If you’ve ever asked yourself if someone you love could be on prescription drugs, you’re not alone. The abuse of prescription drugs has become not just a problem in the U.S. and around the world, but an epidemic in many places.
Most prescription drug use takes place under a doctor’s care and instruction. Drugs are taken as directed in monitored dosage amounts and for a specified period of time. Any prescription medication left over after treatment is then discarded for safety. Prescription drug abuse begins with an increasing number of people because the prescribed drugs are not always being used as directed. This non-medical use occurs among about a million Americans at least once during their lifetime.
Many reasons are thought to contribute to the rise in prescription drug abuse, including doctors prescribing more of these medications and the ease of getting them, as well factors such as pervasive unemployment and other socio-economic elements that can play a role in prescription drug abuse.
When someone is on prescription drugs or any kind of drug, they begin exhibiting certain physical signs and symptoms as well as behavioral warning signs. Drugs, including prescription drugs, alter the structure of the brain over time, and it makes it increasingly difficult for the addicted person to make good decisions.
When they’re taken as prescribed, opioids and other painkillers manage pain well. They can improve the quality of life for people with chronic pain. In fact, using opioids for the short term or under a doctor’s cautious supervision rarely leads to addiction or dependence. But when they’re used long-term, opioids may lead to drug abuse with physical dependence and addiction. Opioids can also be life-threatening in an overdose. When they are taken with substances that depress the central nervous system including alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), (Klonopin), or diazepam (Valium) there is a much higher chance of respiratory depression or even death. Opioids can cause a mild joyful feeling. But opioids such as OxyContin are sometimes wrongly snorted or injected to boost that feeling.
Over time, as someone continues to use prescription drugs they will often become increasingly aggressive, and start to display noticeable changes in their personality. This can lead to damaged relationships with friends and loved ones, and often if people are abusing prescription drugs or other types of drugs, they will create new social groups.
Priorities tend to change, and school or work commitments can be pushed aside. Depression may be a sign of prescription drug use, as can lying or secrecy, financial problems, or trying to take extreme measures to obtain the drugs.
People who are addicted to various prescription drugs will often study the symptoms that are present when someone has prescribed the drug they’re addicted to so they can then go to a doctor and say they have these problems. They may doctor shop until they find someone who will prescribe drugs to them, or they may steal drugs from other people.
Some of the risk factors that people should be aware of when it comes to becoming addicted to prescription drugs include a family history of substance abuse, past addictions, certain psychiatric conditions, or being part of an environment where drug use is prevalent.
With a physical dependence on prescription drugs, the user builds a tolerance to the substance, and they may require increasingly large doses to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Addiction refers to behaviors in which someone is compulsively trying to obtain and use drugs, even when the impact on their life is negative. Signs of addiction to prescription drugs can also present as withdrawal symptoms when the drug is suddenly stopped, or a lower dose is taken.
If you believe that someone close to you is exhibiting the warning signs of being on prescription drugs, it’s important to speak with an addiction specialist or health care professional who can refer you to an appropriate treatment program.