Patients in the United States may be getting more than pain relief from pricey prescription pills. Americans reportedly pay as much as three times more for doctor prescribed narcotic medicines than any other country in the world. Sadly, many are inadvertently shelling out hard earned funds for the potentially deadly side effects of prescription drug abuse. Data culled from Mayo Clinic research indicate that approximately 70% of U.S. citizens take at least one prescription medication daily with another 20% consuming as much as five or more.
The side effects of prescription drug abuse have also, for some, become a gateway to long term prescription drug abuse, prescription drug addiction, heroin addiction and the withdrawal symptoms that accompany efforts to stop habituated drug use. Based on CDC records, heroin overdose deaths more than tripled since 2010 and the side effects of prescription drugs was the primary cause of a staggering 61% drug overdose deaths. This translate into approximately 125 American fatalities each day. CDC data also inferred that these drug overdoses were largely fueled by the side effects of prescription drug abuse that frequently segue into full blown addiction or an illicit heroin problem. And, while there is a marginal decline in prescription drug abuse primarily among teenagers, an alternate and progressive increase in fentanyl abuse has, for the first time in 2016, exceeded heroin and other opioid abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes Fentanyl as a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar but can be as much as 100 times more potent than morphine. Although illicit use of this prescription drug is trending, it is used in the medical community to alleviate severe after surgery discomfort or to help manage chronic pain.
Common Side Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
Like any habit-forming substance, there are risks associated with long term prescription drug abuse which is usually evidenced when:
- A patient changes the dosage and administration method of a prescription drug from the prescribing doctor’s instructions or pharmacy guidelines.
- Non-medical use of a prescription drug occurs.
The side effects of prescription drug abuse are usually accompanied by serious risks factors such as addiction, erosion in mental and physical health as well as death. The most common side effects typically associated with prescription drug abuse may include:
- An increasing need for the medication that typically results in compulsive and habitual consumption of the drug in order to satisfy uncontrollable craving. Long term effects of prescription drug abuse ultimately result in increases in dosage that, if left unchecked, build high tolerance levels and cause dependence.
- Mood alterations that is often observed as erratic or unreasonable patterns of behavior. Overtime, occurrences of mood fluctuations usually escalate.
- Brain fog is a common side effect of prescription drug abuse. This is typically demonstrated by loss of mental clarity or confusion that affect the person’s ability to communicate or perform normal everyday tasks within a reasonable period of time. This can occur with short term abuse but usually worsen along with other long-term effects of prescription drug abuse.
- Sleep disruptions or insomnia is a common side effect of prescription drug abuse. The way sleep is affected can vary based on the mechanism of the prescription medication. In some instances, excessive abuse may result in extreme lethargy and sleepiness while another person could experience difficulty falling and staying asleep or random boots of insomnia.
- Anxiety and agitation is a side effect of prescription drug abuse that may or may not relate to disruptions in sleep patterns. These symptoms are usually demonstrated by hyperactivity, fidgeting, nervousness and irrational fears.
- Changes in personal hygiene and appearance typically becomes apparent as a result of prescription drug abuse.
- Because of the potential for suicidal thoughts and attempts, depression is recognized as one of the more concerning long term side effect of prescription drug abuse. Even while an individual is under medical supervision, it is possible for the patient to experience this side effect if prescription drug abuse is not recognized by the attending physician.
- Prescription drug addiction withdrawal symptoms can include multiple side effect that is usually triggered following an abrupt or sudden cessation of prescription drug abuse. The variables of prescription drug addiction withdrawal symptoms can depend on the type of drug, duration of abuse and if there are any existing comorbidities. These may be physical, psychological or a combination of both. Some reported prescription drug addiction withdrawal symptoms include headaches, excessive cravings, depression, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, depression, fever, hallucinations and paranoia to name a few.
- Addiction to prescription drugs typically occur after a period of continuous use. Although caveats about the habit-forming potential of prescription drugs are now mandated it is not uncommon for patients to still ignore the signs of a developing dependency that lead to addiction. An addiction to a prescription drug is typically evidenced by chronic and compulsive drug use. Another tell-tale sign of prescription drug addiction is an obsession or preoccupation with drug seeking activities.
- Overdose is the deadliest side effect of prescription drug abuse. Sadly, this can occur before drug use has become addictive. It has also occurred in some individuals who consume multiple prescription drugs or combine these drugs with other mind altering substances such as alcohol or illicit substances.
All of these side effects can be prevented by carefully monitoring changes in behavior and consumption patterns when taking prescription drugs. In the event that one or more of the preceding effects are already occurring, it is important to seek help immediately to avoid further health risks or a fatal overdose. The side effects of prescription drugs can occur whether your medication falls under the opiates, stimulant or depressant family of drugs.
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.