How Safe Are Prescription Drugs?

Many people think that recreational use of prescription drugs are safe, after all they were prescribed by a doctor. But taking prescription drugs to self medicate or to get high is very dangerous and they can be just as addictive as illegal substances.

For most people, taking the first prescription drug is voluntary, prescribed by a doctor for pain or treatment of some disease. It could also start as an experiment; but over a period of time, they begin to enjoy the changes and effects of these drugs and start to take more of the drug than is necessary.  Changes in the brain caused by the repeated use and abuse of these drugs affect the individual’s self control and ability to make reasonable decisions, even then; the person continues to experience the urge to take more drugs.

The number of people addicted to prescription drugs currently exceeds those struggling with illegal substance abuse, around 65% of patients at UK addiction treatment centers (UKAT) struggle with problems of addiction, from alcohol to common painkillers such as codeine and valium.

“Many people lack awareness about the addictive properties of these drugs. The fact they are cheap and legal makes addictive behaviours difficult to identify”. says Leslie a Clinincal Psychologist from www.drlesliezebel.com. “Doctors need to make people aware of the highly addictive nature of prescription drugs and explain the risks of using them”.

The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction based in Lisbon expressed concerns over the high rate of deaths related to drug overdose in 2016, for the third year running.

There are 3 classes of prescription drugs people are most susceptible to abuse, they are:

  • Stimulants: such as methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine & amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These are most commonly given to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sleep disorder.
  • Opiates: such as Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, Darvocet and Demerol. These are to treat severe or chronic pain especially for people recovering from surgery or serious injury.
  • Tranquilizers / sedatives: such as alprazolam like Xanax and diazepam such as Valium, and hypnotics, such as zolpidem used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders.

The signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the drug being taken and its chemical composition, but some of the most commonly noticed symptoms are:

Stimulant Abuse & Addiction

Symptoms of the abuse of prescription stimulants drugs may include:

  • Extreme agitation or irritability
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated body temperatures
  • Seizures
  • Cardiovascular failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Hostility
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Unexplained weight loss

Opiate Addiction

As explained earlier, Opiate drugs are painkillers prescribed for those in serious pain after surgery or serious injury, while others use them either for medical or psychiatric relief. Common symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Rapid decrease in blood pressure
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Constipation
  • Digestive irregularities
  • Shortness of breath

When a user attempts to stop using the drugs, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are a sign of serious medical complications and should be taken very seriously:

  • Sharp bone and muscle pains
  • Cold flashes
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest

Sedative or Tranquilizer Addiction

An individual abusing tranquilizers or sedatives may not be conscious of how it affects their appearance or behaviour. The most common symptoms of sedative abuse are:

  • Drowsy or Intoxicated appearance
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady movements and/or mannerisms
  • Involuntary gestures, movements or tics
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • Poor judgment and decision-making
  • Memory lapses

An addiction to other drugs or alcohol is also possible with prescription drug abuse. Many people have been found to mix alcohol with prescription drugs to get a higher feeling of euphoria. The risk of overdose in this cocktail is extremely high.

The rate at which prescription drug abuse is increasing is also aided by the number of online pharmacies. They make it easier to get a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. No individual takes prescription drugs with the intention of getting addicted. They take it to reduce pain or resolve a medical need, but in an attempt to reduce the pain further, they begin taking even more; because of this, the body builds a tolerance to the drug and so the individual end up taking even more to produce the desired effect and so gets addicted. Even those that are taking the drugs for the effect rather than for medical reasons rarely realise they are at such risk of addiction. They end up taking the drugs just to feel ‘normal’.

Many people try to reduce or totally stop their dependence on prescription drugs only to discover that they cannot function properly without it. Going cold turkey can result in serious complications, like seizures and convulsions. They get physically sick and suffer from withdrawal and psychological trauma. This is a difficult process to handle alone which is why many need the help of a professional.

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