Prescription Drugs BLOG

Prescription medication nearly tops the list of most commonly abused drugs in the country. Many people do not see the danger of medications prescribed by a doctor, and this false perception is one reason for the United States opioid epidemic.

What is the Most Abused Prescription Drug?

All prescription drugs come with a likelihood of addiction, leading to a high rate of abuse. Prescription medicine can be categorized as:

    • Antidepressants - These drugs are used to treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most frequently prescribed antidepressants.

    • BarbituratesExamples of barbiturates include Phenobarbital, Mebaral, Seconal, and Nembutal. While these drugs are helpful when taken as prescribed, they can be addictive. If they are taken in conjunction with certain drugs or with alcohol, it can bring about a slowing of the heart and of breathing, which can be fatal. Common slang words for barbiturates are "barbs," "reds," red birds," "phennies," "tooies," "yellows," and "yellow jackets."

    • Benzodiazepines - Valium and Xanax both fall under this type of depressant; these are drugs that are normally prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, convulsions, and sleep disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted that withdrawal from benzodiazepines is potentially “problematic,” but not usually life-threatening.

    • Depressants - These are drugs that slow the brain’s function and are normally prescribed to relieve anxiety or encourage sleep. From a clinical standpoint, depressants can be very helpful to the people who need them; these drugs become a way for these patients to somehow get their lives back and lead healthier, happier lives.

    • Narcotics - Interchangeable with painkillers, narcotics are prescribed for the relief of chronic pain or symptoms incurred as a result of a serious injury

    • Opiates - This term is all-encompassing, as opiates can mean any kind of prescription medication. Opiates can be natural or synthetic, but both are highly addictive

    • Stimulants - Drugs like amphetamines which affect neurological functioning are prescribed to help symptoms of ADHD 

    • Sleep medicines - According to NIDA, sleep medicines are not as addictive as other depressants; however, these drugs are among the more commonly abused medicines.

Why Are Prescription Drugs Addictive?

Prescription opioids are addictive for many reasons.

The brain contains opioid receptors which are activated every time a person ingests prescription medicine. However, the brain also acclimatizes to the effects of the drug, meaning a larger dose of medication is required to achieve the same outcomes. 

As the size, concentration, and frequency of the dose increase, users develop a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance eventually leads to an addiction, especially in an effort to curb withdrawal symptoms that arise when the drug is not administered.

Why Has Prescription Drug Abuse Increased?

Prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed in the past few years leading to a CDC-designated opioid epidemic. 

Increased manufacturing and distribution of prescription pills has created a high demand for these substances. Unethical physicians are responsible for improper diagnosis and haphazard prescribing.

Patients assume some responsibility for the epidemic as well. Users who become addicted to prescription opiates resort make desperate attempts to obtain these drugs from multiple sources at once, like "pill-milling" and doctor shopping.

Is it Illegal to Give Prescription Drugs Away?

Diversion of medication is another reason for the increase in prescription drug abuse. This happens when the intended user does not properly dispose of extra pills, presenting family members with the opportunity to acquire these drugs. It is most definitely illegal to give away excess prescription medication. Instead, local drug takeback incentives encourage the proper disposal of prescription medicine.

How to Report Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, or PDMPs, exist in every state across the country. PDMPs are electronic systems where prescriptions can be tracked and monitored. They prevent people from acquiring medication from different sources by allowing pharmacists to follow the track record of a prescription. 

PDMPs offer a platform for people to report diversion to law enforcement officers who also have access to statewide PDMP systems.

Unfortunately, prescription drugs will always be subject to abuse. These drugs are used by people who need them and others who don't, which is why they need to be supervised.