Though recreational drugs are normally the ones drug abuse starts from among the majority of addicts, prescription drugs used for treatment are the substances that can have the same effect on a person. Prescription medicines are very strong drugs used for curing extreme and complicated conditions of various kinds, like severe pain, mental disorders etc.
National Institute of Drug Abuse states that three the most addictive kinds of prescription drugs are
- Opioids, that are usually used for treating physical pain (Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Vicodin, Lortab, Norco);
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders (Xanax, Valium, Ambien);
- Stimulants that are most often prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall XR, Dexedrine etc.)
In accordance with the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2,4 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in 2010, with more than a half of abusers being female and about a third being at the age from 12 to 17. Among the most common causes for prescription drug abuse are seeking of relax and wish to feel good or ease tension, increase social status within certain communities (often marginal or highly ranked teen companies), to improve academic or artistic performance, to self-control withdrawal symptoms resulting from abusing another kind of drugs before, to control appetite etc.
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse are the following:
- For opioids: constipation, nausea, euphoria, slowed breathing rate, drowsiness, confusion, coordination problems, increased pain with higher doses of substance;
- For sedatives: drowsiness, confusion, unsteady walking and slurred speech, concentration and memory problems, slowed breathing, dizziness;
- For stimulants: reduced appetite, high body temperature and blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, agitation, anxiety, insomnia and paranoia.
Some other symptoms include higher drug consumption than prescribed, sleep decrease or increase, mood swings and problems with rational decision-making process; strive for obtaining more and more of prescribed drug by forging or ‘losing’ prescriptions, trying to get them from more than one doctor, stealing etc.
Most common risk factors for prescription drug abuse are addictions to other drugs in past or present, peer pressure, especially among teens and young adults, family history of drug abuse, easy access to prescription drugs or lack of information regarding their potential danger for a person.
It is necessary to notice that many people fear they get addicted to prescribed drugs in case they have to take them for a certain amount of time, e.g., after surgery, to relieve pain. However, if a person keeps themselves together and strictly follows doctor’s instructions, there is very little danger of getting addicted. The risk is significantly increasing because of prescription drug misuse (taking more than necessary if the pain is still present, combining drugs with alcohol etc.).
There are several options available for treating prescription drugs addiction. As NIDA says, the two main methods for this are pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, most often based on behavioral approach. Opioid addiction is effectively treated with medications which are used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and help a person to manage their behavior. Either of the approaches alone may be effective for patients, however, combined treatment helps ensure success quicker and in more cases, therefore it should be tried if one is determined to quit drug abuse.
But the first part of prescription drug abuse treatment, as in all other cases, is detoxification. The terms significantly vary depending on kind of drug abused, length and dosage of abuse, current physical health of an individual etc. Thus, detox will take various amounts of time and will be going in various conditions. In the cases of detox from prescription drugs the process of withdrawal has to be done under professional supervision because of great danger it may pose to a person’s health.
Opioid withdrawal process consists of moderate decrease of drug dosage till the full stop of its consumption. Withdrawal symptoms can be managed with help of such medicines as clonidine, buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone. Naltrexone is an antagonist preventing opioids from activating their receptors. Vivitrol, a long-acting form of naltrexone, is now being used as an option for people lacking access to healthcare and also as a support during early periods of recovery. Methadone, which is a synthetic opioid agonist, is acting by targeting the same brain points, alleviating drug cravings and withdrawal process and has been used successfully for treating opioid addictions for 40 years by now. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that has the same properties as methadone, but has to be prescribed by specialists and applied under their supervision, as well as other medications.
CNS depressants withdrawal process consists of gradual tapering the dosage of drugs off and must be done under professional care because the symptoms are highly dangerous and may even pose a threat to one’s life. This kind of withdrawal is better to be combined with counseling, where cognitive-behavioral approach has proven to be the most effective. Some medicines may be prescribed by a doctor to manage anxiety during this period, therefore, close cooperation is needed.
Stimulants withdrawal process includes slow reduction of dosage taken by a person along with behavioral therapies. According to NIDA, there are currently no medications effective for eliminating withdrawal symptoms. So supervision is necessary in these cases as well, because of significant danger a person poses to themselves during detox period.