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Article Summary

About Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs help many people overcome serious illness, recover from accidents and surgeries and provide psychological and physical succor for many millions of people for whom they have been legitimately prescribed. Unfortunately, abuse of prescription drugs is becoming one of the leading drug problems and is on par with abuse of most illicit hardcore street drugs. To highlight this problem, an estimated 15 million Americans use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons annually. This means that millions of Americans every day are using prescription drugs even though they have not been prescribed them, or are using more of the prescription at a higher dosage than what was originally prescribed. This problem has truly reached epidemic proportions, with "pill popping" being an all too common phenomenon in many circles and in just about every age group in America. This problem isn't just evident amongst those who would normally abuse drugs, but abuse and dependence can develop even in the case of an individual who may have been legitimately prescribed a prescription drug for a physical ailment, anxiety or sleep disorder.

There are different types and categories of prescription drugs, all having their own purpose to provide different types of relief from various illnesses and symptoms. What most users don't realize is that most, if not all, prescription drugs when used over a certain amount of time can create dependence. This may not be evident until the individual stops taking the prescription drug. So an individual who has just had major surgery and has been prescribed a prescription pain reliever such as OxyContin or Percocet will take the drug just as prescribed until they run out of their prescription. If they have taken it long enough at a high enough dosage, dependence will have developed and the user will begin experience physical withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation of use of the prescription narcotic. This will typically create an intense craving to take more of the prescription drug to relieve these symptoms. Legitimate use is just one example of how prescription drug abuse can develop.

Prescription Drug Addiction

Illicit and recreational drug users also abuse prescription drugs to achieve the same effects that they try and achieve with illicit street drugs. Prescription drugs can produce similar if not the exact same effects of most hardcore street drugs, and produce a similar high to experience a sense of euphoria, or to experience a calming effect for example. Prescription drug abuse may not come with the same labels and stigma as illicit drug abuse, it is however the exact same when it comes to addiction which can have just as devastating consequences. Abuse of prescription analgesics, pain killers, creates the exact same effects and presents the exact same risks as abuse of heroin for example. To make matters worse, illicit drug users don't often take the time to examine common side effects or drug interactions and will combine illicit and prescription drugs together or with alcohol, making the risk of dangerous side effects, overdose and death much greater.

Teen prescription drug abuse is also becoming an alarming trend, and studies are finding that most teens are under the common misconception that these types of drugs are safer to use than illicit street drugs. Teens are stealing their parent's prescription drugs right out of the medicine cabinet, but nearly half of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them for free from an acquaintance. Teens have parties where they all bring whatever prescription drugs they can get their hands on, throw them in a bowl, and takes turns fishing around for what looks good. This common practice is known as "pharming", a practice which is putting teens at risk of overdose and death. This is especially true since teens typically abuse these prescription drugs along with other drugs or alcohol. An alarming 12% of high school seniors report recreational use of prescription medications. Meaning, they had no prescription for the drug they abused and used the drug to get high.

Types of Prescription Drugs

The most common prescription drugs commonly abused are prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants. Opioids are narcotic analgesics or pain killers which are typically meant for short-term use and are used to relieve mild, moderate or chronic pain. However, these types of prescription pain killers affect the same areas of the brain as heroin and opium for example and risk of dependence and abuse is very high as a result. An individual who abuses this type of narcotic prescription drug can get the exact same intense rush and euphoric feeling as when a heroin addict consumes heroin. Types of prescription opioids commonly abused are codeine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, pethidine, hydrocodone, methadone, and morphine.

Benzodiazepines and Central Nervous System Depressants are prescription drugs which act as sedatives or tranquilizers, mostly used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders. Barbiturates such as Mebaral, Nembutal and benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax are commonly abused for their calming effects. Abuse of these prescription drugs is very dangerous however, and users often combine these powerful hypnotics with other drugs or alcohol which can very easily cause an overdose. Additional dangers can present themselves because of the dependence that users develop to benzodiazepines and CNS depressants over time, and withdrawal from this type of prescription drug is particularly dangerous. This type of prescription drug withdrawal may cause seizures which could lead to death. Anyone who is abusing these types of prescription drugs should always seek medical assistance if intending to quit, to avoid such dangers.

Prescription Drug Side Effects

Prescription stimulants are also widely abused, and are typically prescribed legitimately for individuals who suffer from either attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression. However, prescription stimulants are often abused because individuals want to experience the increased alertness, attention, and energy that these drugs are prescribed for. What individuals who abuse stimulants don't realize is that these powerful prescription drugs cause serious side effects, especially when not used as prescribed, and may elevate blood pressure and increase heart rate and respiration which could lead to death. Abuse of stimulants drugs is therefore extremely dangerous, and like other prescription drugs, using these powerful stimulants in combination with other illicit drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol greatly increases the risk of side effects, overdose and death.

Overall, prescription drug abuse is a serious problem that affects many millions of individuals. No one has to be ashamed if they have fallen prey to this type of addiction. It can literally happen to anyone, and even with the best of intentions it may be difficult to avoid in this day and age. However, there is something that individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs can do about it. Drug rehab programs exist which effectively treat prescription drug addiction, and many individuals have found refuge and a new future by seeking out this help and taking part in a treatment program.

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