What are Addictive Prescription Drugs?
Addictive prescription drugs are medications that are taken to treat medical conditions but can lead to dependence due to their highly addictive nature. Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States, and it is important to be aware of the dangers of these drugs.
Addictive medications include opioids, sedatives, and stimulants. These drugs may be prescribed for anxiety disorders, or in the case of painkillers, to alleviate pain associated with a chronic condition such as cancer.
However, because these medications can produce euphoric effects, people may become dependent on them. They will seek to continue using the drugs, despite their negative consequences. Avenues Recovery, a leading rehab provider, explains more about prescription drug addiction in this post.
How Many People Are Addicted to Prescription Drugs?
According to a NIDA report on drug misuse, about 52 million people in the United States ages 12 and older have abused prescription drugs at least once in their lives. Of these, nearly 20 million people have used prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons, and 5.1 million have used prescription sedatives for non-medical reasons. These astonishing figures don’t include abuse of readily available medication. It isn’t difficult to procure over-the-counter medicine that makes you high, and many of these drugs, for example, cold medicines, can be highly addictive.
What Medicine Can Get You High?
Many medicines can get you high. Opioids, sedatives, and stimulants are among the most highly addictive medications. Opioids such as oxycodone are commonly prescribed to relieve pain following an injury. Sedatives (also known as depressants) such as Xanax are often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Stimulants such as Adderall are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
People who use these drugs for non-medical reasons can become addicted very fast, often without realizing it. Stopping the medication abruptly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms such as seizures or agitation. What’s more, these medications can be dangerous if taken in high doses.
If taking these drugs develops into a dependence or an addiction, detox treatment will often be necessary. Professional drug rehab centers, such as Avenues Recovery, provide a medically overseen drug detox program, designed to wean the patient off the addictive prescription drugs safely. Undergoing drug or alcohol detox alone can be extremely dangerous. Sometimes it can be fatal. It is extremely prudent to identify a drug detox rehab center that will handle the situation with the clinical and medical care it needs.
Addictive Prescription Drugs List
Some prescription drugs have a high dependency potential, thereby leading to addiction. Here’s a list of addictive medications:
- Morphine (Duramorph and Roxanol)
- Codeine (Tylenol with codeine, Empirin with codeine, Robitussin A-C, and Florinal with codeine)
- Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Actiq, and Duragesic) – fentanyl is often administered in the form of transmucosal lozenges, and therefore has adopted the name of “fentanyl lollipops”
- Methadone (Dolophine and Methadose)
Other painkiller opioids (Oxycodone HCL, Meperidine, Oxymorphone, Propoxyphene, Hydrocodone Bitartrate, and Hydromorphone)
- Benzodiazepines (Halcion, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin)
- Barbiturates (Seconal, Nembutal, Phenobarbital, and Amytal)
- Sleep medicines (Zaleplon, Zolpidem, and Eszopiclone)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)
- Amphetamines (Adderall, Biphetamine, and Dexedrine)
How Do People Get Addicted to Prescription Drugs?
Prescriptive drugs are addictive because of how they interact with the brain. They act as neurotransmitters, just like dopamine. Neurotransmitters send signals to the brain by attaching themselves to receptors on surrounding cells. Different categories of drugs work differently on the brain. For instance:
- Opioid pain medicines – this category includes drugs like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and fentanyl (Duragesic). These drugs bind to opioid receptors. The opioid receptors are found on nerve cells in many parts of the body and brain, more so in parts of the brain responsible for perceiving pleasure and pain.
- Sedatives (Depressants) – sedatives like Valium and Xanax help to relieve anxiety symptoms in people suffering from anxiety or panic attacks. They make someone feel relaxed and calm, just as “club drugs” like Rohypnol and GHB do.
- Stimulants – stimulants are mainly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Examples of such drugs include methylphenidates (Concerta and Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall). They work in the same way as cocaine, by causing dopamine and norepinephrine build-up.
These drugs, either directly or indirectly, lead to an increase in dopamine in the brain, creating a pleasurable feeling. Continued use of these drugs with the intent of experiencing pleasure can result in addiction.
Effect of Prescription Drug Abuse on the Body
Prescription drug abuse can cause serious health issues and can even be fatal. These are the effects that some of the most addictive prescription medications can have on a person:
Opioids are mainly used as painkillers (to relieve pain), especially when over-the-counter pain relievers don’t seem to work. Opioids are primarily given to people in severe pain following surgery, disability, or chronic conditions like cancer.
When opioids are misused, they pose serious risks and side effects. For instance:
- Low blood pressure
- Low pulse
- Arrested/slow breath
- Coma, or even
Examples of commonly abused opioids include Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin. The consequences of opioid abuse can be severe.
Sedatives help to relieve sleep disorders, panic attacks, and anxiety. They function by slowing down brain activities, producing a calming and relaxing effect. They can also help reduce inhibitions and make someone have a well-being feeling. Ambien, Valium, and Xanax are the most commonly abused sedatives. Xanax abuse among college males is becoming increasingly common, and it has proven to be a gateway to other, more dangerous drugs.
Since sedatives function by slowing down brain activities, their use (especially if regular) should not be stopped abruptly. Doing so can lead to serious side effects such as:
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed breathing
- Respiratory issues
Stimulants are mainly used to improve alertness, concentration, and focus (temporarily). People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a sleep disorder), or obesity (in some cases) are often prescribed these medications. The most commonly abused stimulants are Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta.
Ritalin and Adderall abuse by college students during exams is especially common. This is because of their ability to help someone feel motivated and enhance concentration and mental focus. Furthermore, these drugs can create exhilaration, and euphoria, and increase mental energy.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse to Look out for
Aside from the symptoms of misuse of specific drugs, individuals who have abused prescription drugs will demonstrate some or all of the following:
Forging or stealing prescriptions
Requesting early refills, or continually "losing" prescriptions to get more
Taking higher doses than prescribed
Trying to get prescriptions from more than one prescriber
Mood swings and depression
Being unusually high, or revved up
Poor decision making
Change of sleeping pattern
Legal View of Addictive Prescriptive Drugs
The legal view of addictive prescription drugs is that they are regulated/controlled substances. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the distribution and use of prescription drugs in the United States.
In order to prescribe a controlled substance, a doctor should be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA is responsible for enforcing federal drug laws, and prescription drug schedules classify them based on their potential for abuse and addiction.
This classification of drugs is considered the most dangerous, with a high potential for abuse. They include heroin, marijuana, lysergic acid diethylamide, peyote, and methaqualone.
These drugs similarly have a high potential for abuse and a high potential for serious psychological or physical dependence. They include cocaine, methadone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, meperidine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and Adderall.
This category of drugs has a moderate to low physical and psychological dependence potential. Examples include anabolic steroids, testosterone, and ketamine.
These drugs are chemicals or substances with low dependence risk and abuse potential. They include Soma, Ativan, Tramadol, Xanax, Darvocet, Darvon, Ambien, and Talwin.
The last category of drugs are chemicals or substances that have a lower abuse potential than other drug schedules. These drugs consist of preparations having restricted amounts of specific narcotics. Schedule V drugs are commonly used as analgesic, antitussive, and antidiarrheal drugs. Examples are Lomotil, Lyrica, Parepectolin, Motofen, and cough preparations containing less than 200 mg codeine per 100 ml (Robitussin AC).
Treatment for Addictive Prescription Drugs Dependence
Because addictive prescription drugs can produce euphoric effects, people who become dependent on them continue using them despite the side effects leading to addiction. Sometimes it takes several months of use before experiencing the positive impact of some of these drugs. This can lead people who start using the drugs for non-medical reasons to “test drive” them to experience their effects quickly. This can lead to dependency and subsequent prescription drug addiction.
Many people have found themselves addicted to prescription drugs, and they may not even know it. Prescription drug addiction is a serious problem in the United States that needs more attention from doctors and policymakers alike. The best way to avoid becoming addicted to prescription drugs is by being aware of your medical history, as well as what you’re taking at any given time. This will help prevent accidental addiction or misuse of medications prescribed for chronic pain, anxiety, or other conditions.
Drug rehab centers are equipped to handle addiction treatment most effectively. If you or a loved one are addicted to prescription drugs, Reach out to Avenues Recovery for professional drug detox and rehab treatment. You’ve already taken the first step on your journey to healing.