The use of prescription drugs for non-medical reasons is a serious and growing problem, especially among teens and young adults. Prescription drug abuse includes the misuse of physician-prescribed medications, and/or using prescription medicines that are not yours. When abused, many of these drugs can lead to addiction and even death.
Types of Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
Pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives are the kinds of prescription drugs most often misused or abused. These drugs generally fall into three main categories:
- Opiates/Opioids—these are pain relievers such as oxycontin, morphine and codeine
- Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants known as barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Examples include medications to help you sleep (such as Halcion®) or to treat anxiety (such as Xanax® or Valium®)
- Stimulants, including amphetamines (e.g., Adderall®) and methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta)
What are the Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse?
In addition to problems at school, at work, and with law enforcement, the use or abuse of prescription drugs can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Depending on the class of drug being abused, other physical effects can include:
- Breathing problems, risk of choking (opioids)
- Memory problems, coma or death (CNS depressants)
- Hallucinations, seizures, stroke (stimulants)
- Seizures (CNS depressants)
- Increased body temperature or irregular heartbeat (stimulants)
Combining prescription drugs with alcohol or illegal drugs increases the risk for dangerous reactions.
Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment
Addiction to prescription drugs is a serious but treatable condition. Generally speaking you should never attempt to stop taking prescription drugs on your own as the withdrawal process can be complicated and possibly dangerous. Rather, withdrawal should take place in a hospital or other safe place under a physician’s care.
Treatment options for prescription drug abuse include medications and counseling (or a combination of both. Medications can be used to ease the discomfort of withdrawal, manage symptoms of depression in early recovery and reduce cravings for prescription drugs. Counseling (therapy, talk therapy) and self-help groups can help you learn new, healthier ways of thinking about yourself, your relationships and life without prescription drugs.
For more information about the Brattleboro Retreat’s programs & services for treating prescription drug abuse and other mental health or addiction issues, call 802-258-3700 or go to our Central Intake Department.