What Is Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse?

Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of medications being prescribed by doctors to treat both mental and physical health conditions. Along with this rise, however, there have also been increases in prescription drug misuse, abuse, and addiction. Prescription drug abuse can lead to a range of physical, mental, and emotional health consequences, some of which are life-threatening. 

There is no denying that prescription medications have their place in mental health treatment. However, many individuals may not be appropriately informed of the dangers that can result from prescription medications when they are used in a way otherwise than prescribed by a doctor. If you are prescribed medication, it is more important than ever to become aware of the dangers and consequences that can result from the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. 

The Value of Prescription Drugs in Mental Health Treatment

Prescription medications are used to treat a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional ailments. In mental health treatment, medications are often prescribed to treat and manage symptoms of mental health disorders. Treatment facilities commonly prescribe medications alongside therapy, as doing so can increase the effectiveness of treatment overall. This is often referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

It is important to understand that mental health medications are not meant to be prescribed as long-term solutions. Typically, this only occurs for certain disorders and can depend on the severity of your symptoms. Rather, medications are meant to help balance the neurotransmitters within your brain, which can become dysregulated as a result of a mental health disorder. When medications are used in tandem with therapy, they can balance your brain’s neurotransmitters enough to experience significant improvements in health and overall functioning. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) highlights important categories of mental health medications. The most common types of medications include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Stimulants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Mood stabilizers

Potential Concerns With New Prescriptions

Prescription medications must be taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor to limit any potential complications or the development of a substance use disorder (SUD). Contrary to what you may think, however, finding a type and dose of medication that works for your specific condition typically requires trial and error. Meanwhile, it can take several weeks for a medication to begin working properly within your brain and body. Needless to say, beginning a new medication can pose various challenges. 

Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals to find themselves in patterns of prescription drug misuse and abuse. If you are prescribed medication, it can be helpful to become familiar with warning signs that may indicate your prescription drug use is developing into misuse or abuse. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that prescription drug misuse occurs when you begin to take a medication in a manner or dose other than what was prescribed to you. Some examples of prescription drug misuse may include:

  • Taking someone else’s prescription (even for a legitimate medical complaint
  • Forgetting to take a dose
  • Taking an incorrect dose
  • Stopping your medication
  • Taking your medication for a reason other than why it was prescribed

Further, drug misuse can develop into drug abuse when you take a medication with the intent to feel euphoria or to get high. It is only a matter of time before drug misuse develops into drug abuse. 

Health Risks Associated With Drug Abuse

The consequences of drug abuse can be long-lasting, with one of the most notable consequences being the development of addiction. In addition to general health risks, there are specific health risks associated with the type of drug being abused. 

In addition to developing chemical dependency and addiction, some notable health risks of prescription drug abuse across the board include:

  • Increased risk of a fatal drug overdose
  • Delayed brain development for adolescents and young adults
  • Irregular heartbeat and body temperature
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Weakened immune system
  • Disorientation
  • Withdrawal effects when not using

Health Risks Associated With Drug Addiction

It is also important to become familiar with the health risks of addiction, especially as prescription drug abuse contributes to its development. Health risks can vary depending on factors such as the type of drug being abused, the frequency and intensity of drug use, and an individual’s unique, chemical makeup. However, some general health risks of addiction can include:

  • Various types of concerns
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Damaged nerve cells
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • The development of mental health disorders
  • Lasting impairments to cognitive and emotional functioning
  • Decreased quality of interpersonal relationships
  • Increased risk of drug overdose

Treatment Options

If you are seeking treatment for prescription drug abuse or addiction, there are many treatment programs available to you. Getting help for prescription drug addiction means recognizing that you have a problem, seeking help, going through detox, and participating in a treatment program. Treatment will consist of attending weekly one-on-one and group therapy sessions. Within therapy, you will work to address the underlying motives of your substance abuse and discover new coping strategies for healing. Additionally, you will be equipped with relapse prevention strategies to ensure lasting sobriety and recovery from prescription drugs. 

Prescription drug misuse, abuse, and addiction have become growing epidemics in our nation. It is vital for you to understand the health risks and dangers associated with these forms of drug use, especially if you are prescribed prescription medication for your mental health. At 12 South Recovery, we offer mental health and addiction treatment of all kinds. We specialize in the treatment of prescription drug addiction and understand the challenges that it can pose for lasting sobriety and recovery. We offer a range of outpatient programs and treatment interventions that allow for customizable treatment plans for our clients. If you are seeking recovery, call us today to learn more at 866-839-6876.

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