Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the US. Prescription drug abuse occurs when a person who has been prescribed drugs exceeds the stated dose, or otherwise deliberately ignores the doctor’s instructions. When any individual takes a prescription drug that was not prescribed specifically for them, this is considered prescription drug abuse.
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According to the Drug Trend Report of 2011, 80% of worldwide prescriptions for opioid drugs were written for US patients, even though Americans only make up 5% of the world’s population. Alabama has the country’s highest number of prescribed opioids, making it one of the world leaders in opioid abuse. Per capita, almost twice as many opioid prescriptions were written in Alabama compared to the national average.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that around 2% of the adult population abuses prescription drugs, but empirical evidence from various organizations would seem to indicate that abuse levels are much higher. Based on NIDA figures, around 4,000 Birmingham residents abuse prescription drugs.
The difficulty in getting accurate abuse statistics is down to the fact that there is no way of tracking what happens to prescribed drugs once they have been delivered to a patient. The patient may take the drugs as prescribed. If patients have an excess, they may hold on to them or destroy them. However, 54.4% of people who admitted abusing prescription drugs said they had gotten them from a friend or relative.
Drugs in the opioid family are the ones most widely abused. Opioid drugs are those drugs that have been derived from the opium poppy. They include morphine and oxycodone. Well-known prescription opioid brands include Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin.
The next group of widely abused medication is benzodiazepines. These are synthetic drugs that are known in layman’s terms as tranquilizers. They include drugs like Valium and Xanax. The third most widely abused prescription drugs are the stimulants. These are drugs containing amphetamines. Well-known brands include Adderall and Dexedrine.
The DEA categorizes both prescription and illegal drugs based on their likelihood to be abused or trigger addiction, and their medical usefulness. Schedule I drugs are mostly illegal, and include heroin and LSD. Schedule II drugs include Oxycontin, Dexedrine and Ritalin. Schedules are not set in stone, and drugs may be upgraded or downgraded.
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse generally only become apparent when the abuser has developed an addiction. In the early stages of abuse, a person will tend to take relatively low doses of the addictive substance, and may display no symptoms.
Some abusers are quite open about their abuse, and have no problem in taking drugs in the presence of their friends. Openly combining prescription medication with alcohol has become more commonplace.
Often, the first thing anybody notices about an abuser is that he or she is withdrawing socially, and always seems preoccupied. Without treatment, such a person will continue to decline, and will develop health problems.
Getting addicts off prescription drugs can be just as painful and traumatic as getting them off illegal ones like heroin. The most abused prescription drugs are addictive, and medical detoxification is advisable to ease the withdrawal. That must be followed up with ongoing treatment.
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