Prescription drug abuse refers to the nonmedical use and abuse of prescription medications, many of which were initially prescribed for medical treatment. However, some prescription drug abuse results from people taking drugs that were never intended for them. Prescription drug abuse often involves certain prescription drugs such as opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants. If left untreated, prescription drug abuse can lead to serious health consequences.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of deaths related to prescription opioid abuse declined 17 percent in Florida in the first half of 2012. Historically, Broward County has struggled more with prescription opioid abuse than other part of the state.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, an estimated 48 million people have abused prescription drugs in the U.S. This is nearly 20 percent of the population.
One of the most common signs of prescription drug abuse is taking greater doses than your doctor prescribed or using them for reasons other than prescribed. Your doctor may discover that you are calling more frequently for refills or that you are asking to be prescribed larger doses.
The signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse can vary depending on the exact drug. For opioid painkillers, common symptoms include constipation, depression, low blood pressure, confusion, and poor concentration. Warning signs of sedative abuse include drowsiness, unsteady walking, poor judgment, dizziness, and confusion. For stimulants, warning signs include weight loss, high blood pressure, irritability, agitation, restlessness, and impulsive behavior.
Drugs are placed into one of five distinct categories or schedules depending on their accepted medical use and potential for abuse or dependency. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and have a high risk of abuse and or dependency. Examples include marijuana, ecstasy, and heroin. Schedule II drugs also have a high potential for abuse, although slightly less than schedule I drugs. Many opioid prescription medications fall into this category. Examples include Vicodin, Dilaudid, Demerol, and OxyContin.
Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are also included in this group. Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, and anabolic steroids are grouped into schedule III. Schedule IV drugs include Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Tramadol.
Some people abuse prescription medications to get high. This is especially common among opioid prescriptions. Others may choose to take the drugs when they are bored or depressed. There are many side effects associated with prescription drug abuse. Depending on the drug, this may include sedation, slowed breathing, severe addiction, and breathing that slows down to the point of killing someone. When injected, infection around the injection site and the heart are serious risks.
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