Medicines that are at risk of misuse and dependence
Published Oct 8, 2022 • By Rahul Roy
Medication is an invaluable part of many people’s lives to remove illnesses and get healthier. These drugs have the capability to influence a person's immunity system positively and sometimes in negative ways in the form of side-effects. However, this dependency on prescription drugs can translate to a full blown addiction for some individuals who rely on it so much such that they misuse and overconsume it.
So why do people misuse prescription drugs? What are the most commonly abused medications? What are its consequences, and what can we do to tackle this problem?
We explain it all in our article!
Prescription drug abuse can happen across all age groups for various reasons. The quantity they consume might be different as do the drugs but, in the end, all of them are consuming medication that is not prescribed for them for a sustained period of time- which entails calling it an addiction.
In fact consumption of prescription drugs that have not been prescribed by the doctor have increased substantially in the last couple of years and it is estimated that - 6% of Americans over the age of 12 have abused the use of prescription drugs in a year.
Why does Prescription Drug Use Happen?
Prescription drugs are quite accessible compared to illicit drugs. And there also exists a mis-conception among some demographics that since these are prescription drugs made by reputed pharmaceutical companies, they are safe to consume without prior recommendation by a qualified medical practitioner. Some reasons why people might abuse these medicines are:-
- Over dependence on the medication due to prolonged prescribed use, so it is difficult to wean off it as the patient gets habituated to its use,
- Easy accessibility to prescription drugs as opposed to illicit drugs,
- Some young adults consume them to feel ‘good’ or get ‘high’,
- Stimulation of sensory function to boost productivity through increased focus for study or work,
- Inability to sleep peacefully pushes some people to consume medication for better rest,
- Reduce the appetite in order to lose weight,
- Peer pressure to consume so as toto gain acceptance from peers around,
- Experimentation with the drug to test its effects on the mind and body.
What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs?
Pain killers or pain relievers are used to reduce or eliminate pain. For example, opioids-the most commonly abused prescription drug have a notorious reputation for getting patients hooked on the substance even after doctors do not prescribe them anymore. The main reason why they are so addictive is because it releases endorphins - the feel good neurotransmitters of the brain, that are extremely effective in dulling pain and inducing pleasure which explains why it is so difficult to stop using it.
Some examples of pain killers are Vicodin®, OxyContin, Percocet®, Fentanyl etc.
Its use has been rising in recent years due to the large increase in depression cases in the last couple of years especially in teens and young adults. These drugs do not provide immediate benefits but work over an extended period of time and that’s why anti-depressant addicts are those who have been using it for a large time period of time.
Zoloft®, Prozac®, Paxil® and Lexapro® are a few of the well-known anti-depressants.
Stimulants are used to improve sensory functions by working on the central nervous system to improve alertness and cognitive abilities. These substances influence the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain which play a role in enhancing concentration and reducing fatigue.
Popular stimulants in the market are Adderall®, Ritalin®, Dexedrin®, Ephedrine etc.
Tranquilizers or anxyolitics
Tranquilizers are drugs that are commonly prescribed for providing relief for muscle or anxiety spasms and for inducing sleep. They work by slowing down brain activity and reducing certain nerve impulse transmissions, thereby producing a calming effect. However consistent long term use can lead to blurred vision and weakened muscles.
Some popularly consumed tranquilizers are Xanax®, Valium®, Amytal® and Nembutal®.
What are the consequences of abusing prescription drugs?
Abuse of prescription drugs can lead to severe health and mental problems, even sometimes leading to death. Consumption with alcohol or illicit drugs can dangerously influence the effects of the drugs, leading to more harm than good.
- Painkillers such as opioids can cause low blood pressure and induce vomiting, difficulty breathing, coma and in extreme instances death,
- Anti-depressants can hamper the blood pressure and breathing rate, thereby causing dizziness, fainting, uncontrollable shaking and even causing convulsions,
- Stimulants cause a high blood pressure, increase the body temperature to a dangerous level, bring about problems to the heart- in some cases leading to heart failure,
- Tranquilizers can lead to a loss of appetite, persistent coughing, mood swings, nausea, memory lapses, decreased heart rate and risk of respiratory failure.
How to prevent abuse of prescription drugs?
Patients should consume prescriptions drugs responsibly as advised by the doctor. Some measures they could take are-
- Following the instructions of the doctor and taking medication as prescribed by the qualified practitioner,
- Reducing dependency on the drug by getting help from friends and family or through professional assistance,
- Abstain from sharing medications with another individual,
- Stricter verification on the part of medical institutions in handing out prescription drugs to ensure controlled drug use,
- Limit access to prescription drugs for teens and children,
- Increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse,
- Responsibly disposing off old or unneeded medications,
- Verify the legitimacy of the medicines purchased from physical stores or from websites,
- Never mix with alcohol or illicit substances as it could lead to overdose.
In case of an addiction, it is important to support the individual to wean off the drug by helping him gain independence from the drug through therapy or rehab. Peer support groups can also help and the support of friends and family is invaluable. Obviously, it is important to understand that one form of treatment will not work for everyone but like with most addictions it is necessary for the addict to acknowledge his problem and take affirmative positive action. Recovery is a difficult but necessary step to get better and if not, life will get difficult instead. Practice safe use of prescriptions drugs everyone!
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