After marijuana, prescription drug misuse is the most commonly used illicit substance in America, proving that drug addiction is as near as the medicine cabinet in your bathroom.
The majority of people who take prescription medications do not misuse them. However, abuse remains prevalent, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NIDA). When abuse does occur, it is usually with prescription pain relievers, stimulants, sedatives, or tranquilizers.
When people misuse prescription medications, it is often in conjunction with other substances like alcohol or other medications. People who abuse medications in this manner require specialized treatment that addresses this kind of polysubstance abuse. What’s more, if people are taking drugs to relieve symptoms associated with a mental health disorder and decline into abuse, then a dual diagnosis program, where the substance addiction and mental health issue is addressed, would be the best solution.
Both of these programs are available through a reputable professional recovery program.
Read on to learn more about the most abused prescription medications and available treatment options.
The hallmarks of prescription drug addiction are as follows:
The most commonly abused types of prescription drugs typically fall into one of these four categories:
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Prescription painkillers, the most commonly abused prescription medication, helped fuel the deadliest drug scourge in American history, the opioid epidemic. The brand name prescription medication OxyContin, in fact, is blamed for launching the first wave of the epidemic in the late 1990s.
Since OxyContin came to market in 1995, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. have died from prescription opioid overdoses, according to The New York Times.
A common narrative that has emerged out of this crisis is of a person who was prescribed OxyContin for a painful condition only to become hooked. People like Cristin, whose story was featured on the Yale Medicine site.
Cristin took her first OxyContin in 1998 at the age of 18. Her family doctor prescribed it after a car accident left her with painful, bulging disks in her lower back. She took the pills as prescribed, but after a year, her doctor refused to renew her prescription. She eventually experienced the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms from opioids and began sniffing and then injecting heroin to alleviate the pain.
Most of her 20s were marked by heroin addiction.
Prescription drugs run the gamut and provide treatment for a variety of ailments. They also become objects of abuse for a variety of reasons. In fact, an estimated 18 million people misused prescription medications in 2017, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from that year.
Of those, about 2 million people in the U.S. have misused prescription pain relievers for the first time. In that same year, 1 million have misused prescription stimulants, 1.5 million misused tranquilizers, and 271,000 misused sedatives for the first time.
There is another factor to consider with prescription drug use: how they interact with other substances.
When prescription opioids interact with certain substances that have depressant effects, the result could mean central nervous system depression, according to NIDA. Prescription opioids should never be mixed with the following substances, which could lead to profound sedation and death:
For this same reason, certain sedative and tranquilizer drugs should also never be used in combination with other depressant medications:
Users who take prescription stimulants should be careful when pairing their medications with other substances that produce the same effect. Taking two or more medications with stimulant effects can lead to cardiac complications and blood pressure problems. The following substances can have dangerous interactions with prescription stimulants:
Professional treatment offers the best solutions for prescription medication addiction. Why? Because it offers the kind of comprehensive and specialized care tailored to meet the various needs of this type of dependency.
If you or a loved one has a prescription drug addiction, professional treatment can offer medical detoxification where the substance is removed from the body; residential and outpatient treatment that offers comprehensive therapy and counseling; and aftercare through an alumni program.
There are also special circumstances that come with prescription addiction, which depends on the drug type and how it is taken.
Typically, people who misuse prescription medication take it with alcohol and other substances, a practice that is known as polysubstance abuse. Engaging in multiple, simultaneous drug abuse amplifies the effects of both drugs and can result in overdose and death.
There is also the issue of prescription opioid dependency and prescription abuse where someone has a co-occurring mental health disorder. Both of these special circumstances also require the utmost in comprehensive and specialized care, the kind offered through residential treatment, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient treatment.
For individuals with substance addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition, a dual diagnosis program can concurrently treat those conditions.
The spectrum of services offered through professional treatment helps patients acquire physical and mental health, sustained recovery, and the necessary tools and education to live a positive and productive life as a sober person.
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3210/ShortReport-3210.html
Hartney, E. (n.d.). Addiction Is a Growing Concern With Tranquilizer Misuse. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-tranquilizers-22501
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What classes of prescription drugs are commonly misused? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-classes-prescription-drugs-are-commonly-misused
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Prescription Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Prescription CNS Depressants. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, June 06). Prescription Stimulants. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
Overcoming Opioid Addiction: A Woman Shares her Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/overcoming-opioid-addiction/
Palm Beach Institute. (2018, December 04). Prescription Drug Addiction and Treatment Guide. Retrieved from https://www.pbinstitute.com/prescription-medication-guide/
Sedatives. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/sedatives