Content Reviewed by Cameron Bolish, M.Ed., CEO of PaRC
Over the last 15 years, there has been a significant rise in prescription drug use and misuse. Despite the benefits of conventional medicine and prescription medications when they are used properly, the increase in prescriptions has also increased the number of emergency room visits, overdose deaths and treatment admissions for substance use disorder (SUD) involving prescription drug use.
There are several concerns regarding prescription drug use, misuse and abuse that must be addressed. Pharmaceutical drugs can have dangerous mental and physical health effects, especially for those taking these medications without a valid prescription or outside of the recommended usage. It is important to be aware of the health risks associated with taking pharmaceutical drugs and to understand the warning signs that may indicate that an individual’s prescription drug use has become problematic.
What Are Pharmaceutical Drugs?
Pharmaceutical drugs are medications that are prescribed by a doctor to help treat a range of different mental and physical health conditions and their symptoms. For example, stimulants are a common type of medication prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Anti-depressant medications help treat the symptoms of depression by improving mood and concentration. Medications used to treat mental health symptoms are most effective when taken while also receiving behavioral therapy.
Prescription Drug Use, Misuse, Abuse and Addiction
Prescription medications can be very valuable in easing people’s physical and mental health struggles when they are taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor. However, prescription drug misuse occurs when an individual takes the medication outside of what was prescribed by the doctor.
Examples of drug misuse include:
- Taking someone else’s prescription, even with the intent to treat a similar medical complaint
- Taking an incorrect dose
- Taking the medication at the wrong time
- Missing doses
- Quitting the medication without consulting your doctor
Even one-time, accidental misuse of a drug can develop into recurrent drug misuse. Prescription medications must be taken intentionally and precisely as described by a doctor to reduce the risk of health problems or developing SUD.
There is also prescription drug abuse. Drug abuse occurs when an individual deliberately uses a prescription medication with the intent to get high or inflict self-harm. Similar to drug misuse, drug abuse can quickly lead to the development of SUD. This is because chronic drug abuse alters brain structure and functioning in such a way that the brain becomes motivated to use substances to feel pleasure.
Who Is at Risk for Pharmaceutical Drug Addictions?
It is important to understand that anyone can be at risk of developing SUD. However, research has found that certain factors increase the risks associated with problematic use of prescription medications.
There is an increased risk of prescription drug abuse in those who are:
#1. Older Adults
Older adults are more likely to seek prescription medications to treat physical pain or conditions associated with the aging process. Similarly, they may be more likely to become dependent on these drugs and use them repeatedly or incorrectly.
Females tend to struggle more significantly with their emotional health than males. They may be more likely to experience problematic use of prescriptions in an attempt to numb pain or distress or to get a better night’s rest.
#3. Those Experiencing Poor Health
Those who are already in poor health may be more likely to misuse prescriptions as a way to self-medicate. They may originally be prescribed these drugs but begin to rely on them or misuse them over time.
#4. Daily Alcohol Drinkers
Daily alcohol drinkers are likely to struggle with prescription drug use because of their chemical dependency on alcohol. The combination of alcohol and prescription medication in the body can cause unpredictable reactions. These individuals may seek out prescription medications in an attempt to feel something more significant.
Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Use and Addiction
The warning signs of prescription drug abuse and addiction vary based on the individual as well as the drug they are using. The intensity and duration of drug misuse can also play a factor in symptoms.
Some common warning signs include:
- Missing medications
- Taking more medication than prescribed
- Intense mood changes
- Financial problems
- Problems with appetite or sleeping patterns
- Physical effects, including weight loss, slurred speech and confusion
Addiction Treatment Can Help
Addiction to prescription drugs can lead to a host of health problems, including mood changes, reduced cognitive functioning, chronic physical conditions and impaired breathing. Despite how challenging it can be for an individual to seek help, treatment is available and recovery is possible.
Effective treatment for prescription drug use must be individualized. It must involve several different treatment components, including detoxification, psychotherapy, group therapy and relapse prevention skills training. During treatment, an individual can expect to engage in behavioral therapies as well as medications, if necessary. Behavioral therapies will help individuals stop their substance abuse by altering unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior that drive substance use. They will learn how to identify and manage triggers and cravings and work to improve their coping skills so that they can live healthy, sober lives.
Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC) is a treatment facility that recognizes the current problematic trends of prescription drug use, misuse and abuse in our nation. We know that it is difficult to ask for help; however, we want you to know that treatment is available and recovery is possible. To learn more about our treatment facility and how we can help, call PaRC today at (713) 939-7272.