“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America,” according to Gil Kerlikowske, former Director of National Drug Control Policy. When used properly, prescription drugs save lives and bring vitally needed relief from illness. But when abused it can lead to prescription drug addiction and the consequences can be devastating – even fatal.
Prescription drugs are abused whenever they are taken in a manner not intended by the prescribing doctor. Methods of abuse include taking drugs in a greater quantity than directed or snorting crushed pills in an effort to get an enhanced effect. They are being abused whenever they are taken by anyone other than the patient. Unfortunately, a 2014 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that approximately 15 million people aged 12 or older used prescription drugs non-medically in the previous year.
Many drugs can lead to prescription drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the three classes of prescription drugs that are most often are opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants.
Opioids are used to treat intense pain that cannot be relieved through any other means. In addition to pain relief, they can produce feelings of well-being and euphoria. Examples of opioid pain relievers include drugs that contain active ingredients such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Brand names include:
According to NIDA “more than 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. The terrible consequences of this trend include overdose deaths, which have more than quadrupled in the past decade and a half.”
Signs of prescription drug addiction vary between classes of drugs. Signs of opioid abuse include:
- Feeling high (euphoria)
- Slowed breathing rate
- Poor coordination
- Increased pain with higher doses