Prescription drug abuse is taking a medication in a dose or pattern other than intended by the prescribing doctor or taking someone else’s prescription. Prescription drug abuse includes everything from taking a friend’s prescription painkiller for back pain to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. Prescription drug abuse can happen at any age but generally begins in teens or young adults.
The three classes of medication most commonly misused are:
- Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain
- Central nervous system [CNS] depressants (this category includes tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics)—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
- Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Some common signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse include:
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Poor decision-making
- Appearing to be high (oddly energetic or sedated)
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
Many individuals fear that they may become addicted to medications prescribed for medical conditions, such as chronic pain, or to cope with the pain after surgery. However, you can decrease your risk by carefully following your doctor’s instructions on how to take your medication.
Some common risk factors for prescription drug abuse include:
- Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol and tobacco
- Family history of substance use problems
- Certain pre-existing psychiatric conditions
- Peer pressure or a social environment where there’s drug use
- Easier access to prescription drugs (having prescription medications in the home medicine cabinet)
- Lack of knowledge about prescription drugs and their potential harm
Seeking Professional Assistance:
Always speak with your doctor if you think you may have a problem with prescription drug use. Many individuals experience feelings of embarrassment, or shame but remember medical professionals are trained to help! Not judge you! Addressing the problem early is crucial before it leads to a serious issue.
Author: Nicole Horta, LSW, LCADC – Footprints to Recovery