Prescription Drugs - Drug Addiction

These include painkillers, anti-depressants and sleeping tablets and are as harmful as illegal drugs. It is easy to assume that these are safe as they are prescribed by your GP but if they are misused then they are as dangerous as any illegal drug such as heroin or cocaine.

We tend to think of drug abuse as something which happens with drugs bought illegally on the streets but prescription drugs can be as equally as bad.

Plus people also become addicted to over the counter medicines which are codeine based, for example Ibuprofen. These are everyday medicines which many of take for headaches and other minor ailments, usually without a second thought.

But these too can be addictive.

What are prescription drugs?

These are drugs which are prescribed by your family doctor for a particular medical complaint. These include anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping tablets, anti-depressants, painkillers and antihistamines.

But it is also possible to buy these drugs illegally which opens you up to serious legal consequences.

What do they look like?

They are available as tablets and capsules although a liquid form, e.g. cough medicine, is also available.

How are prescription drugs used?

They are taken orally.

What are their street names?

Prescription drugs are known by a variety of street names which include:

  • Tranks
  • Barbies
  • Benzos
  • Block-busters

Who uses prescription drugs?

People who have been prescribed these drugs for a medical condition, e.g. insomnia but find that they have become dependent upon them.

What are the effects of prescription drugs?

This depends upon the type of drug. A painkiller is designed as the name says to ease pain and does just that. Other drugs in this category can treat the symptoms of anxiety, prevent panic attacks, deal with depression or enable someone to get a good night’s sleep.

They are effective at doing any of these and don’t usually cause a problem but this changes if took large a dose or increased doses are taken. Especially if taken to achieve a certain effect, for example a sense of calmness and wellbeing.

Is it easy to become addicted to prescription drugs?

These drugs can be abused which leads to dependency and addiction. This is usually a physical and psychological addiction but not every drug will cause a physical tolerance.

If you find that you are taking higher doses of a drug to get the same effect, have cravings or feel that you cannot manage without it then you have become dependent on that drug.

Signs of an addiction to prescription drugs

Seek help if you notice any of the following:

  • Increased doses
  • Cravings
  • Asking your GP for repeat prescriptions
  • Guilt about your habit
  • Find it difficult to reduce your dosage or do without
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Problems with money, relationships or work
  • Take other drugs to ease the side effects of prescription drugs
  • Taking these drugs even though they are likely to be injurious to your health
  • Psychological withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, anxiety and depression
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, mood swings, dizziness, tiredness and flu-like feeling

If you notice that you have become tolerant or dependent upon prescription drugs then speak to your GP. It is not an easy thing to do but it does help to acknowledge that you have a problem which means that something can be done about it.

If you notice this in a friend or someone you know then try and persuade them to go for help. This isn’t easy but be upfront with them and continue to offer help and support as and when you can.

What are the risks of prescription drugs?

These will vary according to the type of drug and the dosage. There are risks involved with both short-term and long-term use which are as follows:

  • Change in heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Change in appetite
  • Dangerous if combined with other substances, e.g. alcohol
  • Poor mental judgement
  • Over-sedation can lead to unconsciousness and coma

It is worth remembering that prescription drugs such as anti-anxiety drugs have side effects and these can be exacerbated as a result of misuse or mixing these with other substances.



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