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, such as for the feelings you get from the drug. Prescription drug abuse or problematic use includes everything from taking a friend's prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. Drug abuse may become ongoing and compulsive, despite the negative consequences.
An increasing problem, prescription drug abuse can affect all age groups, but it's more common in young people. The prescription drugs most often abused include painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants.
Early identification of prescription drug abuse and early intervention may prevent the problem from turning into an addiction.
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the particular drug. Because of their mind-altering properties, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are:
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse
Other signs include:
When to see a doctor
Teens and adults abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons. Some of these 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 them or become addicted.
Risk factors for prescription drug abuse include:
Older adults and prescription drug abuse
Abusing 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 certain over-the-counter medications, or when taken with alcohol or illegal drugs.
Preparing for your appointment
Your primary care doctor may be able to help you overcome a prescription drug abuse problem. However, if you have an addiction, your 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 medical history and answers to other questions. In some cases, certain signs and symptoms also provide clues.
Blood or urine tests can detect many types of drugs. These tests can also help track the progress of a person who's getting treatment.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment options for prescription drug abuse vary, but counseling, also called talk therapy or psychotherapy, is typically a key part of treatment.
Through counseling, you can learn strategies for developing positive relationships and identify ways to become involved in healthy activities that aren't related to drugs.
Coping and support
Overcoming prescription drug abuse can be challenging and stressful, often requiring the support of family, friends or organizations. Here's where to look for help:
Ask family members and friends for understanding
Helping a loved one
Be understanding and patient. Let the person know that you care about his or her well-being. Encourage your loved one to be honest about drug use and to accept help if needed. A person is more likely to respond to feedback from someone they trust. If the problem continues, further intervention may be necessary.
An intervention is a carefully planned process involving family and friends and others who care about a person struggling with addiction. Consulting an intervention professional (interventionist), an addiction specialist, psychologist or mental health counselor can help you organize an effective intervention. This is an opportunity to confront the person about the consequences of addiction and ask him or her to accept treatment. Think of an intervention as giving your loved one a clear opportunity to make changes before things get really bad.
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're taking a commonly abused drug, here are ways to decrease your risk:
Preventing prescription drug abuse in teens
Last Updated: 2012-10-11
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