According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 54 million people age 12 and over have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at least once in their lifetime, and in recent years, misuse of prescription drugs has dramatically increased.
Misuse of prescription drugs can mean taking medication in a higher dose or a different manner than prescribed, using a prescription belonging to someone else, or taking the medication to get high. When taken as the doctor has instructed, prescription drugs can improve the quality of life. When misused, they can be life threatening.
Defining prescription drug addiction
Prescription drugs are classed in three groups.
Opioids are prescribed to treat pain (Fentanyl and Vicodin are examples of opioid medication). These manage pain effectively and often induce a euphoric feeling. Misuse can lead to overdose and/or drug dependency. When taken with substances that depress the nervous system (such as alcohol or Valium), risk of respiratory depression and death increases.
Central Nervous System depressants such as tranquilizers or sedatives are used to treat sleep disorders and anxiety. They target a neurotransmitter in the brain called Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (GABA), which decreases brain activity, resulting in drowsiness. CNS Depressants are also used to treat seizures and as a form of anaesthesia. After taking CNS long term, suddenly stopping can lead to withdrawal seizures or other life threatening consequences. Taking CNS with alcohol can slow down the heart and breathing to dangerous levels.
Stimulants are commonly prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder and narcolepsy (Rital and Adderall are examples of stimulant medication). These increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar; constrict blood vessels; and open the pathways of the respiratory system, giving the body a boost in alertness, attention, energy, and focus. Taking a higher dosage than prescribed can lead to ongoing abuse and high body temperatures. Using stimulants with decongestants can cause irregular heart rhythms.
Chabad Lifeline helps anyone affected by prescription drug addiction, offering one on one support as well as group therapy for both the addict and anyone affected by the user.