Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
As most of us keep hearing in the news, the rates of prescription drug abuse in America have continued to rise over the years. Indeed, a report created by Trust for America’s Health found that the rates of prescription drug abuse are increased by four times just between 1999 and 2010. Furthermore, approximately 6.1 million American adults are believed to abuse medications regularly, and prescription drug overdoses now exceed now overtake car accidents as the primary cause of death in many states. Although there are hundreds of different prescription medications, only a handful of them tend to be targets of substance abuse. Here are the most commonly abused ones.
Narcotic painkillers are prescribed to treat both chronic and acute pain that is moderate to severe. Less often, they may be used to relieve a severe cough. These drugs are synthesized from opium and therefore have most of the same effects. Unfortunately, these aren’t limited to pain control. Painkillers also impart feelings of euphoria and contentment as well as reduced emotional and psychological distress. They also have a high potential to lead to dependency, which means that even legitimate users may become addicted to their medication as is increasingly being seen in seniors. However, many more people use prescription painkillers solely for non-medical purposes.
If used improperly, narcotic painkillers carry a high potential for overdose. In individuals who have taken too much, symptoms including disorientation, slurred speech, loss of coordination, cold sweat, seizures, impaired respiration and unconsciousness may occur. Any time these symptoms are present, they constitute a dire medical emergency. That said, problems are even more likely to happen when painkillers are used in conjunction with something else, which is very common. The addition of any other substances that also suppress central nervous system function, like sedatives or alcohol, can render an otherwise safe painkiller dose deadly.
Drugs prescribed for treating anxiety, benzodiazepines like alprazolam and diazepam, are almost as widely abused as painkillers. Indeed, the two are often abused at the same time. Benzodiazepines cause heightened mood, euphoria, relaxation and reduced feelings of self-consciousness, making them an appealing option for people looking for a buzz. What’s more, they’re so commonly prescribed that obtaining them, either from a doctor or illegally, is not difficult. Overdose deaths caused by the benzodiazepines themselves are exceedingly rare. What makes them such a hazard is abusers’ tendency to mix them with alcohol or other sedative drugs. However, even by themselves, the drugs can result in impaired memory, loss of inhibitions and extreme drowsiness. Upon cessation or when more of the drug is unavailable, withdrawals symptoms are often severe and can cause fatal seizures.
ADHD drugs are prescription amphetamines, which many people abuse because they’re often easier to obtain and more discreet than snorting, smoking or injecting methamphetamine. Well-known examples of ADHD drugs include Adderall and Ritalin. While many people believe these drugs are safer than methamphetamine, they carry many of the same risks. Abusers can experience prolonged appetite suppression, leading to severe malnutrition and weight loss. Increased agitation and aggression, feelings of invincibility and recklessness are also common.
Millions of Americans struggle to fall asleep at night, and prescriptions for insomnia drugs are becoming increasingly common because of it. Most drugs manufactured for this purpose are formulated to ensure a low potential for abuse. However, a handful of widely prescribed insomnia drugs, like zolpidem (Ambien), tend to be habit-forming and attract people looking for an easy high. Effects include delirium, intense euphoria, poor motor coordination, dizziness, extreme sleepiness, disorientation and suppression of the respiratory system.
If you, a friend or a family member are struggling with dependence on prescription drugs, getting help now is critical. With prolonged and irresponsible use, these drugs carry many grave consequences for health and safety.