Are You or is Someone You Love Abusing Prescription Drugs?

Drug abuse is a very serious and dangerous problem. When many people think of drug abuse, they’re picturing illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Another very real form of drug abuse is prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse, to be put simply, is taking a prescription medication that is either not prescribed by a doctor or taken in a way other than prescribed.

An estimated 20 percent of Americans have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons (National Institutes of Health)

Prescription drug abuse cuts across a wide segment of the population, from Hollywood celebrities to the kids taking pills from the family medicine cabinet. OxyContin is the prescription drug that receives the most press coverage, but many other drugs that are also being abused. It could almost be said that if a drug is available under prescription, someone has tried to abuse it.

Most Abused Drugs and Methods of Abuse

These are the three main categories of prescription drugs that are routinely abused:

  • Opioid Painkillers – includes oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Depressants – includes alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium)
  • Stimulants – includes amphetamines (Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)

There are three ways a person can take a prescription drug. In street terms, they are:

  • Pop it – refers to orally ingesting a pill.
  • Sniff or snort it – refers to crushing a pill into powder form and ingesting it nasally.
  • Cook or shoot it – refers to heating a drug into liquid form and using a syringe to inject it in into the body.

Millions of Americans Abuse Prescription Drugs Each Year

Prescription drug abuse occurs among all ages. A 2009 survey found that 16 million Americans over age 12 reported to have taken a prescription painkiller, depressant or stimulant for nonmedical purposes within the past year. According to a 2011 survey, 7.4% of children and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 admitted to having used prescription medication for nonmedical purposes.

In 2011, nationwide deaths from prescription painkillers outnumbered traffic fatalities. There we also more deaths from narcotic prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined.

There is some good news related to prescription drug abuse. A recent national survey indicates that roughly 300,000 fewer young adults are abusing prescription medication than in 2010. This declined in abuse among young people seems to show an increasing awareness of the issue. It also could reflect the fact that prescription drugs are becoming more difficult to obtain and abuse. However, there is concern that prescription drug addicts may be switching to illegal drugs. With mounting evidence that the use of illicit narcotics like heroin is on the rise, the nation continues to be faced with a critical drug abuse problem.

Many people think that abusing prescription drugs is somehow safer than illegal drug abuse. This is not the case. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, quitting cold turkey may be difficult or medically dangerous. In many cases, residential treatment is the safest solution for prescription drug addiction.

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