Prescription Drug Abuse

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Do You Have a Drug Problem?

I Can’t Give Up this Drug…
This inability to stop using the drug is a characteristic of addiction. Although most people would stop using a drug if they knew it had destructive consequences, an addicted person cannot. After prolonged use of an addictive substance, the brain virtually becomes “re-wired.” Accordingly, addicts are not simply weak-willed; they have differences in the way their brain reacts to drugs than do most people. Once started, they often cannot stop without help.

Common Symptoms of Addiction:

  • Relief from anxiety
  • Changes in mood—from a sense of well being to belligerence
  • False feelings of self-confidence
  • Increased sensitivity to sights and sounds, including hallucinations
  • Altered activity levels—such as sleeping for 12-14 hours or frenzied activity lasting for hours
  • Unpleasant or painful symptoms when substance is withdrawn
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Risks for Addiction
Who is at risk for addiction? The risk for addiction is greatest among women, the elderly, and adolescents.

The following are also considered risk factors for addiction:

  • Medical condition that requires pain medication
  • Family history of addiction
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Fatigue or overwork
  • Poverty
  • Depression, dependency, or poor self-concept, obesity

Women are two to three times more likely to be prescribed drugs such as sedatives; they are about two times more likely to become addicted. Seniors take more drugs than the rest of the population, increasing their odds of becoming addicted. Finally, recent national studies show that the sharpest increase of users of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes occur in the 12 to 17 and 18 to 25 age groups.

Do You Have a History of Drug Abuse?
Most likely you do not. Many individuals who become dependent on prescription drugs are referred to as “unwitting addicts.” These are individuals who had no history of drug abuse or addiction. Rather, they first starting using prescribed drugs for legitimate medical problems, physical or emotional. For example, it may have been a painkiller for a back injury or a sedative for anxiety. Then, at some point, these individuals started increasing dosages on their own because the drug made them feel better—relief from physical or emotional distress. The nature of the drug required that they continue escalating the dosages to get the desired effect. Gradually, the abuse became full blown addiction.

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