Prescription drug addiction is the largest growing drug epidemic in the country. In 2013, the Center for Disease control reported that there were 48,982 drug overdoses in the United States, over half of which were from prescription drug abuse. The number of drug overdoses linked to prescription drug abuse is more than that of all other illicit drugs combined. Prescription drugs have become much easier to obtain over the years and their impact on our society has grown at an alarming rate.

Addiction is a chronic disease that is characterized by engaging in an action that yields some reward, regardless of the consequences that may come from it. In reference to Prescription drug addiction refers to when someone continually abuses prescription drugs, regardless of the consequences they have to endure to keep up their habit.

Drug addiction and alcoholism affect 10 percent of Americans and prescription drug abuse makes up a large part of this population

What are commonly abused pharmaceuticals and the signs of abuse?

Prescription opioids are the most commonly abused of all prescription drugs. They are used to treat pain and account for 71 percent of all prescription drug related deaths in the U.S. Some common opioids that are abused include Oxycontin, Opana, Fentanyl, Vicodin, Demerol, and Deludid. Some common symptoms associated with opioid abuse include:

  • Excessive fatigue or “nodding” out
  • Profuse sweating
  • Constricted or pinned-out pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Excessive Itching
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Pale Skin
  • Little to no appetite

Benzodiazepines are the second highest abused prescription drugs and are involved in over 30 percent of all prescription drug related deaths. They act as central nervous system depressants and are used to treat different anxiety disorders. When taken in large amounts, benzos abuse lead to significant memory loss and impaired motor function. Well known benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. Some common signs of benzodiazepine use include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Amnesia
  • Appearance of dementia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility

Prescription stimulants are used to treat cases of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). They make the user feel more awake and alert and mimic certain characteristics of methamphetamines. The abuse of this substance is most prevalent among college students because it allows students to study for prolonged periods of time though many users simply use it just for recreational purposes. Commonly prescribed stimulants include Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin. Some common signs of prescription stimulant abuse include:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression
  • Weight loss
  • Little to no appetite
  • Rapid or rambling speech

Recognition of the problems is the first step in the recovery process and its very important for families and friends of addicts to refrain from judgment when approaching a loved one about getting help for prescription drug addiction. It is most effective to make it known that one is coming from a place of love and concern when urging your friend or family member to seek treatment.

Prescription drug addiction is a life-long battle that one must treat on a daily basis. Even after the detox process is over with, there are many steps along the way one must take to ensure they do not fall back into old behavior. Millions have found recovery through treatment programs and support groups including 12-step recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction, please call the California Prescription Drug Addiction Helpline at 855-738-2770.