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Prescription Drug Addiction in the US

Prescription drug abuse and addiction is a severe and growing problem in the United States. Abuse of prescription drugs has surpassed that of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, leading to new drug addictions for millions of Americans each year. The most critical problem with prescription drug abuse is that users are generally under the impression that prescription drugs are “safe” because they are medically approved for use. However, most of these drugs are made from dangerous and addictive substances such as opiates, and even under supervised medical care addiction can occur. But while there may be drug addiction treatment centers readily available in every state, the best defense against prescription drug addiction is a good offense in the form of education.

The demographics of people who abuse and become addicted to prescription drugs are surprisingly diverse. Affluent people, the very poor, the educated and uneducated, professionals and laborers alike all fall victim to this disease. According to 2004 research by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, an estimated 20% of adult Americans have abused prescription drugs at some point in their life. In fact, abuse of painkillers and sedatives is highest among the elderly, who are prescribed more of these drugs than any other age group. Even under a physician’s care it is possible to become addicted to prescription medications and many elderly may not even realize they have become addicted.

The second largest age group of prescription drug abusers – and the fastest growing – is among teens. Prescription drugs are easy for most teens to obtain and are often marketed under the guise that these drugs are safe alternatives to other drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. In fact, this popularity of prescription drug use among teens has helped push prescription drugs to become the 2nd most widely abused drugs in the country behind marijuana. Prescription drug abuse by teens is especially dangerous considering that the human brain is still developing and can be profoundly and permanently affected by even moderate drug use.

The mental and physical health risks associated with prescription drug addiction are substantial. For example, a 2004 study on deaths caused by poisoning in the United States indicated that nearly all were caused by drugs, and most were specifically related to prescription drug abuse. (According to theantidrug.com, a US-Government-backed website dedicated to eradicating illicit drug use.) This is attributed to the fact that these drugs are highly addictive, cause tolerance and dependence to develop rapidly, and have severe physiological consequences such as heart failure, pulmonary disorders, seizures, stroke, suicidal or homicidal tendencies and psychotic episodes.

Despite the severity of most prescription drug addiction problems, treatment is easy to obtain and can be very effective. Severe problems can be addressed in an inpatient treatment center, while less severe problems or recent relapses can be treated in an outpatient treatment program. While each might have varying levels of treatment, both make use of individual and group therapies as part of a lifelong strategy of Relapse Prevention to address denial management and the treatment of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS.

Whatever your situation may be and wherever you are, you’ve come to the right place. Pick up the phone and call us right now for a free, confidential and no-obligation consultation to see how we can help you or someone you care about fight the disease of prescription drug addiction.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More