Prescription drug abuse is characterized by using prescription medications other than as prescribed or using them for non-medical purposes. Over 52 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 have abused prescription drugs in their lifetime, and while Americans account for just 5 percent of the world’s population, we use 75 percent of its prescription medications.
Abusing prescription drugs, particularly when it comes to opiate painkillers, can quickly lead to an addiction, and getting help for a substance abuse problem is essential for preventing physical dependence and helping to ensure a healthy and productive life.
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While any prescription drug can be abused, prescription drug abuse typically involves three major types of medications.
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend in part on the substance being abused. Each type of drug causes different signs and symptoms of abuse, but there are some general signs (indicators others can see) and symptoms (indicators the person who abuses drugs will feel.) These include:
Depending on the type of drug being abused, a number of devastating health effects can occur with long-term prescription drug abuse. Across the board, these are some of the more common health effects associated with abusing prescription medications:
When someone seeks help for abusing prescription drugs, medical detox will be the first step if an addiction has already set in. Medical detox breaks the physical addiction so that treatment can begin and focus on the psychological aspects of addiction and abuse and involves prescribing medications to help alleviate cravings and reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms associated with drug withdrawal.
Various treatment therapies are employed to address the complex psychological issues behind the addiction, which may include a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, a history of mental illness or a co-occurring mental disorder, and secondary addictions, such as sex or gambling, that may have developed stemming from drug abuse.
Once treatment is successfully completed, an aftercare plan is developed to address the specific needs and challenges of the individual. The aftercare plan is designed to help prevent a lapse, or using again after treatment.
A typical aftercare plan includes ongoing group, individual, and family therapy as well as participation in a community recovery group. Depending on the individual’s needs, it may include a stay at a sober living facility to ease the transition from rehab back home or vocational rehab to increase the chances of finding and maintaining employment.
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