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Prescription Drug Addiction: An Overview

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction, Prescribed Medications,

In recent years, the escalating issue of prescription drug addiction has started to come into sharp focus. Although illegal substances typically get the most attention, the misuse of prescription drugs is also taking lives in every community across the United States. Prescription medication addiction underscores the importance of understanding that drug addiction can arise from substances in your very own medicine cabinet.

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

Medical professionals often prescribe prescription drugs to manage conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, or attention disorders. They can be effective and safe when used correctly. However, misuse can occur when an individual takes these medications in larger doses than prescribed, consumes them more frequently, or uses them for reasons other than what they were prescribed for. 

Misuse can set the stage for a dependency that can spiral out of control to addiction. Addiction to prescription drugs occurs when a person becomes physically and psychologically reliant on the medication. They develop an overwhelming, intense desire to use the drug, regardless of any adverse effects or consequences. When they discontinue using the drug, they undergo withdrawal symptoms.

Three Categories of Prescribed Medications Most Often Abused

According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, the three categories of prescribed medications people abuse that result in addiction are:

  1. Opioids: These are prescribed by doctors to treat severe or chronic pain. They include medications such as oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) and hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin). Opioids can cause physical dependence and addiction due to their powerful effect on the brain’s reward system. They also have significant withdrawal symptoms that can contribute to ongoing use and addiction.
  2. Benzodiazepines: These medications treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Examples include diazepam (Valium),  alprazolam (Xanax), zolpidem (Ambien), and lorazepam (Ativan). Benzodiazepines affect the central nervous system, creating feelings of relaxation or sedation. These drugs can be highly addictive when used for prolonged periods or in high doses.
  3. Stimulants: Doctors prescribe these to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders. They include medications such as methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), and dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Mydayis, Adderall XR). Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy. However, they can also increase blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to addiction if misused. These drugs can be addictive due to their ability to increase focus and provide a sense of euphoria.

Nine Contributing Factors to the Increase in Prescription Drug Addiction

The cause of the increase in prescription drug addiction is a combination of various factors. 

  1. The common and misguided perception that prescription medications are safer than illegal drugs. Unfortunately, this belief often underestimates the risks associated with these drugs, leading to a false sense of security.
  2. Healthcare providers tend to overprescribe these drugs, often due to patient pressure or incentives from pharmaceutical companies.
  3. Prescription drugs are easy to access, either through doctor shopping, medicine cabinets, friends or family members, or online pharmacies, making it easier for people to misuse them.
  4. Certain prescription drugs have addictive properties that can rewire the brain and create a strong compulsion to use.
  5. Our society has a desire for instant gratification and a quick-fix mindset. Seeking immediate relief from physical and mental pain can lead to an unhealthy dependence on powerful prescription medications.
  6. Those suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder are more likely to misuse prescription medications in an attempt to self-medicate, which can lead to addiction.
  7. Individuals with chronic pain might be prescribed potent opioids for long-term use. Over time, this can lead to dependence and addiction.
  8. High levels of stress due to work, relationships, or other factors can increase the likelihood of someone turning to prescription medications for relief.
  9. Genetic factors can play a role in an individual’s predisposition to developing an addiction. Individuals with a family history of substance abuse may be more susceptible to developing a dependency on prescription drugs.

Is Addiction Controlling Your Life?

Are you feeling like addiction is taking over your life or the life of someone close to you? Do not wait any longer to seek help. Addiction is a chronic disease that can impact anyone, but the good news is that recovery is possible. At the Anabranch Recovery Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, our team of skilled professionals is committed to providing you with the tools and resources you need to regain control of your life. Do not wait any longer to take the first step towards recovery. Contact us today and start your journey towards a sober life.

About the author

Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.

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