An Analysis of Prescription Drugs

An Analysis of Prescription Drugs

Painkillers, especially synthetic opioids, are highly addictive when taken in a way other than prescribed

Prescription drug misuse is at epidemic levels in the United States. Pain relievers contribute to the majority of substance abuse, but other prescription drugs like Xanax lead to serious problems as well.

In fact the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that prescription drug misuse falls second only to marijuana use in the number of people affected. Survey results for 2012 show that of the 2.9 million people who used a drug illicitly (to get high or in a way other than prescribed) for the first time, 26% used prescription drugs. Marijuana was the most common drug used for the first time with 66% using it.

In 2012 more than one in four started using a prescription drug non-medically. Of the 26% who began illicit drug use, 17% began with pain relievers, 4.1% with tranquilizers, 3.6% with stimulants and 1.3% with sedatives

There are three main types of drugs that see the majority of abuse according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). These drugs provide pain relief, depress the central nervous system (CNS) or stimulate the CNS:

  • Opioids – used to treat pain
  • CNS depressants (barbiturates (tranquilizers) and benzodiazepines (sedatives)) – used to treat anxiety or sleep problems
  • Stimulants – used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the sleep disorder narcolepsy or obesity

Many of these drugs are highly regulated to reduce the incidence of doctor shopping and other forms of abuse.

Pain Relievers: Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drug Type

Painkillers, especially synthetic opioids, are highly addictive when taken in a way other than prescribed. One of the most addictive prescription drugs is the opioid class. This category includes drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine, fentanyl and codeine according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Opioids relieve pain by simulating the body’s own pain-relieving chemicals and attaching to brain receptors to block the feeling of pain.

When a person misuses opioids, the brain begins to rely on the sensations caused by the drug. Opioids flood the brain with chemicals that produce feelings of euphoria and intense pleasure. The intense feelings cause changes in the brain prompting a person to actively search for pain relievers and dramatically alter his life to take more and more of the drug.

When abused these drugs are taken in a variety of ways including by mouth, through injections or by snorting. Pain relievers also can slow a person’s respiration dramatically often leading to unintentional overdose. The drugs are extremely dangerous when combined with alcohol.

Sedatives and Tranquilizers: Central Nervous System Depressants

More commonly known as sedatives, benzodiazepines treat anxiety and sleep disorders according to the NIDA. Diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), for example, treat anxiety, acute stress reactions and panic attacks. Benzodiazepines used to treat sleep disorders include triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom). Other drugs used to treat sleep disorders are similar to benzodiazepines and include zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zalepon (Sonata).

Barbiturates, or tranquilizers, are used less often because they have a higher risk of overdose. They include mephobarbital (Mebaral), phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), which treat anxiety or sleep problems.

Sedatives and tranquilizers are especially dangerous when combined with alcohol because the two substances are intensified according to the NIDA. When benzodiazepines are abused, users experience lowered anxiety, feelings of happiness and lower inhibitions. Barbiturate abuse can lead to unusual excitement and euphoria. These drug types may be injected, swallowed or snorted. When used for long periods, these drugs cause serious withdrawals symptoms and seizures when users stop using them.

Stimulants and the Central Nervous System

Stimulants include drugs like Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine. These drugs are prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy and some forms of depression. They work by enhancing mental alertness, attention span and energy levels.

Stimulants affect the brain by enhancing norepinephrine and dopamine levels according to NCADD. When misused the drugs lead to a feeling of euphoria. They also may be injected, swallowed or snorted. Stimulants increase blood pressure and heart rate, constrict blood vessels and open up respiratory pathways.

Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment for Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drug addictions are very treatable and respond well to evidence-based therapies such as behavioral counseling. Although some people believe it’s safe to take prescription drugs because a doctor can prescribe them or because they are legal, prescription medications like Xanax are dangerous when misused.

If you or a loved one is having trouble dealing with an addiction to pain relievers, sedatives, tranquilizers or stimulants, we can help. The first step is being ready to get well. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at our toll-free helpline to provide options. Don’t wait to find the help you need. Call us today, and get started on a more fulfilling, productive life.

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If you are ready to beat a Xanax addiction and start a new life in recovery then we can help. We have admission counselors standing by 24 hours a day to take your email, live chat request, or phone call to get you in the addiction treatment center that best fits your unique & specific needs.