According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. The majority of people who partake in prescription drug abuse do so because they believe that these medications are safer than illegal drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine because they are prescribed by a doctor. However, any time prescribed medications are used by an individual for whom they are not prescribed, and any time they are used in a manner for which they were not intended to be used, it is called prescription drug abuse.
Opiates, sedatives, and stimulants are among the most commonly abused legal drugs. They are so often abused because they make people feel good. Most people who abuse this type of drug don’t get them on the street, they get them from someone they know. People often share or sell drugs they no longer need or use. Although this practice often seems okay because prescription drugs are legal, using drugs that were not prescribed for you can lead to serious complications or addiction.
The U.S. government reports that the abuse of prescribed medications is an epidemic. But what does that mean? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), significantly more than two million people in the United States use prescribed medications non-medically. To put that into an even more staggering perspective, more than 6,500 individuals try prescription medications in a non-medical manner for the first time every day. Most people who engage in this type of drug abuse are teenagers, making this epidemic a significant problem for the nation’s young people.
Many people have heard that any drug abuse may lead to a serious addiction. In fact, this problem is even more common than many people know. There is a distinct link between the misuse of prescribed medications and heroin use. The reason for this is economic.
Someone feeding a prescription drug habit needs to spend as much as $60.00 a day to get high. Yet enough heroin needed to produce the same high costs only about $10.00 a day. It is cheaper to use heroin than prescription medications to get high. The problem escalates even more when the user needs an even better high; he or she may go from snorting heroin to shooting up within weeks. Many individuals who are addicted to heroin started off getting high by using prescribed drugs they got from friends or family members.
While the government implements prevention strategies like education, monitoring, proper medication disposal, and enforcement, drug treatment programs have been working toward creating customized treatment programs for individuals suffering from this type of drug abuse. Such programs begin with detoxification, then use therapy and behavioral interventions to help the individual stay off drugs.
Although some programs use either a behavioral approach to treating drugs or a pharmacological approach, research has shown that a combination of treatments most often produces the best results. Medications may help combat the effects of the drugs and relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and behavioral interventions help individuals understand why they became addicted, what situations put them at risk for using again, and how to avoid high-risk situations. Treatment is ongoing for most people, since drug addictions are a lifelong problem. Many programs may also encourage the user to include his or her family and/or friends in recovery as well.
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