Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in America with millions of people using these drugs daily. The National Survey on Drug Use found that the western States of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Idaho have the highest rates of prescription drug use. The three most common abused prescription drugs are opioids, depressants and stimulants and they can become dangerous when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. For Americans aged 14 years and older, prescription drug abuse came in third in popularity after marijuana and alcohol.

Many people believe that prescription drugs are safe because they are legal and sold as medicine. People are often unaware of the danger in sharing their drugs with other people, usually family and friends. Addiction occurs when the potency or frequency of doses is increased more than what was prescribed. When a person builds a tolerance to a drug, they need to take more of the drug to get the same effects as before and this causes addiction. Doctors should not increase the potency or frequency of doses of a drug until they are certain that the patient is not becoming tolerant to the drug or becoming addicted.


The drugs heroin, morphine, codeine and methadone are all derivatives of opium from the poppy plant. These drugs are known as opiates and each was created to be less harmful and addictive than their predecessor. Some brand names of opioid drugs are Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin and they are all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Opioid drugs reduce pain signals from reaching the brain and are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. The drugs bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, GI tract and other organs. Adverse effects of opioids include drowsiness, confusion, euphoria, nausea, and severe respiratory depression that can lead to death. These drugs can also cause hypoxia, where the brain does not receive enough oxygen, which can cause long-term psychological and neurological problems including coma and permanent brain damage. Research also shows that opioid abuse causes structural changes in the brain that may affect behavior and decision-making. If opioids are taken with other drugs or alcohol that depresses the central nervous system, the risks can be life-threatening.


Depressant drugs cause a slowing down or depression of the central nervous system and normal brain activity. They are usually prescribed to treat insomnia, seizures, anxiety and panic attacks. The three main areas of depressants are barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep medications. They all have a calming, sedative effect on the user and can be both physically and psychologically addictive. A tolerance to these drugs can occur with long-term use and will require more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. Withdrawal from central nervous system depressants can cause life-threatening complications that need the attention of experienced medical personnel.

Adverse effects of depressants include confusion, dizziness, impaired performance and judgment, loss of motor coordination and severe respiratory depression leading to unconsciousness, coma or death. When depressants are taken with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants the consequences can be life-threatening.


Stimulant drugs actively stimulate the central nervous system causing increased energy, attention, concentration, sociability and self-confidence. These drugs are usually prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, depression and obesity. Stimulants cause the release of dopamine in the brain causing feelings of pleasure and euphoria. When abused the adverse effects of stimulants include increased body temperature and blood pressure, irregular heart beat, hostility, paranoia, aggression, cardiovascular system failure, hallucinations, convulsions, violent behavior, psychosis, delusions, coma and death. Stimulants can be both physically and psychologically addictive.

People abuse prescription drugs for many reasons. Drugs provide an escape from reality; they mask problems and enhance sociability. They also produce feelings of euphoria and pleasure. The down side is they wreak havoc on a person?s physical and mental health, their relationships, careers, finances and every aspect of their life. Prescription drug abuse is at epidemic proportions in America as many people are seeking a magic bullet that will lessen their stress and allow them to escape for a while. It is crucial to educate the public on the devastating effects these drugs can have in every area of life if abused.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.