Smoking, Alcohol, And Drugs

Prescription drug abuse

When your healthcare professional prescribes a prescription for you, they will explain what it is and how to take it. You will find further instructions on the package label and on the paper or patient leaflet that sometimes comes with the package. The use of a prescription drug in a way not indicated by the doctor can lead to prescription drug abuse.

Prescription drug abuse can happen in several ways. These are some examples:

  • Consume more than the amount indicated by the health professional
  • Taking the medicine with alcohol or certain narcotics
  • Taking a friend’s or loved one’s prescription medicine for back pain relief or headache
  • Taking a medicine that was not prescribed for you

Sadly, prescription drug abuse is increasing. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs are easier to get and are abused more often. Prescriptions for painkillers (for pain relief), such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, increased dramatically from 40 million in 1991 to 180 million in 2007.

We must be careful with the consumption of prescription drugs and follow the instructions of the health professional. This is especially important for pregnant women. Some medicines can harm the baby and cause birth defects, trigger premature birth, and other health risks. Pregnant women should always consult their healthcare professional before taking medications, even over-the-counter and non-prescription products.

Prescription drug availability

Prescription drugs are for the people who need them. But in many homes, there are medicine cabinets and drawers full of leftover prescription drugs. That allows other family members easy access to potentially harmful medications.

Most alarmingly, some medications are easily available online. Some countries do not require a prescription to order drugs online. That way, anyone can buy medicine with the simple use of a computer.

Health risks

The abuse of prescription drugs can cause numerous health problems, such as physical dependence or addiction to those drugs. Certain prescription drugs can also cause other health problems.

For example, opioid pain relievers are often prescribed to relieve pain resulting from surgery or chronic pain. They include drugs like oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) or hydrocodone (Vicodin). When a woman abuses these pain relievers, she may feel:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Fertility problems
  • Breathing problems, such as slow or stopped breathing

Sedatives or tranquilizers are often prescribed for anxiety, panic attacks, or sleep disorders. They include drugs such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), or lorazepam (Ativan). When the person abuses these drugs, it can cause:

  • Memory problems
  • Irregular body temperature
  • Eat or death

Stimulant drugs are generally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADHD). These include medications such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Adderall). They can also be prescribed for cases of narcolepsy, which is when the brain has trouble controlling when to sleep and when to stay awake. When the person abuses these medications, they may feel:

  • Seizures
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Increased risk of stroke

Prescription drug abuse is especially dangerous during pregnancy. Some of these drugs can affect the blood flow from the mother to the unborn baby. Certain prescription drugs can cause a baby to be born too small or too early, cause birth defects, or have learning and behavior problems.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns letter grades to prescription drugs (A, B, C, D, or X) to indicate which ones are safe for pregnancy. Find out more about letter classification from your healthcare professional or pharmacist.

For example, pain relievers, tranquilizers, and stimulants are typically rated C or D. That means that while some research shows that these drugs can endanger the health of the unborn baby, the health benefits of the pregnant mother may outweigh the risks to the baby. That is why it is important that the woman taking a prescription medicine consult with the health professional and thus decide together what to take during pregnancy.

Symptoms of prescription drug abuse

Unfortunately, it is common for people to become addicted to prescription drugs. These drugs turn on the brain’s gratification center and it becomes difficult for the person to give up the sensations that the drugs temporarily provide. This explains why addicts continue to abuse prescription drugs even though they may be harmful to the body and other parts of their life (relationships, work, etc.).

Some behaviors can be warning signs that you are abusing prescription drugs. Pay attention to these signs:

  • You tell your healthcare professional that you “lost” your medications and always ask for more.
  • You visit various health professionals to get more prescriptions.
  • You steal medications or falsify prescriptions.

Depending on the type of medicine being abused, some physical symptoms indicate that you might have a prescription drug addiction.

Opioid pain relievers You

may have:

  • Depression or confusion
  • Low blood pressure and trouble breathing
  • Constipation

Sedatives and tranquilizers You

may have:

  • Frequent drowsiness
  • Confusion or poor judgment
  • Imbalance or tremors when walking

Stimulants You

may have:

  • Weightloss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) or irregular heartbeat

Ask for help

If you think you are addicted to a prescription drug, ask for help. You may feel embarrassed or humiliated. Remember: It is a common problem. You are not alone. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster the path to recovery will be.

Talk to your healthcare professional

  • Explain all the medications you are taking and how often you take them.
  • Let him know about your symptoms and any recent changes in your life or if you are under stress.
  • Ask him how to manage certain medical problems you have while under treatment for drug addiction.

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