What Are Prescription Drugs?
Prescription drugs are medications that doctors prescribe to individuals.
Many doctors prescribe patients prescription drugs to help them manage
pain related to a medical condition or following a medical procedure.
Many of these prescriptions are opioids.
Due to the increasingly high levels of opioid prescription drug abuse,
the U.S. is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic. However, these
are not the only types of prescription medications that are misused or
abused by patients. Other types of prescription drugs that people often
misuse include those that treat everything from anxiety to sleep issues
to ADHD and more.
Classes of Prescription Drugs
There are a handful of major classes of prescription drugs, including:
Opioids/Opiates: Opioids are commonly prescribed to treat severe pain. These medications
work by blocking pain and releasing dopamine in the brain. Unfortunately,
opioids also produce a euphoric effect that, coupled with the ways in
which these drugs alter brain chemistry, can be extremely addicting. Over
time, continued opioid use can lead to increased tolerance, dependency,
and addiction. Examples of common prescription opioids include Vicodin,
Percocet, and Oxycontin.
Heroin is a common non-prescription, illegal
Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and
insomnia, as well as seizures, due to their calming, sedative effect.
Like other powerful medications, benzodiazepines can be highly addictive.
Over time, a person who misuses or abuses benzos can develop a dependency
on the drug. This can quickly lead the way to addiction. Common types
of benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, and Ambien.
Barbiturates: Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotic drugs. Doctors prescribe barbiturates
to treat everything from seizures to neonatal withdrawal to insomnia and
preoperative anxiety. Barbiturates can also be used to induce people into
comas or anesthesia. Many people engage in prescription drug abuse of
barbiturates because they want to feel the substance’s mildly euphoric
effects. Individuals may use barbiturates to induce sleep, reduce anxiety,
decrease inhibitions, and treat negative illicit drug effects. Unfortunately,
this can lead to increased tolerance, dependency, and addiction. Mixing
barbiturates with other substances, such as
alcohol or heroin, is particularly dangerous and can lead to fatal overdose.
Stimulants: Stimulants are prescription medications that cause the body to feel energized
and awake while also increasing levels of dopamine in the brain. Many
people that misuse stimulants do so to either increase their performance
and productivity in school/work or to experience stimulants’ euphoric
effects. Common prescription drug forms of stimulants include Ritalin,
Adderall, and Concerta. Common illegal drug forms of stimulants include
cocaine and methamphetamine.
Common Causes of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse can occur for a number of reasons. Many people
abuse prescription drugs because they do not follow their doctors’
guidelines when taking their prescriptions. For example, they choose to
take more pills a day of their prescription than they’re supposed
to, or they choose to take their prescription for a longer period of time
Other people start abusing prescription drugs just to get high. Oftentimes,
people with mental illnesses will start abusing prescription drugs to
cope with the symptoms of their condition.
Signs & Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse
There are several classic signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse.
These signs can vary depending on the medication that a person is using,
as well as how the medication affects the individual.
Some signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse include:
- Slowed mobility and diminished motor control
- Chronic drowsiness
- Inability to concentrate
- Mood swings
- Difficulty functioning at work or school
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Financial issues
- Risky behavior
- Withdrawal from society
- Unwillingness to handle personal responsibilities
Detoxing from Prescription Drugs
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of ridding the body of substances.
Because of their addictive nature, prescription drugs can produce severe
withdrawal symptoms during detox. As a result, it’s imperative that
individuals who detox from prescription drugs do so at a medical detox
facility. This is especially true for individuals who are detoxing from opioids.
Individuals who experience severe withdrawal symptoms in a medical detox
facility can receive prescription medications to help them manage those
symptoms. This is known as medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.
Common Prescription Painkiller Withdrawal Symptoms
The most common form of prescription drugs is painkillers, such as opioids.
Common painkiller prescription drug withdrawal symptoms include:
- Respiration issues
- Blood circulation issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body convulsions
- Muscle tremors in arms and legs
- Severe stomach cramping
- Loss of motor control
Prescription Drug Addiction Treatments
Once an individual completes medical detox, they must attend prescription
drug addiction treatment. Prescription drug addiction treatment programs
can be inpatient, meaning the individual lives at the facility, or outpatient,
meaning the individual attends numerous treatments at a facility each
week and returns home at the end of the day.
Inpatient Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse
Inpatient treatment is addiction treatment that requires patients to live
in rehab facilities while receiving care. Inpatient addiction treatment
is typically appropriate for people with severe addictions, as it offers
a high level of 24-hour treatment and care.
There are two forms of inpatient treatment that individuals who struggle
with prescription drug abuse can attend:
- Standard inpatient treatment
- Residential inpatient treatment
While both standard inpatient treatment and residential treatment require
their patients to live in rehab facilities while receiving 24/7 care,
there is a difference between the two. This difference is the fact that
standard inpatient treatment is much more structured than residential
treatment. Therefore, individuals who attend residential treatment for
prescription drug abuse will have more free time to themselves and more
time to try out holistic forms of addiction treatment than individuals
in standard inpatient treatment programs.
Outpatient Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse
Individuals who don’t necessarily suffer from severe prescription
drug addictions and/or individuals who have too many outside responsibilities
to be able to live in a rehab facility while receiving care can attend
outpatient treatment. This is because outpatient forms of rehab allow
individuals to live at home when not receiving care.
There are three different forms of outpatient treatment that people who
struggle with prescription drug abuse can attend:
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs): The most intensive form of outpatient treatment—and likely the best
form of outpatient treatment for a person who struggles with highly addictive
substance abuse, such as most prescription drugs—is
partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). Partial hospitalization programs require patients to attend rehab for
five to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week. Because PHPs requires
individuals to attend rehab essentially all day, another name for this
type of outpatient treatment is “day treatment.”
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs): The second most intensive form of outpatient treatment is
intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). IOPs require patients to attend rehab for a few hours a day, a few days
a week. IOPs are typically best suited for those with moderate addictions,
including moderate prescription drug addictions, who have the necessary
resources and support at home to succeed in a less-intensive outpatient program
Standard Outpatient Drug Programs (OPs): The standard form of outpatient treatment, or
standard outpatient programs (OPs), only require patients to attend rehab for a couple of hours a day, once
or twice a week. This is because outpatient program treatment is for individuals
that suffer from mild to moderate level addictions. This is only an appropriate
option for those with relatively mild addiction or abuse issues, or those
who have completed more intensive forms of rehab.