It’s an unfortunate truth that prescription drugs can cause some people more harm than good. Consider a patient prescribed pain pills after a recent surgery, for example. He or she will have to take care not to abuse the substance that’s supposed to be helping them recover.
Too many people start taking prescriptions with the best of intentions, only to end up in a rehabilitation center. It’s easy to become dependent on certain prescription drugs, and that dependency can cause dramatic symptoms.
Consider that pharmaceutical companies won’t regret profiting from any addiction to their drugs. In the year 2018 alone, the United States pharmaceutical industry enjoyed $482 billion in revenue. It’s clear that their top priority is their bottom line.
That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself on the types of prescription drugs and their effects. Keep reading to familiarize yourself with the most common ones on the market.
Three Major Types of Prescription Drugs
Considering how large the pharmaceutical industry is, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in its vastness. That’s why so many patients aren’t armed with the knowledge they need to prevent prescription drug addictions.
Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse say that prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in the country. In 2017, for example, it’s estimated that around 18 million people misused medications one way or another. (In that same year, 2 million Americans misused pain relievers for the first time.)
It’s clear that prescription drugs are not always used for medicinal purposes, which is unfortunate. After all, abusing these substances, even though they’re prescribed, can ruin the user’s life. Not to mention the fact that it can harm the people who love them.
In general, there are three major categories of prescription drugs available on the market today. Each category has a different purpose and a different set of common symptoms.
- Opioids. This is, perhaps, the most abused prescription drug type in the country. People use these pills over and over to relieve their pain, but the endless cycle becomes a serious problem in no time.
- Depressants.The name is self-explanatory. These drugs are to treat simple issues like insomnia or anxiety.
- Stimulants.These drugs are converse to depressants and are also known as “uppers”. These are usually prescribed to patients who are having problems with their concentration.
General Signs of Abusing Prescription Drugs
It’s possible that you or a loved one is experiencing the dangers of prescription drug abuse. You might not assume this is a serious matter since the drugs are legal, but you should think again.
The United States National Library of Medicine explains the issue in a simple manner. Any use of medicine that is at all different from the exact way your doctor prescribed it is called prescription drug abuse. Following those instructions is one way to prevent dependency on the substance.
To be more specific, recognize that taking just one extra pill than recommended is considered an abuse of the drug. Recognize that such a decision starts you on a slippery slope. Who knows where you’ll end up if you don’t follow the appropriate dosage?
Other associated behaviors include poor decision making and random mood swings. Your sleeping pattern might be disrupted or different than it used to be. Overall, you might be feeling lethargic, as if your brain isn’t functioning as well anymore.
On top of that, prescription drug abusers often try to hunt around for a different doctor to prescribe them more of their poison. In more serious cases, patients will lie about losing their medication or even steal it from others around them. Plus, it’s possible to find prescription drugs of your choice on the black market – which is a huge red flag indicating addiction.
If you’re exhibiting any of the above signs, it might be time for you to consider checking into a rehabilitation program. Detoxing from drugs is not something to try and tackle on your own. It’s a difficult (and often painful) process that is best assisted with medical professionals.
Depressants Such As Benzodiazepines (Benzos)
As mentioned above, depressants are one of the main categories of prescription drugs abused. Within that category, take special note of benzos. The recognizable names for the most common benzos include Valium, Ativan, and Xanax.
These pills cause a euphoric feeling that helps many patients get to sleep better upon first use. Over time, if abuse develops, symptoms occur that should stand out to the user as signs of a problem.
Symptoms of addiction to Benzos include drowsiness, impaired coordination, slower breathing than normal, or dizziness upon standing. Benzos abuse can also cause slurred speech, trouble with concentration, or significant lapses in memory. Remember that these side effects are particularly risky when Benzos are combined with alcohol.
Other Sleep Medications
In addition to Benzos, other depressants cause similar negative side effects with abuse. These are less extreme sleeping medications, but they’re still serious. Don’t underestimate the dangers of medications if you’re going to misuse the dosage.
These otherwise harmless sleeping pills include Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata. If you’re prescribed these for insomnia, make sure you don’t take the pills for any other reason. Using them for recreation is abusing their original intent and can land you in a rehabilitation facility before you know it.
Stimulants: Amphetamines (Adderall) and Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
Speaking of recreational use, it’s common for drug abusers to look to stimulants to give them a slight “boost” throughout their day. While these drugs may fool you into thinking they’ll only make you more productive, don’t underestimate them.
If you don’t have a prescription for Adderall or Ritalin, don’t take one of the pills – even if you’re offered. These pills are often transferred around universities, or even high schools, during final exam periods. They’re known as “study drugs,” but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. This type of use has also found it way into corporate America.
Signs of abusing stimulants include anxiety, hallucinations, aggressiveness, paranoia, or significant insomnia. You might also notice reduced appetite, high blood pressure, or higher body temperature. Take note if you start to notice any of these symptoms while on these substances.
Morphine for Pain Relief
Many patients in hospitals rely on pain-relieving prescriptions for obvious reasons. Going through surgery, as one example, is a very taxing experience. It’s understandable to rely on substances such as morphine to ease the transition back to the patient’s day-to-day.
Still, using morphine for pain relief is often the beginning of yet another battle. At some point, after all, you’ll need to transition yourself off of morphine. Natural pain management, though, is worth your effort and energy to avoid addiction to the drug.
Patients who are allowed to make morphine dosages in their own homes often have a tough time transitioning away from the substance. The thing is, the longer the use of morphine, the harder it is to let go.
Addiction to morphine can cause drowsiness, nausea, muscle weakness, or general confusion. Plus, when combined with alcohol, those symptoms become catalyzed, which is very dangerous.
If you’re prescribed morphine, have a natural pain management plan prepared. Transition away from any pain-relieving prescriptions as soon as you can. That way, you can prevent the serious side effects of potential addiction and associated withdrawal.
The Dangers of Fentanyl
One particular pain reliever to recognize is Fentanyl – for good reason. In the year 2017, it was the most widely used synthetic opioid in the entire world. In other words, it won’t be a surprise if you’re prescribed this drug for your own pain at some point.
Remember, though, that Fentanyl is anywhere from 80 to 100 more potent than morphine itself. For that reason, you can consider the side effects to be that much more dangerous, too. If you find yourself addicted to any pain medications, it’s time to seek professional help.
Seek Help for Addiction to Any Prescription Drugs
By now, you should have a working knowledge of the most common types of prescription drugs. If you are experiencing negative effects from these substances, you should seek professional help.
After all, the longer a substance addiction lasts, the worse the effects will be. Long-term withdrawals can be excruciating, which is why it’s so important to take care of drug abuse issues sooner rather than later.
Don’t let the fear of feeling like a failure hold you back from seeking proper medical help. In fact, seeking professional assistance when it comes to substance abuse is a sign of maturity and personal accountability.
If you’ve been considering whether or not to as about drug rehabilitation for yourself or someone you care about, don’t wait any longer. Acceptance Recovery Center is here to help you make the most of the rest Our experienced staff is available to assist you every step of the way through your rehabilitation program. Start investing in your health and your future today.
Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County.