Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic levels in the United States. While many people may view that statement as an exaggeration, it's actually a realistic assessment of the situation: Data from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reveals that at least 20 percent of adults in the United States have struggled with prescription drug abuse at some point in their lives.
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It's not difficult to become addicted to a prescription medication. The process may begin with casual experimentation. In some cases of prescription drug abuse, an individual may begin using a medication exactly as prescribed. They may eventually try a higher dose or begin taking it for the wrong purposes. Over time, a physical dependency develops, and individuals find themselves using mainly to satisfy their addiction.
If you need to use a prescription medication for a long period of time, you may be concerned about the risk of addiction, but not everyone who uses an addictive substance will become dependent. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 3 percent to 40 percent of individuals who take a prescription medication will become addicted to it. You can lower your risk of addiction by taking it exactly as directed and being closely monitored by a physician.
Some prescription medications carry a strong risk of addiction. Opiate medications such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin are some of the most heavily-abused prescription medications. Although they provide effective pain relief, they also trigger feelings of euphoria that can lead some users to abuse the medications. Overdose is a common danger for people who abuse opiate painkillers, and long-term opiate abuse can cause heart failure and other serious consequences.
Benzodiazepines represent another category with a highly addictive nature. They are used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks and even epilepsy. Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax are a few of the most popular benzodiazepines.
Some individuals abuse a category of prescription drugs that are usually prescribed to treat ADHD. These include Adderall and Ritalin and are stimulant medications. They are abused by people who need to improve their study performance or stay awake for long periods.
Prescription drug abuse can lead to a strong psychological and physical addiction, but long-term recovery is possible with the right treatment plan. A patient's treatment strategy will depend on multiple factors: the substance of abuse, the extent of the addiction and the patient's personal circumstances.
Detoxification needs to occur before any drug rehabilitation can begin, and most people with an addiction can benefit from a medically-managed approach. The substance is tapered off slowly, and medications are provided to curb cravings and ease the discomforts of withdrawal. Methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are a few medications that can be very helpful in the treatment of opiate withdrawal.
Once a person has fully withdrawn, they can begin rehab. Most rehab programs include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and individual psychotherapy; patients are likely to continue their treatment medications during this period. During therapy, patients begin to understand the chronic nature of addiction and identify the emotional factors that may have contributed to their substance abuse.
CBT sessions can help patients learn how to replace destructive thought patterns with positive ones. Behavioral therapy can also help patients develop the coping techniques they need to manage their cravings. After an individual leaves the rehab center, aftercare programs can lower the risk of relapse and provide social support.