There is no question that prescription drugs offer lifesaving relief to patients struggling with pain, psychological disorders, and other medical conditions. But despite the benefits that prescription drugs bring, there can also be a dark side to these substances.
Prescription drug abuse is when individuals use prescription drugs recreationally or at a different quantity or frequency than prescribed by their doctor. This can lead to dependence and addiction, dangerous health outcomes, changes to the brain, and even an overdose. Read on to learn more about the dangers of commonly misused prescription drugs.
The Prevalence of Misuse of Prescription Drugs
The misuse of prescription drugs is only continuing to rise in popularity in the United States, largely due to the accessibility of prescription drugs over harder-to-obtain illegal substances. This is especially the case during the stress and isolation of the coronavirus pandemic. To put this issue into perspective, here are a few statistics that illustrate the dangers and prevalence of prescription drug abuse in recent years:
- One survey found that 13.3% of respondents started or increased substance abuse during the pandemic, with an 18% increase in overdoses.
- In 2019, an average of 38 people died every day from prescription opioid overdoses.
- Besides marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for the most commonly abused drugs.
What Are The Most Commonly Mis-Used Prescription Drugs?
While just about any prescription drug can be misused and mishandled, three distinct categories of drugs cover most prescription drug addictions. These groups include opioids, stimulants, and central nervous system depressants, all of which can become addictive and dangerous substances over time.
Let’s explore the characteristics and dangers of these drugs in greater detail:
#1: Central Nervous System Depressants
Central nervous system depressants are meant to calm and stabilize the body’s central nervous system by increasing the brain’s level of GABA. This causes users to feel more relaxed, tired, and calm, making them optimal for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. In general, the misuse or mixing of depressants with other medications can lead to substance addiction and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the most common drugs within the central nervous system category include:
- Benzodiazepines: These drugs are primarily used for anxiety and panic disorders, which include Valium and Xanax.
- Non-benzodiazepine sleeping medications: As the name suggests, this drug category is used to treat sleep-related disorders and insomnia. A few of these drugs include Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.
- Barbiturates: Barbiturates are a more intense and addictive form of depressant drug, more commonly used for seizure control. This includes amytal, seconal, and luminal.
Opioids are a drug that slows down the body and helps with pain relief and pain management. Physicians often prescribe opioids to patients after surgery, and those who struggle with chronic pain provide both physical pain relief and psychological relaxation. Opioids vary significantly in intensity, with fentanyl and morphine used for severe pain and codeine used for milder relief.
Since opioids play a role in an individual’s breathing, they are some of the deadliest drugs to misuse, especially when pairing them with a central nervous system depressant. Overusing opioids can easily lead to breathing problems, overdose, and even death. In the state of Arizona specifically, there were 1,106 opioid-related deaths reported in 2018.
Some of the most common drugs within the stimulants category include:
Unlike depressants and opioids, stimulant drugs “rev” up the body and increase the heart rate, blood pressure, activity, and energy levels in the brain and body. Stimulants help individuals with ADHD, narcolepsy, and other conditions stay focused and alert. Many individuals misuse stimulants recreationally in party settings in conjunction with alcohol.
When someone misuses stimulants, they run the risk of a variety of psychological and health concerns. This includes dependence on the drug, heart conditions, paranoia, and depression. Some of the most common drugs within the stimulants category include:
Drug Abuse Treatment Is Possible With Desert Cove Recovery
Nobody should have to deal with drug abuse alone. If you or your loved one suffers from prescription drug abuse, partnering with trusted professionals is the best step to take for a successful recovery. Not only can detoxing be scary and uncomfortable alone, but it also can be dangerous without proper medical supervision.
Individuals looking for a safe and supportive rehab facility should look no further than to Desert Cove Recovery. We can handle clients with prescription drug abuse concerns with comprehensive outpatient addiction treatment programs and services available. To learn more about the best-fit recovery plan for your needs, contact a member of our team today.
Sources: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/03/substance-use-pandemic  https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing/overdose-death-maps.html  https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/rxreportfinalprint.pdf  https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/arizona-opioid-involved-deaths-related-harms