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Prescription Drug Abuse: Addiction, Types and Treatment

Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medicine or dose in a manner other than approved by the doctor or physician; taking someone else’s medicine, even if it is for a genuine medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel ecstasy or get high.

From where it all started

The abuse of prescription drugs originated mostly in America. It goes back more than a hundred years to the abuse of a drug called laudanum, a mixture of alcohol and opium. This was an early remedy for sleeplessness, pain, anxiety, coughing and diarrhea. In the 1800s, laudanum was used by doctors across the nation, but it was unintentionally quite addictive.

The standard laudanum addict was a Caucasian female. Men had their own matter of addiction – alcohol. But women were not allowed to visit saloons or bars or be seen drinking, so they could visit their doctors for their supply of addictive substances. And they did, for problems with childbirth, menstrual cramps, pregnancy or emotional problems.


Abuse by crushing, snorting, or injecting of prescription drugs is most common and will make withdrawal more serious in most cases. The most frequently abused prescription drugs are Vicodin, OxyContin, Ritalin and medical marijuana that is not intended for legitimate medical use.

Many people may usually start by using one of these drugs reasonably then progress to abuse after addiction occurs. Many more people try out someone else’s prescription at work, school or at a party and become fond of the effect it has. Whatever way it occurs, the rise of abuse and overdose both are increasing across countries.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of abuse of prescription drugs will vary by the kind of prescription drug being abused. A person abusing prescription opiates (pain relievers), will be unable to feel pain at normal levels, and may be drowsy and befuddled. Pupils will become dilated.

A person abusing benzodiazepines is using a drug intended to treat sleeplessness and anxiety. Valium (diazepam), Halcyon (triazolam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Ativan (lorazepam) fall into this category. These drugs are addictive and can be very risky to withdraw from without medical aid.

Other drugs used for these purposes are similar in function but different in their chemical composition like Lunesta and Ambien. A person abusing any of these drugs may appear abnormally relaxed and sleepy.

A person abusing stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin and Desoxyn may manifest nervousness, delusions, flushed skin and chest pain coupled heart palpitations. Their sleep times may be uneven, with long hours spent wide awake before they catch up.


Successful treatment for abuse of prescription drugs has several steps:

  • Detoxification (The process by which the body rids itself of a drug)
  • Medication (For opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction)
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Long-term follow-up to foil relapse

A range of care with a follow-up options and a tailored treatment program can be vital to success. Treatment should include both mental and medical health services as needed. Follow-up care may comprise of family-based recovery support systems to provide support to the addict.

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