Prescription Drug Dangers
There are numerous risks to be discussed with prescription medication abuse. The first of these is overdose. The leading cause of accidental death in the United States, this danger does not have any markers that can significantly determine who will be at risk. A wealthy housewife in the suburbs, an inner city teen, or a physician himself may be at risk for overdose on prescription drugs. Anyone can become an abuser of these medications, by the very nature of their legality, purposes and frequency of use in our culture.
Because all of us are liable to become ill, needing medication that will assist us in our healing process, it is likely that we will all encounter opportunities for relying upon prescription drugs at some time in our lives. For many of us, this will be more frequent than for others. We are all subject to needing surgery, dental work, or having injuries that cause pain significant enough to warrant pain medications (opioid drugs).
We may not need to take stimulant prescription medications, but nearly everyone will experience the ups and downs of life and question whether or not an anti-anxiety medication or muscle relaxer will help us along our healing path. We may question whether it is a good idea to look to medication to be a useful tool in the healing kit we need to open. For these reasons, most prescription medications are not only useful, but necessary to have around. Education is the best tool we can utilize in combating abuse and addiction to prescribed narcotic medications.
Symptoms of Abuse
Each type of prescribed drug has its own symptoms of abuse.
Opioid medications will signify abuse by making the user lethargic, with intoxicated affect and behaviors, loss of motor coordination and slurred speech. Once motivated to participate in pleasurable activities, they now have no energy or interest in pursuits they once enjoyed.
Stimulant abuse will create symptoms that can include loss of weight and appetite, insomnia, rapid and jerky movement and speech, chattiness and teeth grinding.
Benzodiazepine abuse symptoms are somewhat more subtle and can go undetected in some abusers. These people will report feeling as if they are not “real.” This is known as depersonalization. There are few symptoms pointing to abuse of tranquilizers that are consistent, but most users will have to increase their doses after a time to get the effects initially felt by taking the medication.
Some of the Legal Consequences of Abusing Prescription Drugs
The legal risks present with prescription medication abuse are numerous. As discussed in the legalities section, there are risks with stealing prescriptions, using prescriptions not intended for the user, procuring more than one prescription in order to supply larger amounts of the drugs, and forging prescriptions. All of these offenses are serious crimes in the US.
One area that is under scrutiny at this time is the somewhat ambivalent laws determining sentencing for driving under the influence of prescription medication. Because driving under the influence of drugs is regularly addressed with illegal narcotics, many feel that the laws governing these behaviors need to be specified for prescription medications, as well. At this time, driving under the influence of any drugs is illegal.
This legality may mean that those who are driving after taking even the prescribed amount of a drug may be arrested and prosecuted. It is important to be sure that you adhere to the warning labels on prescribed medication and
not operate a car, truck, boat or even snow mobile (in some states) while taking that medication.
Opioid medications pose severe health risks for those who take them, even as prescribed. These narcotics are quite effective at relieving pain. Initially, they may work perfectly well for eliminating pain from any source. However, they become ineffective quickly. In a short time, the medication will need to be increased to work as well. As more and more of the medication is used, dependence is just as quickly developed. This dependence is both physical and psychological.
As the painful symptoms recur, the user becomes less and less able to tolerate these symptoms without the medication. Their threshold for pain tolerance lowers, which creates an even stronger desire for more of the medication than that originally felt. This escalates and becomes a stronger drive for seeking relief as time passes.
Due to this increasing drive for additional medication, the risk becomes even greater for overdose on pain medications. The body responses to the opioid drugs will be overwhelmed by larger doses. As heart rate decreases with use, it can and will stop altogether. Cardiac arrest is one of the most common causes of death with pain medication abuse.
Stimulant medication initially creates a feeling of euphoria for users. As use escalates over time, it becomes dependence. This is created primarily to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal, a sense of depression when the drug is leaving the user’s system. Abuse of stimulant medication will create symptoms of delirium, possible psychosis, and racing heartbeat and high blood pressure. The long term use of stimulant medications can cause permanent brain damage, psychosis, paranoia, loss of teeth and skeletal bone material, and heart problems. Overdose on stimulant medications can cause death from seizures, heart attack, and high body temperature.
Benzodiazepine health risks are numerous. These have to do with long-term use, not abuse. As the user becomes dependent on the medications to control symptoms of anxiety and to reduce panic attacks, the drugs begin to produce these same symptoms. This occurs most often after a steady period of regular use. Another serious risk of tranquilizer medications is that of withdrawal. These drugs can be serious risk factors when stopping and need to be withdrawn medically by titration of the drugs with medical supervision.