While illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin and meth dominate news headlines, prescription drugs are responsible for tens of thousands of overdose deaths. In fact, prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer in the U.S. and Europe. Around half of those who die have taken their drugs correctly. The other half die because of errors, like taking too high of a dose.
It’s important to know that prescription drugs are not automatically ‘safe’ because a doctor has prescribed them to you. They have side effects, and they can have dangerous interactions with other medications and supplements. Some are also habit-forming and can put you at risk for addiction. Sadly, the medicines that we’ve come to rely on are killing us in large numbers.
To help you understand the prescription drug epidemic and its effects on the U.S. population, here are three important facts you should know.
1. Prescription drugs are not necessarily safer than illicit drugs.
People know that illicit drugs are dangerous. Kids learn about them in school, and there are campaigns that raise awareness of their dangers. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, are often marketed as being ‘safe.’ We’ve come to rely on them for many things, ranging from anxiety and depression to high blood pressure and chronic pain.
However, prescription drugs are not necessarily safe. They can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs when abused. Also, some medications have dangerous drug interactions, unwanted side effects and addictive properties. This is why prescription drugs require a prescription in the first place – they are strong.
2. Prescription drugs can result in addiction and death.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants. Opioids help with pain management, but they cause a rush of dopamine that can get people hooked. And unfortunately, the crackdown on opioids hasn’t worked in the way law enforcement had hoped. People who are addicted to opioids often turn to the cheaper and more readily available heroin.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax treat anxiety, but these drugs are addictive, especially if you take them for more than a few weeks. Stimulants like Adderall treat ADHD, but they can be addictive as well because they raise dopamine levels and create a sense of euphoria. People may also abuse sleeping pills like Ambien.
3. Over-the-counter drugs are frequently misused, too.
It’s not just prescription medications that are abused. Over-the-counter drugs that are readily available in stores and pharmacies are often abused as well. OTC drugs have their benefits, as they allow people to treat their symptoms without having to go to the doctor and consume the healthcare system.
Some of the OTC drugs with the highest abuse potential are antihistamines, sleep aids, caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, laxatives, dextromethorphan and analgesics. Taking these drugs in a way other than intended can cause serious complications like heart problems, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations and kidney failure.
Get Help for a Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drugs have an important place in our society, as they help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. But, if it’s possible to experience negative side effects and even death when taking these drugs as directed, imagine what they can do when abused.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a prescription drug problem, contact Awakenings Treatment Center today. We can treat your substance abuse issue, while also addressing the underlying causes for the abuse.