Prescription drug abuse is one of the biggest health challenges that the world is facing today. This article intends to create an awareness about the abuse of prescription drugs, along with the symptoms and treatment of this addiction.
The term ‘prescription drug abuse’ refers to the use of prescription drugs and medication, without any medical reason. It also includes taking the drug not in a way in which it was prescribed. This means taking it in larger doses or continuing the use of drug beyond the duration for which it was prescribed. Some of the drugs are habit-forming, and their use can lead to an addiction. This can have an adverse effect on the mental, as well as the physical health of the user. An overdose can even be life-threatening in some cases.
The symptoms vary according to the drug. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include Ritalin/Methylphenidate, which acts like a stimulant, tranquilizers such as Ativan and Valium and opiates/opioid painkillers.
Unintentional weight loss, high blood pressure, inability to sleep or insomnia, and irregularity in heartbeats are some of the common symptoms of stimulants. Those who abuse stimulants that are used to treat sleep-related ailments and mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are likely to experience these symptoms.
When consumed without a doctor’s advice, tranquilizers could lead to symptoms such as abnormality in movement or walking, loss of control over the movements of eye balls, excessive urge to sleep for longer duration, lack of judgment, and state of confusion. Ativan (or lorazepam) and diazepam are most commonly-abused tranquilizers.
Reduction in the rate of respiration, constipation, state of feeling melancholy, and low blood pressure are the most common signs to be spotted in case of opioid abuse.
Apart from the above, there are other behavioral symptoms such as taking prescriptions from multiple physicians, forging prescriptions, trying to get prescriptions frequently, sudden mood swings, and consuming the drug in larger doses. Apart from these, a person remains in a confused state, and finds it difficult to make decisions. It is essential to consult the doctor before the severity of abuse increases, so as to avoid any further complications.
In the 19th century, the sale of drugs like laudanum and morphine, were uncontrolled by the government. These used to be prescribed by doctors amply, since they were unaware about the addictive ingredients present in them. Many affected people had to be treated during that era for cocaine addiction, which used to be administered during anesthesia.
Statistics, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, show that more than 200,000 people in the US were affected by prescription drug abuse in the 20th century, due to the fact that morphine was being prescribed to the soldiers for pain relief. Once the civil war ended, a significant number of people fell prey to the addiction of the drugs like morphine, cocaine, and heroin.
The treatment can be categorized into pharmacological and behavioral treatment. Behavioral treatment includes counseling a patient to quit drug abuse, educating the patient on how to manage the urge for drug abuse, and the steps that need to be followed in case of relapse. This counseling can be through cognitive therapy, individual counseling, and family or group counseling.
Detoxification is an integral part of the treatment. It is performed in the initial phase. The objective of detoxification is to reduce the withdrawal symptoms during drug-free phase. Pharmacological treatment for prescription drugs include administering medications to combat withdrawal symptoms, and to alleviate effects on cognition or thinking. Medication can also be effective to treat drug overdose and reduce craving for prescription drug.
Research has shown that both behavioral and pharmacological treatment combined together works well, especially in case of opioid abuse, which gives rise to side effects such as damage to nervous system. Whereas, in other cases, any one category of the treatment can help the person deal with the prescription drug addiction. Methadone is one of the drugs that is used commonly in drug rehab centers. Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine are usually suggested in cases of opioid addiction.
Methadone, a synthetic opioid alleviates withdrawal symptoms and craving, and blocks the effects. However, when consumed without doctor’s advice for a long time, the symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may be observed on the discontinuation of the drug suddenly. Naltrexone is administered in case of drug overdose. Buprenorphine gives long-lasting effects while treating prescription drug addiction, and the possibility of respiratory failure is less in case of Buprenorphine, as compared to other medications.
It is important to remember that one should consume prescription drugs only after proper consultation with the concerned doctor. Furthermore, they should be taken as per the dose and duration recommended by the doctor to avoid adverse effects.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.