Prescription drug abuse can be defined as the use of a prescription medication in a way that differs from what a physician prescribed. Even when a person begins taking a prescription drug in the correct manner, it’s not difficult to slip into the habits that may lead to prescription drug abuse. Taking a medication more frequently than prescribed or taking a larger dose are two common ways that people abuse prescription medications. In some cases, people may even take a medication that was prescribed for someone else. Drugs often cause side effects, and these effects can result in dangerous complications when a medication is taken in higher doses. Engaging in prescription drug abuse can cause serious physical consequences and even death.
Prescription drug abuse can involve many different types of medications, but opioid painkillers are some of the most widely-abused medications in the United States. These medications, which include OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and morphine, can provide effective pain relief; however, they also have a great potential for abuse. In many cases, the drugs are even diverted to others for illicit use. According to a recent study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 55 percent of people who abused opioid painkillers got them from a family member or friend. As an addiction to opioids develops, the drug abuser requires more and more of the medication to experience the desired effects, and the risk of overdose increases. The SAMHSA study also indicated that an estimated 17,000 opioid-related deaths occur each year.
In addition to these powerful painkillers, other prescription medications also have the potential for abuse. Anti-anxiety medications, including Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin, are easy to misuse. A person with a prescription for one of these drugs may try taking an extra pill on an especially bad day, or they may borrow a few pills from a loved one. Stimulant medications typically prescribed to manage ADHD are often abused by people who take the drugs for the wrong purpose. Abusers of ADHD drugs tend to use the stimulants to stay awake for long periods of time or improve their study performance.
All areas of the United States have been affected by prescription drug addiction, and the Boston region is certainly no exception. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker deemed the problem a “public health emergency” in a recent address; he has formed a special task force in response to the growing drug epidemic in the state. The task force will focus on heroin and prescription painkiller addiction, which are the most widespread drug problems in Massachusetts. The state is also attempting to battle the its prescription drug problem with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which gathers prescribing information on various controlled substances and looks for signs of drug epidemics.
Prescription drug addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition, but it can be conquered with the right treatment plan. The process of detoxification is the first step on the road to recovery. During this stage, the patient is allowed to stop using the drug in a safe and controlled manner. Certain medications can be administered to curb cravings for the drug and ease the discomforts of withdrawal.
After the withdrawal process is complete, patients can move on to the rehabilitation stage of treatment. Rehab usually includes some combination of psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy; treatment medications provided during detox may be continued during this stage. In therapy, patients develop coping techniques to manage the triggers and temptations they’re likely to face after leaving the treatment center.
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