Prescription drug abuse is rapidly growing at an alarming rate throughout the United States. Prescription drug abusers are not limited to street addicts. Abuse crosses demographic lines and affects all ages because sources of medications are diverse and difficult to control. Drugs are easily attained through a physician – or multiple physicians simultaneously – as there is no statewide tracking mechanism. Often, medications are prescribed for legitimate reasons but are later diverted to abusers.
There are three main classes of prescription drugs that typically lead to abuse:
-Opioids, such as Codeine, Oxycodone and Morphine – prescribed to treat pain.
-Central nervous system depressants, such as Benzodiazepines, Hypnotics and Barbiturates – used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
-Stimulants, such as Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) and Methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta) – used to treat narcolepsy, ADHD and obesity.
Signs of prescription drug addiction may include, but are not limited to, being in possession of prescription bottles from more than one doctor or from numerous pharmacies, seeking prescriptions from other doctors after their primary physician has refused, pills in plastic bags and mixing medications with other prescription medications or alcohol to increase the effect.
The most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States are pain killers and anti-anxiety medications. These are among the most widely abused prescription drugs. Detox from pain medications is done using alternative medications, and is not considered life threatening. Anxiety medication detox, however, can be life threatening, especially when these medications have been used with alcohol.
It is for these reasons that it is important to medically monitor our detox patients, in addition to providing the appropriate treatment.