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Prescription Drug Addictions: The What’s, The Why’s And The Signs

You hear people say “drug addiction” and you immediately think of the usual suspects – Cocaine, Marijuana or Heroin. What may shock you is that prescription drug addictions are the second most abused drug category, behind the likes of the ones already listed. Prescription drug addictions are on the rise, with approximately 20% of the US population admitting to using prescription drugs without a valid medical reason, according to The National Institutes of Health(NIH).


Doctor's Prescription

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

During illness you go to the doctor, and usually the doctor will provide a prescription for some medication, in the short-term illness – for instance, an infection. People do not commonly abuse the medications given short-term because of the difficulty getting hold of more when they run out of the short course.

If the doctor says that you have an ongoing medical problem for example, they may have to prescribe medication for it to become manageable. These types of medications range depending upon what they are used for. You could be prescribed:

  • Narcotic Painkillers for example Oxycontin or another Vicodin
  • Tranquilizers like Valium or Xanax
  • Stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall
  • Steroids
  • Sleeping tablets

It is these types of medications that you are likely to become addicted too, or anybody else that is close to you – because they may take it without your knowledge. When you first start taking the prescribed drugs it has an effect on you, and should make you feel good, or better shall I say.

The brain gets used to that feeling and after a while may start to need more, or a continual dose of it every day. There may be a time when your original illness has improved and the doctor wants to wean you off the tablets, only for you to feel that you can’t come off them. This is what is known as prescription drug addiction. If the doctor is successful in getting you off the medication and is unaware of your dependency then it is likely that you will try to get the medication from other means.

Alternatively, a person close to you could have been taking your prescription medication and when you are taken off the medication, they will have to seek it elsewhere. This is known as dependency.

Rather surprisingly, the elderly and teenagers are two of the highest prescription medication addicts and the figures are set to only increase.

Why Are Prescription Drugs Abused?

Usually people with a prescription drug addiction wouldn’t have previously thought that “I am going to go and get addicted to morphine today”. The person has often been prescribed the drug and over time the brain switches to think of it as a need. In some drugs, dependency can develop in weeks.

The prescription drugs normally abused are the ones that give a positive, relieving effect to the user. For example, takes away pain, makes them stimulated, or makes them feel sleepy. If the drug is taken away then the user will often experience withdrawal symptoms, or may have to take more of the drug to get the same effect.

The Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

It can be difficult to acknowledge the symptoms and signs of abuse in prescription medications because people do genuinely need their medication. Take for instance a cancer patient may after 4 hours on the dot request their pain relieving medication, because the pain has come back. This isn’t addiction, because addiction can only usually be overtly seen after the original illness has gone – but still in some conditions and people it can be difficult to judge.

Someone with an addiction will have a dependency and desire for the drug but will often show and do anything to get the drug.

Common signs of addiction include: ( Although it is hard to tell because every drug is different)

  • May appear drunk, even though the person has not been drinking
  • Stumbling gait
  • Sedation or extremely relaxed
  • Stashes of medicine bottles, packets
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/Vomiting/Diarrhea/Constipation

The above are just a few signs to look out for in the person you suspect to have a prescription drug addiction. Gp’s and Doctors can be extremely helpful when talking to them about this kind of addiction and so it is always worth going and speaking to them about it.

Note: Here are some slang words for the most commonly abused prescription medication, since many people who abuse them speak about them using the following.

*Vikes, Oxycontin, 80s, Percs, Benzos, Xanies, Roofies, Rippers, and Bennies.*

Take your child to a teen drug abuse treatment center once you confirm that he or she is addicted to prescription drugs or any other illicit substance.

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