Causes and Issues of Prescription Drug Use / Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is a growing concern in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 6 million people abuse prescription drugs for the first time each year. And this number is growing. But what makes people begin abusing prescription drugs in the first place? And what are the problems can prescription drug addicts experience?
Causes of prescription drug abuse
There are many different causes of prescription drug abuse. Each person who abuses prescription drugs starts for different reasons. Here are some of the contributing factors to prescription drug abuse:
- Become addicted while using as a prescription. Some addicts develop a dependence on prescription drugs while they are using them. While it is unusual to develop an addiction when carefully following a physician's orders, it can happen. It is especially important to follow directions when taking prescription pain relievers. Many patients worry about becoming addicted, and try to avoid taking the medicine for as long as possible. This can actually backfire, creating a greater need for the drug as you deprive your body of it. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned, and he or she can help work out a dosage that will not result in addiction.
- Use to relax or escape. Sometimes people start abusing prescription drugs in order to escape from the mundane problems of life. They may feel that central nervous system depressants especially help them unwind after a tough day. Or they may feel that prescription drugs help them feel better, or have more fun. These so-called "recreational" uses can lead to problems. Some people who have depression, without knowing it, may use prescription drugs to "self medicate."
- To get an "edge". In an increasingly competitive school environment, many teenagers and college students are beginning to use prescription stimulants to give them an "edge." They may use them to help improve focus while studying, or to help them stay awake. Some also take prescription drugs to keep them alert on long road trips.
- Easier to obtain than illicit drugs. Prescription drugs are often easier to obtain than illicit drugs. Many times, it is possible to get drugs from the medicine cabinet, or sneak them from a friend or relative. They are readily available from a local pharmacy, and this is contributing to the increase in prescription drug abuse.
- Perception that "legal" prescription drugs are safe. Many people make the mistake of thinking that just because prescription drugs are "legal," they are also safe. (It is important to note that abuse of prescription drugs is actually illegal.) They want to experiment and have a good time, but worry about the dangers of illicit drugs. Unfortunately, they do not realize that prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.
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Problems associated with abusing prescriptions drugs
There are many problems that can arise from prescription drug abuse. The effects of prescription drug abuse vary according to the drug. However, each class of the commonly abused prescription drugs has its own general effects.
- Opioids. This is the most commonly abused class of prescription drugs. It includes pain relievers usch as OxyContin and Vicodin. Demerol, which is gaining in popularity, is also a pain relieving opioid. Also included in this area are the over the counter cough medicines containing DXM. These, when abused, can cause nausea, coma, slowed respiratory system (leading to possible respiratory arrest), confusion and constipation.
- Central nervous system depressants. After opioids, this is the most commonly abused category of prescription drugs. Xanax and Nembutal, as well as Valium, are commonly abused drugs in this class. Like opioids, central nervous system depressants can cause respiratory problems and confusion. Depressants also impair memory and cause coordination problems. A false feeling of well being is also associated with central nervous system depressants, and this can impair judgement.
- Stimulants. This classification of prescription drugs is especially popular for abuse among teenagers and college youth. Digestive problems are common with stimulant abuse, and a rapid or irregular heartbeat can result from their use. This can in turn lead to heart failure. Loss of coordination, shaking and tremors can also result from stimulant abuse, as well as aggressive and/or psychotic behavior. Most stimulants are also appetite suppressants and can lead to dramatic and dangerous weight loss.
The problems associated with prescription drug abuse can be just as severe as those associated with illegal drugs. Permanent damage to your health, or even death, can result from prescription drug abuse.