Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise
Prescription drugs are currently the second most commonly abused category of drugs in America, only behind marijuana. While the majority of prescription drugs are taken as prescribed, a recent study showed that 20% of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. While prescription drugs can be very helpful in treating various illnesses and coping with moderate to severe pain, they can also be very addictive, especially when they are used in a manner inconsistent with the way their prescribed. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are prescription painkillers like oxycontin, vicodin, xanax, valium, percocet and codeine.
Common Misconceptions about Prescription Drug Abuse
There are many commonly held misconceptions about the abuse potential of powerful prescription drugs. Because these substances are obtained legally, and have legitimate use in the medical profession, many people are unaware of the highly addictive qualities many of these drugs contain. There are also many misconceptions among young people that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs. Because these powerful prescription drugs are readily available in many households and medicine cabinets around the country, they are easily accessible and are often easier to get then most common illegal street drugs. However, what many teens and young adults don’t realize is that some of these prescription drugs they are misusing are some of the most addictive substances in the world, and can be fatal if taken with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine, or combined with other prescription drugs.
Drugs such as oxycontin, codeine, percocet and vicodin are opiate based drugs, and some of the most powerful and addictive drugs known to man. While these drugs are quite effective in treating pain, they can often be misused and lead to long term drug addiction and dependence. Oxycontin is so addictive that many experts have compared it’s addictive effects to be comparable with the addictive qualities of heroin and morphine.
Dangers of Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription Drug Addiction can produce serious health effects, including long term abuse and physical dependence. Physical dependence takes place when the body has become so used to the influx of the prescription drug in their system, that their body adapts to this influx and can no longer function normally without the drug. Physical drug dependence is often characterized by an increasing tolerance and powerful withdrawal symptoms that could start hours after the last dose was taken.
Opiates, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can produce drowsiness, constipation and depending on the amount taken, can slow down heart rate and depress breathing. Central nervous depressants slow down brain function, and if combined with other medications or alcohol can lead to a dangerous decrease in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. These drugs taken repeatedly or in high doses, can cause anxiety, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, respiratory failure, seizures and fatal overdose.