We Explore the Most Commonly Abused Medications and Examine Treatment
Since addiction often begins with a legitimate prescription, we look at the most commonly abused medications and how to find treatment. We’ve all heard the term “gateway drugs,” but what we’re really talking about here is more of the path toward addiction. Each of these prescription medications have proven to be highly addictive and extreme caution should be exercised when using them for legitimate purposes, especially if you have children or young adults in the home. In fact, studies show that 34% of young people who get addicted stole the medication from a family member. To be blunt, lock your medicine cabinet.
Prescription Medications and Their Intended (and UnIntended) Usage
Oxycontin (Oxycodone): One of the more popular opioid medications, this is commonly prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It causes addiction when users began to crave the euphoric, pain relieving and sedative effects. Users typically ingest the pill orally, or they might crush it pill and snort it. In some cases, they’ll dilute it in water and inject it. Some possible signs of Oxycontin abuse are lethargy, a stoned/dazed appearance, pinpoint pupils, constipation, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Oxycontin is among the most commonly abused prescription pills. Xanax (Alprazolam): This a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It has an infamous reputation among the general population because of the negative connotations associated with usage. The legitimate use for it aside, addicts seek the euphoric and sedative effects. Users typically take the pill orally or crush it and snort it. Some of the warning signs of abuse of Xanax abuse are sedation, dilated pupils, slow movements, slurred speech, loss of coordination, confusion, short-term memory loss, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in recreational activities. In recent years, Xanax has risen to a very high ranking among the most commonly abused medications and is one of most commonly abused prescription pills in certain communities. Adderall (Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine): Known to many as a stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Like other prescription medications, some users will become reliant upon the euphoric and stimulant effects. Often used to increase focus and stay awake for longer periods of time. Users typically take the pill orally, crush the pill and snort it, or dilute it in water and inject it. Some possible signs of Adderall abuse are increased alertness, dilated pupils, hyper-activity, loss of appetite, weight loss, paranoia, sleep disruption, delusions, and hallucinations. Ritalin (Methylphenidate): This is another well known stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Generally, it has the same use, the same effects and the same routes of administration and signs of abuse as Adderall. Vicodin (Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen): A perennial favorite among opioid medications, Vicodin is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Like other potentially problematic prescription medications, users of Vicodin find the euphoric, pain relieving and sedative effects to be most appealing. The pill is taken orally or crushed and snorted. Some possible signs of Vicodin abuse are lethargy, stoned appearance, pinpoint pupils, constipation, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Percocet (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen): Yet another opioid medication, this one is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Same use, effects, routes of administration and signs of abuse as Vicodin. Valium (Diazepam): Made popular in the 1970s and 1980s, Valium (aka benzodiazepine) is used to treat anxiety, sleeplessness and muscle spasms. For a long time, this was one of the most commonly abused medications but has moved down in the rankings in recent years. The euphoric and sedative effects are highly desirable among addicts. Taken orally or crushed and snorted, possible signs of Valium abuse are lethargy, dilated pupils, slow movements, slurred speech, loss of coordination, loss of appetite and lack of interest in recreational activities. Ambien (Zolpidem): a short acting sedative-hypnotic used to treat insomnia. Users seek the euphoric and sedative effects experienced a few hours after taking the pill. Users typically take the pill orally or crush the pill and snort it. Some possible signs of Ambien abuse are lack of coordination, lethargy, short-term memory loss, delusions, hallucinations, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Promethazine/Codeine Syrup: Popular among teens because it was relatively easy to obtain in cough syrup, this is an antihistamine and opiate cough suppressant used to treat cold symptoms, allergies and upper respiratory infections. The euphoric, pain relieving and sedative effects give some users a high that they find appealing. Users typically take the syrup orally. Some possible signs of Codeine abuse are lethargy, pinpoint pupils, slurred speech, constipation, loss of appetite, muscle twitches, and lack of interest in recreational activities. Phenobarbital: Although this one is still among the most commonly abused medications, it takes a back seat to some of the others on this list. Classified as a barbiturate, this prescription medication was intended to be used as a sedative hypnotic and anticonvulsant. As is the the case with the other prescription medications mentioned here, users seek the euphoric and sedative effects. Users typically take the pill orally. Some possible signs of Phenobarbital abuse are lethargy, dizziness, loss of coordination, lack of concentration, short-term memory loss, constipation, and lack of interest in recreational activities.
Prescription Abuse and Drug Addiction
The old adage that “too much of anything is not good” certainly applies. Using prescription medications outside of their recommended frequency and dosage leads to addiction. Once full blown addiction has set in, treatment is requirement. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that often renders its victims incapable of managing it themselves. Behavior of addicted individuals is erratic, unpredictable and uncontrollable. It causes users to compulsively seeking higher and higher doses of the drug despite harmful effects on the addicted person and the people around that person. The abuse of drugs — even prescription drugs — leads to changes in how the brain looks and works. For most people, the first decision to take prescription drugs is voluntary. Over time, changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse affect a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions. While this is going on, the person continues to have intense impulses to take more drugs.
Treatment and Recovery
The first step in recovery is talking to the addicted person about the need for recovery. Often, family and friends are not sure how to talk to an addicted person about recovery options. Still, the need is great and it’s far better to intervene earlier rather than later. The longer you wait, the more physical damage and addict can do to themselves or others. Legal problems can ensue and relationships can be harmed, sometime irreparably.
Treatment for Prescription Medication Abuse
Today, there are a variety of treatments available. Some popular options include nonaddictive medications that can help people stop the symptoms of prescription drug addiction and regain control. Buprenorphine is a drug used to treat opiate withdrawal, and it is often combined with the drug naloxone (a combination that can be called Suboxone, Bunavail, or Zubsolv) to prevent relapse. A form of buprenorphine (called Probuphine) can be implanted under the skin. It treats opiate dependence in people who have been taking a stable dose of oral buprenorphine and are no longer ridding their bodies of the drug they’re being treated for. It provides a constant dose of buprenorphine for 6 months. Other drug treatments for opiate withdrawal include methadone and the blood pressure medicine clonidine. The drug naltrexone blocks the effects of opiates and is another treatment option for preventing opiate relapse. It can be taken orally (Revia) or as a monthly injection (Vivitrol). Experts believe that combining addiction treatment medications with cognitive behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients.
In a crisis situation, checking the addict into a Rehab or Detox facility will allow medically-controlled supervision to help break the chain of the addiction to any of the most commonly abused medications. Under close medical supervision, the addict will get “clean.” From there, it’s a matter of continuing treatment in sober living housing. Learn the differences between sober living and rehab.
Sober Living Homes
If a person has been in their addiction for more than just a couple of months, it’s unreasonable to think a few weeks in Rehab will cure them. In fact, studies overwhelmingly prove that continued treatment, like that found through sober living communities, can help break the cycle for good. The longer the person has been addicted to prescription medications, the longer they should be in sober living. Typically, six to nine months in a sober living house yields the best results. In sober living, recovering addicts will find a sense of community, mutual support, job placement and development of the skills necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.
The list of the most commonly abused medications is just a glimpse into substances to which people can become addicted. Whether it’s an addiction to prescription medications or full on street drugs with no medicinal value, addiction is a killer — and it’s a nationwide epidemic. If you have a loved one living with the disease of addiction, talk to them before it’s too late.
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