Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse relates to the abuser’s consumption of a prescription medication for non-medical purposes or ingesting of an amount of a particular drug that is over and above its recommended dosage. Prescription drug abuse can involve taking drugs not specifically prescribed by a medical professional for the person taking them or independently increasing the dosage of one’s own prescribed medication without authorization from a physician. In both scenarios, the threat of harmful side effects exists, ranging from overdose and addiction to death.
Any prescription medication may be abused, but medical professionals note a common occurrence in abuse of three classes of prescription drugs: opioids, central nervous system depressants and stimulants. Opioids, for pain relief, include include hydrocodone, Vicodin, oxycodone/OxyContin, propoxyphene/Darvon, hydromorphone/Dilaudid, meperidine/Demerol, and diphenoxylate/Lomotil. Central nervous system depressants, which are prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders, include barbiturates such as pentobarbital sodium/Nembutal and benzodiazepines such as diazepam/Valium and alprazolam/Xanax. Stimulants, prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy, include dextroamphetamine/Dexedrine, methylphenidate/Ritalin and Concerta, and amphetamines such as Adderall.
While commonly known by brand names, many prescription drugs also are recognized by street names. Popular references for Oxycontin include “oxy”, “cotton”, and “blue.” Street names for Dexedrine are bennies, uppers and speed. These prescription drugs are sold without accompanying information about dosage and side effects, increasing the risk of abuse and accidental overdose.
Long-term use of opioids or central nervous system depressants can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Opioids can also produce drowsiness, constipation and, depending on amount taken, can depress breathing. Since central nervous system depressants slow down brain function, combining them with alcohol or other medications that cause drowsiness can lead to dangerously slow heart rate and respiration. Use of stimulants in repeated doses—or doses higher than prescribed—can cause anxiety, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, or seizures.
Prescription drug abuse is a fast-growing problem in America, especially among teenagers. A 2009 study revealed that 16 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription drug for non-medical reasons within the last 12 months. Statistics for abuse of Vicodin and OxyContin by high school seniors are also noteworthy, as 8 percent admitted they abused Vicodin and just over 5 percent admitted to abusing OxyContin during the 12 months before the survey.
Addiction specialists at Burning Tree provide treatment for prescription drug abuse in a long-term residential setting. Burning Tree operates two facilities in Texas, outside Dallas and Austin, serving individuals from all 50 states. Admissions representatives are available to answer questions about prescription drug abuse. Contact Burning Tree at 866-287-2877 or visit www.burningtree.com.