Prescription drug abuse reached an all-time high in America in recent years, despite warnings of the dangers of these drugs from important organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 7 million Americans over the age of 12 are illicitly using prescription drugs, making them by far the second most-abused category of drugs after marijuana. Additionally, these drugs are responsible for more hospital visits than all other illicit drugs combined — an emergency department survey from the CDC notes this, along with the fact that emergency department visits due to misuse of pharmaceuticals more than doubled between 2004 and 2011.
While there are several types of prescription medications sought by addicts, the main category of abused narcotic medicine is pain pills. Sedatives and tranquilizers fall in at a close second, followed by stimulant drugs. Among the most commonly abused drugs in these categories, you’ll find familiar generic and brand names including:
Hydrocodone is easy to obtain with a prescription and is used to treat moderate pain. The most popular and widely abused form of hydrocodone is the brand name Vicodin. It is often taken orally since it typically comes in a pill form, but pills can also be crushed and snorted or crushed, combined with liquid and injected.
A bit stronger than hydrocodone, this pain reliever is often used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is commonly prescribed after surgeries and for cancer patients. Like hydrocodone, it can be taken as a pill, snorted or injected to produce a high.
Oxycontin is an incredibly powerful narcotic pain-reliever. Because it contains ONLY an opiate pain reliever, it is formulated in a time-release pill that is often crushed to be injected or snorted, providing a quick rush of euphoria to the addict, instead of its intended purpose of long-term pain relief.
Morphine is very popular in its liquid form. It is not a synthetic opiate like the previous drugs, rather, it is directly derived from the opium poppy plant and has been in use for over 100 years. It is used to treat the highest levels of pain and suffering. This drug is harder to come by than the others, but it carries a very high risk of addiction because of its targeted effects on the central nervous system.
Alprazolam is most commonly known by its brand name, Xanax. Its main purpose is to treat anxiety and restlessness. When abused, it can be similar to the effects of alcohol. The person becomes very tired and lethargic. Xanax is usually taken orally, but when can be crushed for snorting or injection.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, with powerful effects similar to those of Vicodin, Oxycontin and morphine. In the medical realm, it is often used post-surgery to help with excruciating pain. There are also fentanyl patches available to deliver the drug through the skin over a period of several days. It is extremely addictive, and dangerous because it comes with a high risk of fatal overdose.
Diazepam is classified as a sedative/tranquilizer. It is most often prescribed to treat anxiety on a short-term basis, much like Xanax. Because it does not take a few weeks to work like other anti-anxiety prescriptions can, it can be easily abused by injecting or snorting a higher dose than what is usually prescribed.
This drug is commonly used to treat pain in place of opiate drugs or to help someone overcome opiate addiction to drugs like Oxycontin or heroin. However, since methadone provides a pain-relieving, euphoric feeling, it can be as easily abused as opiate drugs. Methadone is usually in pill form and is crushed to be snorted or injected or taken orally; the same techniques apply for abusing methadone as for other pain pills.
Ritalin’s rate of abuse is climbing higher each year because of college students looking for a quick fix for late night study sessions. Other amphetamine drugs with similar effects, like Adderall and Concerta, are also commonly abused in this manner. This drug is meant to treat children and adults with moderate to severe cases of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It helps those with the disorder to focus and perform better in school and work settings. When abused, it is similar to the effects of speed. A person abusing the drug can stay awake long hours and feel more focused. It is addictive and can cause heart problems and paranoia if misused.
This pain medication is quickly becoming popular among pain pill addicts. It is not considered a narcotic pain reliever, but it is a very close relative. It is used most commonly to treat moderate pain. When taken in a high enough dose, the effects are similar to hydrocodone or oxycodone narcotic medications.
These are just 10 of countless other narcotics, sedatives and amphetamines being abused by people in the United States every day. Just because these drugs are technically legal does not mean that they can’t be addictive and dangerous to your health; there is a reason that your doctor will give you clear instructions on how to take them, and will only give you a certain number of refills. Unfortunately, some people are prescribed these drugs for legitimate reasons, but find themselves becoming dependent upon them if they begin to take them less carefully. Other times, someone who has abused illicit drugs with related effects (like heroin for painkillers, or cocaine for stimulants) might abuse these drugs because they can be similar but more potent. No matter what leads an individual to abuse a prescription drug, the recreational use of mind-altering substances is never safe. When you suffer from an addiction to prescription drugs, you risk your health, your job, your family and friends and your good legal standing. If you find yourself relying on these drugs to get through the day, it’s time to seek treatment at a rehabilitation center.
Trying to get rid of a prescription drug habit by yourself can not only be difficult, but can also be incredibly dangerous to your health. The withdrawal symptoms from these drugs are known to be intense, ranging from anxiety and paranoia to physical illness. Many users find themselves trapped by prescription drugs because they will do anything to avoid feeling this way. Other users try to brave these symptoms alone, but end up seeking medical attention for side effects like malnutrition, dehydration or chest pains. Receiving rehabilitation treatment at a professional facility will help you get through the detox phase safely, and allow you to begin true recovery with a clean slate.
What’s more, you will need therapy and guidance to help you understand your addiction and discover the best ways to overcome it and manage it. Choosing a reputable rehabilitation program with experience treating prescription drug addiction is the best way to ensure that you get targeted and effective treatment that is geared toward your unique experience with drug abuse and addiction.
At Vista Taos, we provide the levels of care and the individualized treatment that you or your loved one will need to have a successful recovery from prescription drug addiction. Our programs utilize proven, evidence-based methods including 12-step principles and time-tested psychotherapies. We educate our clients about the disease of addiction, helping them understand what has been causing them so much pain and allowing them to take back control of their life from the unknown. Vista Taos offers a space for you to find healing while you are supported by compassionate staff and a community of like-minded recovery seekers.
Vista Taos is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located in Taos, New Mexico. We provide holistic and individualized addiction recovery treatment for adult men and women who are struggling with substance abuse. We are equipped to help you at all stages of addiction and recovery, from medical detox through supportive aftercare. If you or someone close to you is facing addiction to prescription drugs, other illicit substances or alcohol, you should reach out to us to find out if our programs are right for you. Please fill out our confidential online form, or contact us at 575-586-3104.