Am I Abusing My Prescription Medication?
Am I Abusing My Prescription Medication?
Table of Contents
What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?
You don’t have to be addicted to a drug to misuse it. Misuse of prescription drugs occurs in a few situations.
The first situation can occur if you take your prescription meds in a dosage or manner other than is prescribed. For example, you take an extra dose of pain medication before it’s due.
Misuse of prescription medication can also occur if you take someone else’s prescription. Even if you are taking that prescription for a legitimate reason, it’s considered abuse because it’s not prescribed to you.
The third way you can misuse a prescription drug is by taking it with the intention of experiencing a “high.” In this circumstance, your goal is to experience of euphoria that comes with the medication in question.
What Prescription Drugs Get Abused?
There are a variety of prescription drugs that can get abused; however, there are a few common ones that are more frequently abused. These drugs fall into three categories.
Opioids are one of the most addictive prescription drugs available. Opioids are prescribed to treat pain and, if abused, can quickly become an addiction.
Unfortunately, this type of addiction is often the gateway to a heroin addiction. Heroin is another form of opioid; however, it’s highly potent and often able to get purchased at a lower price than prescription drugs.
Some examples of prescription opioids include:
The next category of prescription drugs that commonly get abused is central nervous depressants. Often these get prescribed for sleep problems or treating anxiety.
Some examples of depressants can include:
When paired with other substances, the risk of abuse is even higher for these medications.
The third category of prescription drugs that are commonly abused are stimulants. This type of drug will often get prescribed to treat ADHD or narcolepsy.
However, these drugs can help people feel more alert, decrease appetite, and cause the person to feel self-confident or experience a sense of euphoria. Because of this, stimulants often get abused.
Some examples of stimulants include:
Who Abuses Prescription Drugs?
Prescription drug abuse can occur amongst all ages and populations. However, there are a few populations that are at a higher risk of abusing prescription drugs.
Young Adults and Adolescents
While prescription drug abuse can happen at any age, young adults and adolescents are at a higher risk of abusing prescription drugs. One of the reasons behind this is that these drugs are easily accessible.
A trend that has contributed to the rise of abuse of prescription medications is pharm or skittles parties. During these parties, teens bring medications found at home.
They will choose pills from a community bowl and take them in the hopes of achieving a high. For many teens, they consider the use of these drugs to be safe because they are legal.
In 2021, around 4.4 percent of high school seniors reported misusing a prescription drug in the previous 12 months. Amongst the drugs reported to get abused by seniors and younger teens were:
Older adults are also at a higher risk of abusing prescription drugs. If older adults are combining their medications with alcohol this risk increases.
One of the reasons older adults are at a higher risk is due to the fact that seniors often have more than one health problem and might take several prescribed medications. This factor by itself puts older adults at risk of becoming addicted or misusing their prescription drugs.
History of Addiction
Individuals with a history of past or present problems with addiction are at a higher risk as well. This is not limited to people who have struggled with addiction to drugs.
They may have been addicted to alcohol or tobacco in the past as well.
Family History of Addiction
There has been a lot of research into the role of genetics in addiction in recent years. One thing that can get agreed on is that there is a combination of nature and nurture involved when it comes to addiction.
Yes, there are genes that predispose you to addiction; however, your environment and a variety of life circumstances can trigger use. For that reason, those with a family history of addiction are at a higher risk of abusing prescription drugs.
One significant risk factor when it comes to prescription drug abuse is access. These drugs are legal, so it makes accessing them easy.
Open your medicine cabinet, and you’re likely going to find prescription drugs.
Certain environments are more likely to put you at risk of abusing prescription medications. For example, adolescents are at higher risk due to peer pressure in situations where drug use is occurring.
If you’re in environments where drug use is occurring, it puts you at higher risk.
These drugs are legal and prescription, so they’re safe, right? For many who abuse prescription drugs, there is a lack of knowledge and education.
They might not recognize the fact that these drugs could potentially harm them. Because they don’t view these drugs as posing a risk, it’s easier to abuse them.
Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse
How do you know when someone is abusing a prescription drug? After all, the signs of pill addiction can be difficult to spot when someone is taking a medication that is prescribed to them.
There are a few signs of prescription drug abuse you can look out for.
Is the person visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions? This can be a sign of prescription drug abuse. To prevent their doctor from recognizing that they’re abusing their drugs they might seek out another doctor to get a prescription.
Is the person continually “losing their prescription.” If requesting early prescriptions is becoming a habit, it could mean that the person is taking more than prescribed and looking for a way to get more early.
This can include excuses such as they “lost” their prescription or it was “stolen.” Other signs can also include stealing, selling, or forging prescriptions.
Does the person look high? Or are they abnormally energetic or sedated? They also might be sleeping more or sleeping less.
Have you noticed that you or someone you love is taking a higher dosage than is prescribed? If this is the case, that is a sign of misusing prescription medications.
Is the individual experiencing mood swings that are excessive? Or are they showing a lot of signs of hostility? Both of these behaviors can indicate prescription drug abuse.
Poor decision-making is another sign of prescription drug abuse. If the person in question is making poor decisions, this could indicate that they have a problem with prescription medications.
The symptoms listed above are more general. However, the drug the person is abusing can have its own unique symptoms.
The signs of opioid addiction will look different from the signs of an addiction to stimulants.
Symptoms of Addiction to Opioids
There are a few signs you can look for when it comes to addiction to opioids. Some of these include:
Symptoms of Addiction to Depressants
Some of the symptoms of addiction to depressants will look similar to opioids. However, the symptoms of an addiction to depressants have symptoms that are different from opioids as well.
Some of these symptoms might include:
Symptoms of Addiction to Stimulants
Similarly, while stimulants have a few symptoms that might exist for depressants and opioids, they also have their own unique symptoms of addiction. Some of the signs of abusing stimulants include:
Why Do People Abuse Prescription Drugs?
The question of why is one that is tougher to answer. However, there are a few reasons that might encourage someone to abuse prescription drugs.
For people who want to improve their performance in school or at work, they might abuse prescription drugs. There is a common belief that taking Adderall will help students stay alert and focused when studying.
This belief has led to many students choosing to abuse Adderall to improve their academic performance. Because it is a prescription drug, many students believe the use of it to be safe.
As a teen or young adult, it’s important to be accepted among your peers. For some who abuse prescription drugs, the reason is purely social.
They want to be accepted by their peers, and so they engage in these behaviors.
Others might abuse prescription drugs in order to experience a high or feel good. They might also want to relax or relieve stress and choose to take a depressant that typically gets prescribed for anxiety.
They might even want to just experiment with how the medication they are taking impacts their mental state.
Some prescription drugs that are abused can act as an appetite suppressant. For individuals seeking to lose weight, they might choose to abuse prescription drugs in order to suppress the desire to eat.
Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
Some of the effects of prescription drug abuse depend on what substance is getting abused. However, there are some effects that apply no matter what drug gets abused.
One of the most dangerous effects is the possibility of death. When taken with other substances you put yourself at risk of a dangerous drug interaction. There is also the risk of overdose.
Depending on the drug getting abused, you can experience different medical effects. These effects can be very dangerous.
Opioids have a high risk of overdose, which can cause death. Opioids will decrease your blood pressure and slow your respiration rate.
At times this could lead to the individual using them stopping breathing or even a coma.
Depressants are another drug that you can overdose on. Overdose can lead to a coma or death. In addition, if you stop taking these medications abruptly, you can experience withdrawal symptoms.
These withdrawal symptoms can include seizures and nervous system hyperactivity. Other medical effects of using depressants include low blood pressure, decreased respirations, and memory problems.
Stimulants are dangerous in their own right. Individuals who abuse stimulants might experience paranoia, seizures, tremors, high blood pressure, heart problems, hallucinations, high body temperature, and aggressiveness.
When you use a drug over a long period of time, you can develop a physical dependence. When you are physically dependent on a drug you experience withdrawal symptoms when you cut back or stop taking the drug suddenly.
Over time you will also need more of the drug to get the same effect because your body no longer responds to the lower dosage. This increases the risk of overdose.
Addiction and physical dependence are different. You can be addicted and have a physical dependence. However, you can also be addicted without having a physical dependence.
Addiction comes to the person compulsively seeking the drug and continuing use, even when the consequences of using the drug in question significantly impact their life.
Because abusing prescription drugs can lead to poor decision-making, it can also lead to risky behaviors. Engaging in risky behaviors will put you at risk for a variety of consequences, including jail time, sexually transmitted diseases, and more.
Prescription drug abuse can lead to being involved in crime. If you’re seeking drugs, you might steal or commit other crimes in order to be able to access the drugs you want.
If you abuse prescription drugs it can impact your ability to safely drive. This can lead to car accidents, and that could ultimately lead to your own death or the death of someone else involved in the accident.
While many people believe that using drugs like Adderall can help improve academic or work performance, it can actually harm it. The side effects of the medication can lead to you performing poorly in school or work.
Abuse of any drug will impact your relationships with the people around you. Prescription drug abuse can cause strained relationships and even the loss of relationships that matter to you.
How Do You Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse?
With all of that information, how do you prevent prescription drug abuse? There are a few things you can do to help in prevention efforts.
Part of preventing prescription drugs comes down to knowledge. Make sure you have conversations with your doctor about the medication they are prescribing.
They need to know about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and herbs or supplements. Your doctor also needs to know about any drug or alcohol use.
If you are concerned about the addictive nature of the drug your doctor is prescribing, ask if there’s another medication that will do the same thing without the same possibility of addiction.
Did you know that many people will throw away the insert that comes with their medication without reading it? Instead, they just read the label on the bottle because it’s easier to understand.
It’s important to understand what your medication does and follow the directions given by your doctor. If you don’t understand the information that is given to you due to jargon, talk to the pharmacist.
Pharmacists are there to answer any questions you might have about your medication and help you stay safe when you take your medication. Make sure you ask about any potential drug interactions as well.
When you’re taking your medication, take it according to the directions. If you’re in pain, it might be tempting to take an extra dose of your prescription opioids, but you should not do that.
Check-in With Your Doctor
If you’re worried that your prescription isn’t helping, talk to your doctor. They can help make sure that you’re taking the right dose.
Other People's Prescriptions
You should never take another person’s prescription. When you go to the doctor’s office, they ask about your weight, height, and medical history.
When your doctor prescribes you a medication, they take all of that into account. Your dosage and medication are chosen based on a variety of factors, and taking someone else’s medication can be dangerous.
Don't Order Online
Make sure that if you’re ordering prescriptions online that it’s from a trustworthy pharmacy. Not all online pharmacies are created equal, and you don’t want to end up ordering medication from an online pharmacy that sells counterfeit prescriptions or other drugs that might be dangerous.
Unfortunately, the number of pharmacies that sell counterfeit drugs grew during the pandemic.
How Do You Help Your Teen?
The steps above will help when it comes to preventing prescription drug abuse for yourself. However, what about your teen? How do you keep your teen safe?
Talk to Your Kids
One of the most important things you can do includes talking to your kids. You need to talk to them about how dangerous prescription medications can be if they abuse them.
Many teens might believe that these drugs are safe because a doctor prescribes them. They need to understand that there are still dangers.
Make sure your kids know that it’s never okay to take someone else’s medicine. You can do this through not only setting rules but modeling.
In other words, practice what you preach.
Talk About Alcohol
Make sure that your kids know that combining drugs with alcohol isn’t safe. Talk to them about what can happen if they combine the two.
The teen years are a time of experimentation, and it’s important that your teen understands the risks before they are put in a situation that could be dangerous.
Keep Medications Safe
Make sure that you keep track of how many pills are in your bottle and keep them locked up. Removing ease of access can help to keep your teen safe.
You also want to ensure that you dispose of your medications properly. Don’t leave old prescriptions just lying around. If you’re unsure of how to dispose of old prescriptions, talk to your pharmacist and ask for advice on how to dispose of your medications.
Monitor Your Child's Online History
Medications are becoming easier and easier to order online. You want to make sure that your teen is not doing that.
Make sure you monitor their internet browsing history.