When prescription drugs are used excessively, for longer than directed or for nonmedical use, prescription drug addiction can take hold. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 48 million Americans across the country have engaged in prescription drug abuse at some point in their lives. Among those most vulnerable to prescription drug addiction are seniors patients (who receive higher proportions of prescriptions due to increases in physical maladies) and youth (due to drug experimentation and peer pressure).
In fact, despite being one of the least stigmatized forms of chemical dependency, prescription drug addiction remains one of the most dangerous and widespread, with official estimates suggesting that one in five Americans have struggled with prescription drug addiction.
Various Dangers of Prescription Drug Addictions
The most commonly abused prescription drugs involve stimulants such as amphetamines, opiates such as morphine and hydrocodone, and anxiolytic drugs such as Xanax and Valium. Collectively, these prescription medications have become widely prescribed due to their effectiveness in treating conditions such as chronic or severe pain, anxiety disorders and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
However, when abused, these prescription drugs can lead to a host of physical and mental health problems for patients, usually due to unresolved conditions and damage from extended use of medications.
Unresolved Medical Conditions Due to Prescription Drug Addiction
When prescription drug addiction takes hold, users often are not receiving resolution of the core malady that engendered the prescription in the first place. Over time, opiates tend to lose their potency as the body builds tolerance to analgesics, and anxiety or concentration problems can actually worsen when addiction to stimulants or anxiolytic drugs sets in. Many individuals in the throes of prescription drug addiction simply have not received adequate relief as medications become less effective over time.
Additionally, many patients engage in so much medication of symptoms (such as pain or panic attacks) that underlying conditions remain persistent. In many of these cases, curative therapies or alternative modes of treatment may be necessary in order to provide lasting (and possibly non-prescription) measures of relief.
Damage from Prescription Drug Addiction
As drugs take a chemical toll on the body, long-term use can lead to a host of physical symptoms. Long-term use of opiates can cause depression, mood swings, insomnia or even psychosis to set in over time. Additionally, patients may respond to long-term opiate abuse with respiratory issues, elevated blood pressure, heightened risk of cardiac problems, persistent digestive issues, muscular problems and tremors.
Continued stimulant use can cause a host of physical issues itself, from rapid and irregular heartbeat to skin disorders, dehydration and dental issues. Continued use of anxiolytic drugs (such as benzodiazepines) can also lead to many physical and psychological issues, including cognitive impairment, dissociative disorders, vertigo, seizures, sensory compromise and dangerously low blood pressure.