Did you know that prescription medications are responsible for more overdose deaths in the United States than all other drug overdoses combined? That statistic takes into account both prescribed and illicit drugs. If that figure startles you, you are not alone. Most people have no idea of the dangers of prescription medication. The potential for abuse, addiction and even death from pharmacy derived drugs is at an all-time high due to a number of contributing factors, many of which have simply not been revealed to most. If you or someone you love is showing signs of prescription drug abuse, the evidence in this article may save a life.
The most dangerous prescription medications generally fall into 2 major categories: pain and anti-anxiety medications. There is an altered societal perception of prescription drugs versus their illicit counterparts. But take this into consideration: most prescription drugs essentially work the same as illicit drugs. For instance, opioids, like OxyContin, target the same receptors as heroin, producing very similar effects when taken in improper doses. Many medical experts agree that prescription pain medications are in fact the gateway drug for heroin. Also, ADHD medications, like Adderall and Ritalin, stimulate the brain in the same way cocaine does.
So how do so many fall victim to prescription medication addiction? Doctors have become more likely in recent decades to prescribe pain and anxiety medications to people seeking solace from their physical and emotional ailments. In 2013, 207 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain medication alone. There is a notion of safety associated with doctor-prescribed medication that, when coupled with the fact that the prescription is administered by a well-meaning physician, leads to a false sense of safety for the end user.
The reality is, pain medications are among the most highly addictive substances on the market, both of the legal an illicit variety. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an organization that tracks statistical data on drug and alcohol use in America, estimates that prescription drugs are the 3rd most commonly abused drugs in America, behind marijuana and alcohol. The most recent statistical data (2013) shows that over 22,000 overdose deaths happened as a result of misusing prescription drugs. The major contributing factor in most cases was due to mixing prescription medication with other drugs and/or alcohol; a highly lethal combination causing accidental overdose.
Many of us don’t realize that while we believe we are visiting a doctor for a “quick fix”, we may actually be triggering a dormant addiction. A large number of these victims may have unaddressed physical and emotional disorders too that can predicate addictive behaviors. These include abuse, self-esteem problems, anxiety and depression. Coupled with the “that won’t happen to me” mentality, and the fact that pain and anxiety medications are physically and emotionally addictive, it is easy to see how anyone has the potential fall victim to prescription drug abuse by following a physician’s advice. Furthermore, many people don’t even recognize they have a problem until it’s too late, as addictive behaviors typically manifest over time, modestly escalating, blurring the distinction between management and abuse.
There is also a stigma about addiction in our culture: that it affects only those who choose to use drugs and alcohol to suppress physical and emotional issues, as opposed to those who are prescribed them. Another presumption is that addiction largely affects those in certain socio-economical classes: the poor, uneducated or young. But upon closer scrutiny, the prescription addiction epidemic has appeared to target a much different group. The NIDA estimated that in 2013, the most overdose deaths from prescription medications was overwhelmingly those between the ages of 45-54, which was 3 times higher than that for those between the ages of 15-24.
How can you determine if you or a loved one may have a prescription addiction problem? If you are noticing any of these behaviors, they are already demonstrating harmful patterns:
- Taking more medication that what is prescribed.
- Taking medication for reasons other than what it is intended for.
- Using someone else’s prescription medication.
As with most all drug and alcohol addictions, prescription pain and anti-anxiety medication abuse should be treated professionally as it is both physically and mentally crippling. Take the first step toward recovery immediately by contacting an accredited treatment facility, monitored by the care of trained addiction professionals. No one has to become a statistic of prescription medication addiction if you take the step today by choosing the path toward recovery.