Prescription drug addiction or dependency is quite common in the US. It occurs due to misuse or abuse of prescribed drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes an addiction as the habit of taking prescription drugs in a way other than prescribed
This could mean taking larger doses or taking a dose more often than instructed by a doctor or pharmacist. Addiction could also stem from the use of drugs by someone they were not prescribed for. This person may take the medication to treat similar symptoms or to feel euphoria or a sense of ‘high’ (non-medical use).
If you are worried about becoming addicted to your prescription drugs or you are already dependent and want to break the habit, this guide may be helpful.
Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drugs can affect breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. In extreme cases, prescription drug addiction has caused serious medical conditions and even death by overdose. Knowing the signs of addiction may be the first step toward avoiding or breaking the prescription addiction. Here are some common medical and behavioral signs a person is addicted:
• Using drugs in larger quantities than prescribed
• Using drugs other than for the reason prescribed
• Continuous use of drugs after the pain stops or illness goes away
• Finishing the medication ahead of schedule
• Regular refills or switching doctors to get more of the prescribed drugs
• Using drugs prescribed to someone else
• Stealing the drug or using a falsified prescription to get it
• Using the drugs solely to feel ‘high’ (euphoria)
• Confusion, drowsiness, anxiety, nausea, or rapid or irregular heartbeat
• Behavioral changes such as neglecting responsibilities, hostility, or mood swings
• Experiencing periods of “blackouts” or memory loss
• Eyes appear red or glazed
• Restlessness, impaired judgment, or increased blood pressure
Drugs that Commonly Cause Addiction
The risk of addiction is higher with the use of drugs that have a similar effect to cocaine and heroin. The dependency can cause you to compulsively seek and use the drug regardless of the harmful side effects. The following are classes of drugs that commonly cause addiction if misused or abused:
Depressants: Also known as Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, these drugs are classed as benzodiazepines, alprazolam, and chlordiazepoxide HCl. They sedate or tranquilize to slow brain functions. People who are over-stimulated due to conditions such as anxiety or sleep disorders are usually treated with depressants.
Opioids: These include prescription pain killers such as morphine, codeine, methadone, fentanyl, and oxycodone. They are often prescribed to patients with chronic pain that cannot be relieved with over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen, or Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s), such as ibuprofen.
Stimulants: Dextroamphetamine, amphetamine, and methylphenidate are classes of drugs referred to as stimulants. They increase energy and alertness and are used mainly to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Incidentally, these medications are in the same class of drugs as methamphetamine and cocaine.
Ways to Avoid Prescription Drug Addiction
• Use the medication exactly as directed by your doctor, pharmacist or the prescription label.
• Do not increase or change the dose prescribed unless directed by your doctor.
• Do not open capsules or crush tablets to use by dissolving in water to drink or inject into your vein.
• Do not smoke or snort crushed tablet or capsule powder.
• Avoid using your medication with recreational drugs, e.g., cocaine or with alcohol.
• Do not use drugs prescribed to others or have others use yours.
• Stop using the drug once the pain stops or the illness is cured.
• Seek alternative treatment. For example, some people choose drug-free chiropractic treatment or medical massage to relieve pain.
• Prevent third party addiction by storing medication securely, monitoring the count to ensure no one else is using it, and safely disposing of it after it expires.
It may be necessary for you to use certain prescription drugs due to a medical condition. However, understanding how dependency occurs, its effects on your health and well-being, and the ways to prevent it may be the best way to avoid prescription drug addiction.
If you are already addicted and are unable to break the habit on your own, you can seek professional help. Getting treated by a doctor, joining a drug withdrawal or detox program, or undergoing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are options available to avoid or end the addiction.