When prescription drugs are taken as prescribed for legitimate medical reasons, they are, for the most part, safe and effective. But what many people don’t realize is, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs when they are misused.
There is a mistaken perception that drugs prescribed by a physician are less dangerous than other drugs simply because they can be obtained legally. But when a patient takes more drugs than directed, or when someone takes drugs that were not prescribed for them, the risks of short- and long-term health problems increase significantly.
More people misuse prescription drugs than meth, cocaine and heroin combined, according to a study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. An estimated 18 million people in the U.S. have misused prescription medications in the past year, including painkillers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives. Two million people said they misused prescription drugs for the first time over the past year.
The sheer number of prescription drugs in use – up to 4.2 billion prescriptions were written last year, according to the latest report from Statista – has a lot to do with the rise in their abuse. Even though in recent years there has been an effort to curtail prescriptions, it is still relatively easy to obtain these drugs. Many doctors will prescribe painkillers and other drugs even when there is not a clear need. Especially for people who are prone to addiction and substance abuse, this creates a high risk that dependence on the drug can form quickly.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
Prescription drugs can provide many of the same experiences as street drugs – a brief respite from pain, or relief, enjoyment and pleasure, depending on the type of drug. But with continued misuse, an addiction develops and the long-term negative impact on the user’s mental and physical health begins to take hold.
When the abuse continues, these risks become more severe. People who abuse opioid pain relievers may suffer from low blood pressure and slowed breath, and in severe cases they may even fall into a coma. Depressant abuse can cause memory problems and low blood pressure. And the prolonged use of stimulants can lead to heart problems, high blood pressure and dangerously high body temperatures.
The risk of addiction and overdose are the most prevalent dangers of prescription drug abuse. One of the reasons so many overdoses occur is the increased tolerance that a person develops through continued use, which leads them to take more of the drug in an attempt to get the same experience. Another factor in overdose cases is the availability of illicit drugs, which may contain fentanyl or other substances that make them more dangerous.
Taking a higher dose than the directed amount is a common sign that someone is addicted to prescription drugs. Other signs include mood swings, exhibiting hostile behavior when questioned about their drug use, forging or stealing prescriptions, or seeing more than one doctor get more prescriptions.
Physical symptoms of prescription drug addiction include:
Our team of clinicians, therapists and counselors are dedicated to helping you overcome your addiction to prescription drugs and live a happy, healthy life. When you first come to Hope Canyon, we review your history of drug use and conduct a thorough assessment of your mental and physical health. We uncover co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression that may contribute to your addiction. Armed with all this information, we create an addiction treatment plan that is personalized for your specific needs.
Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may require a full medical drug detox at the beginning of your rehab program. It’s important to cleanse your body of drugs as the first step on your road to recovery. Our team helps you cope with withdrawal symptoms by providing around-the-clock supervision and support, keeping you as safe and comfortable as possible with constant care and medications.
After detox, we introduce the behavioral therapies that our team has selected to help you overcome your prescription drug addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and one-on-one and group counseling are just some of the approaches we use to help you understand the root causes of your addiction and how to find healthy solutions for avoiding drugs in the future.
Your recovery journey and the struggle to stay sober do not end when you complete drug rehab. It takes an ongoing effort on your part, and we offer continued support through our aftercare programs. We are dedicated to providing the guidance you need to achieve your goal of a successful and lasting recovery.