Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused drugs in the U.S, right behind alcohol and marijuana. 1 in 5 Americans report that they have abused prescription drugs at some point, and the numbers continue to rise. The availability of these types of drugs, along with common misunderstandings about the risks involved in abusing them, continue to fuel misuse of and addiction to these drugs.
Misusing Prescription Drugs is Dangerous
Many people who abuse prescription drugs do so under the assumption that these drugs are a safe alternative to illicit street drugs. The truth is that these drugs are only beneficial to your health when used exactly as prescribed by a doctor, and they can be very dangerous otherwise. Painkillers (opioids), sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants are all highly addictive, and they carry similar side effects to their illicit counterparts when abused. Suppressed breathing, seizures, and racing heart rate are all possible side effects of these drugs, and overdose of any one of them could lead to death.
Anyone is at Risk
Sometimes we have a mental picture of someone who is struggling with drug addiction as being visibly out of control. Prescription drug addiction can, and does, affect people from every walk of life. In fact, elderly people, women, and teens are exhibiting very alarming trends with regard to prescription drug abuse.
How to Recognize Abuse
It can be hard to recognize when someone is abusing prescription drugs, especially if they are abusing their own medications. Many abusers obtain these medications from loved ones or friends. Some of the warning signs that a person may be abusing prescription medications include:
- Taking more medication than is prescribed by a doctor
- Skipping from doctor to doctor seeking new prescriptions
- Mood swings and other odd behavior
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Forging, stealing, or selling prescriptions
- Poor decision making
- “Losing” prescriptions or medication
- Seeming sedate or overly energetic, or any other erratic behavior
Help is Available
If you or someone close to you is caught up in prescription drug abuse, seek help right away. Addiction to these drugs is just as dangerous as any other type of drug, and help is available. Several treatment avenues, including medical help and mental health care can help you to manage your illness or stress, without abusing prescription drugs. For those managing a chronic disease, alternative treatment options are available as well.