Many people wonder why prescription drug abuse is so dangerous while others do not even know, or understand, what it is. The very idea that prescription drugs can be abused or are dangerous is hard for most to comprehend. After all, if a doctor prescribes medication to treat a legitimate medical condition, that medication must be safe, right?
The reality is that while prescription medication is safe when taken exactly as prescribed and over a short period, there is no doubting the fact that some of the drugs prescribed by doctors can be highly addictive.
With most of the general public unaware of what classes prescription drug abuse, the problem is on the rise and more and more people are developing crippling addictions.
What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Before we can even look at answering the question of ‘why is prescription drug abuse so dangerous?’, it is important to consider what prescription drug abuse is.
For example, did you know that taking prescription medication that was prescribed for another person is classed as abuse? Or did you know that if you take more of your prescription medication than advised to do so by your doctor is also classed as abuse?
Although there are individuals who take prescription medication for recreational purposes, many abuse them without even realising that this is what they are doing.
It is quite common for some people to give medication that they were prescribed for a genuine medical problem to a loved one, especially if they believe that person could have a similar issue. This is very dangerous.
Doctors have to take quite a lot into consideration before prescribing medication. They cannot give every person with the same condition the same medication because there are instances where this would not be appropriate. They must look at an individual’s medical history, determine if he or she has any allergies, discuss what medication they are already taking to prevent an interaction, and then after all this decide if a specific medication is suitable.
It is not as straightforward as simply deciding that two people have the same or similar health problems and therefore should take the exact same medication. While in most cases the same medication might be appropriate, if you consider what we just wrote then you can see that there is a risk of problems occurring.
How Does a Prescription Drug Addiction Develop?
Many prescription drugs are highly addictive, and it is easy to develop a tolerance to them quite quickly. What this means is that while you may have found certain medication to be helpful when you first began taking it, you could then find that after a while the effects of the drug are not the same.
This happens when your body gets used to the medication and adapts as a result. You might find that you are not getting the same relief you once did. Your body is now releasing fewer feel-good chemicals when you take the medication. When this happens, your response may be to take more of the medication at each interval or to increase the frequency of taking the medication. Doing this obviously means taking more of the drug than advised to, which can lead to a physical dependence in some individuals.
Not everyone who abuses prescription medication will develop an addiction to the drugs, but many will. There are some who will find that they develop cravings for their medication when the effects begin to wear off; there are others who will feel a psychological need for them, almost as if they are unable to function without them.
As the addiction develops, your behaviour will change. You may lose interest in things you once found enjoyable. You may stop having time for those you love, and you might become consumed by your need for the drug you are taking.
Why It’s Dangerous to Abuse Prescription Drugs?
While one of the most common side effects of prescription drug abuse is a physical and psychological dependence, there are other reasons prescription drug abuse is dangerous. The impact on health is one.
It is important to realise that different types of prescription drugs can have different effects. For example, if you are abusing a sedative or tranquiliser drug, you may become confused and drowsy. You could suffer from poor judgement and memory problems and you might develop a tic or become unsteady on your feet.
With stimulant drugs, you could become extremely agitated or irritable and your heartbeat may become irregular. You might suffer from high blood pressure, a raised body temperature, and seizures. The risk of sleep problems such as insomnia will be higher, and you might suffer paranoia and aggression. Chronic abuse of prescription medication can cause many short-term effects, but it can also have implications for long-term mental and physical health as well.
However, what you should know is that the negative effects of prescription drug abuse do not stop with your health. If you have ever wondered why prescription drug abuse is so dangerous, you need only consider the impact that this can have on daily life.
Your personal relationships with the people you love are bound to be affected if you are abusing any type of mood-altering substance, and this includes prescription drugs. If you become dependent on your medication, your behaviour will change. These drugs can have a profound effect on the brain and the way that it functions. You may find yourself unable to think clearly, and while everyone around you can see the changes in you, these may not be so obvious to you.
Relationships often become fraught with tension when one member of a family is dealing with an addiction. Because of the nature of addiction and the stigma that surrounds it, it is not uncommon for family members to bury their heads in the sand and fail to address the issue head-on. It is difficult to broach the subject of addiction with a loved one, which can lead to stress and tension within the relationship. Couple that with the addict’s neglect of other people, and of him or herself, and it is a recipe for disaster.
Any type of addiction to mood-altering chemicals, even prescription drugs, can have an impact on other areas of life too. You may find that you suffer difficulties in your job as you struggle to function as you should. If you are under the influence of your medication at high doses, your ability to perform well could be hampered. You may suffer a loss of income if you are unable to work and you might even lose your job altogether. This could then result in financial problems and even more problems within your relationships.
How to Know if You Have a Prescription Drug Addiction?
It is difficult to tell when a prescription drug addiction has developed. If you have been abusing your medication, your risk of addiction will be higher. But you should know that even those who use their medication exactly as prescribed, but over a prolonged period, can go on to develop an addiction.
Many people do not realise that a physical or psychological dependence has developed until they try to quit their medication. Nevertheless, there are signs that could indicate a problem. It may be that you only realise you are in trouble when you start to look closely at your behaviour.
For example, have you been trying to get your doctor to refill your prescription earlier than it should be? Do you find that you get irritable or agitated when coming to the end of your prescription?
Some individuals who develop an addiction to their prescription medication will become tense and stressed at the thoughts of their prescription coming to an end. They may become anxious and fearful that their doctor might not continue prescribing the drug that they feel they need. Some will visit other doctors for a prescription; this is known as ‘doctor-shopping’.
If you have found that you are taking more of your medication than advised to by your doctor, you could already have a problem that requires treatment. If you have started searching for another source for your pills, such as online or on the streets, then you need to consider the possibility that you have an addiction and that you require help to get better.
Can You Get Help
The first step to overcoming a prescription drug addiction is recognising that the addiction exists in the first place, but this is often difficult for many people. Those who have only ever drunk alcohol in moderation and who have never used an illegal substance might find it even harder to accept that they could be classed as an addict.
Nonetheless, to get help and get your life back on track, you must be prepared to recognise and accept a diagnosis of addiction. Only then can you start to address the issue. The good news is that help is available and however lonely or isolated you might feel right now, know that you are not alone.
You are not the first person to develop an addiction to their prescription medication and, unfortunately, you are unlikely to be the last. This is a growing problem in the UK, but there is plenty of help available and programmes that are designed to help you get back on your feet.
Outpatient programmes are available and are typically provided by the NHS and local charities. You can also access inpatient programmes offered by private clinics. The choice of what type of programme you access will depend on what your preferences are and how severe your addiction is.
You should be aware that you may need a medical detox initially. A detox is required to help break the bond between you and the drug you have become addicted to. As prescription medications can cause a physical dependence, there are likely to be a number of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them.
During a detox, your body and brain will try to heal themselves and, as they do so, you may experience symptoms that range from mild to severe in intensity. In a dedicated facility though, these symptoms can be effectively managed to make you more comfortable until they pass. Most symptoms will have subsided within two weeks, but there may be some that linger for a while longer.
After your detox, you can start on your treatment in either an inpatient or outpatient facility. The aim of rehab is to address the issues that caused your addiction in the first place; these issues are often buried deep down. However, with the help of a counsellor or therapist, you can get to the cause of your illness and will be provided with the tools to help you overcome it.
Whatever type of rehab programme you do choose though, the aim will always be the same. To help you learn how to live a substance-free life and avoid a relapse going forward. If you would like more information on the type of programmes that might help you to do this, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Liberty House Clinic.
We can answer any questions you have, such as ‘why is prescription drug abuse so dangerous?’. We can provide information about how you can beat your addiction once and for all, and if you would like more information about our clinic and what we do, you need only ask. Please call today to find out more about us and how we can help you.