Prescription drug abuse
Prescription drug abuse
Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. Prescription drug abuse includes everything from taking a friend's prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting ground-up pills to get high.
An increasing problem, prescription drug abuse is especially common in young people. The prescription drugs most often abused include painkillers, sedatives for anxiety and sleep disorders, and stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Identifying prescription drug abuse early can help fix the problem before it becomes more serious or turns into an addiction.
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the particular drug. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are:
Prescription drug abuse symptoms
Other prescription drug abuse symptoms include:
When to see a doctor
Helping a loved one
Teens and adults abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons. Some of these include:
Obtaining prescription drugs
In some cases, a doctor's prescription isn't even needed. Some countries don't require prescriptions for opioid painkillers or other commonly abused drugs, so they can be obtained from some websites without a prescription. Obtaining drugs online from pharmacies that don't require a prescription can be risky. Some websites sell counterfeit drugs that contain potentially dangerous substances.
Risk factors for prescription drug abuse include:
Many people fear that they may become addicted to medications prescribed for legitimate medical conditions, such as painkillers prescribed after surgery. However, people who take potentially addictive drugs as prescribed rarely abuse prescription medications or become addicted.
Misusing prescription drugs can cause a number of problems. Prescription drugs can be especially dangerous when taken in high doses, when combined with other prescription medications, or when taken with alcohol or illegal drugs.
Preparing for your appointment
Your family doctor may be able to help you overcome a prescription drug abuse problem. However, if you have an addiction your family doctor may refer you to an addiction specialist or to a facility that specializes in helping people withdraw from drugs.
What you can do
Questions to ask your doctor may include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Doctors generally base a diagnosis of prescription drug abuse on a medical history and answers to other questions. In some cases, there are signs and symptoms that may also provide clues.
The use of many types of drugs can be detected by blood or urine tests. These types of tests can help track the progress of a person undergoing treatment.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment options for prescription drug abuse vary.
Coping and support
Overcoming prescription drug abuse can be challenging and stressful and often requires the support of family, friends or organizations. Here's where to look for help:
Ask family members and friends for understanding
Just being prescribed a medication doesn't put you at risk of abusing it or becoming addicted. Prescription drug abuse is rare in people who need painkillers, sedatives or stimulants to treat a medical condition. However, if you are taking a commonly abused drug, here are a few things you can do to decrease your risk:
Preventing prescription drug abuse in teens
Last Updated: 2010-06-25
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