs can put seniors at risk of misusing drugs or becoming addicted.

Abusing prescription drugs can cause a number of problems which can even lead to death. Medical consequences of prescription drug abuse include:

  • Opioids can cause low blood pressure
  • a slowed breathing rate and potential for breathing to stop, or a coma

Overdose has a significant risk of death. Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications can cause memory problems, low blood pressure and slowed breathing.

Overdose can cause coma or death. Suddenly stopping the medication may cause withdrawal symptoms that can include nervous system hyperactivity and seizures.

Stimulants can cause dangerously high body temperature, heart problems, high blood pressure, seizures or tremors, hallucinations, aggressiveness, and paranoia.

Physical dependence or building tolerance to the drugs, due to the habitual use of the drugs the body builds a tolerance to it needing increase level to cause the desired effect.

Addiction is when physical dependence has developed and compulsively seek a drug and continue to use it even when that drug makes their lives worse.

Other consequences include: Engaging in risky behaviors because of poor judgment, using illegal drugs, being involved in crime, motor vehicle accidents, decreased academic or work performance and troubled relationships.

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