A common misconception by people is that if a drug is available by prescription from a doctor and is legal, then it must not be harmful. However, when prescription drugs are abused – meaning when they are taken in excessive amounts and when there is no longer a medical reason to take them – they can be as harmful as any other drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that as many as 100 people die from prescription drug overdose each day and at least 20 percent of Americans recreationally abuse Rx drugs. While opiates top the list, amphetamines and benzodiazepines are also leading contenders for the most abused prescription drugs.
Vicodin is one of the most abused of the opiate painkillers and is a combination of Hydrocodone and acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol. Long-term abuse of products containing acetaminophen – such as Vicodin – can lead to liver damage/failure.
An opiate narcotic, OxyContin leaped to the top of the “most addictive” drug list within a few years of being released. Although OxyContin was originally created with a time-release protective coating, addicts quickly discovered a way to tamper with the coating to get the full effects of the drug immediately. As with other opiates, Oxy works on the central nervous system by blocking the opioid receptors, dulling pain and leaving the individual with a euphoric sensation.
Since Percocet became available, addiction rates to the drug have doubled every four years, according to statistics released by SAMHSA. A member of the opiate drug class, Percocet is a combination of Oxycodone and acetaminophen. The most common side effects include constipation, itching, difficulty breathing and blurred vision.
Adderall is a stimulant or amphetamine has been effective in individuals with ADD and ADHD. Unfortunately the drug has also become popular among college students as a “study drug” and used by many stay-at-home moms for dieting. Prescription stimulants have the same effect on the body as crystal meth and cocaine. Depending on severity of abuse, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience aggressive behavior, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and seizures.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine class drug and is primarily prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders as well as certain sleep disorders and for alcohol withdrawal. The drug works by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, resulting in a calming feeling. Xanax is effective with 15 minutes of use. Research into Xanax addiction has linked the drug to memory loss, organ damage/failure and cardiac arrest.
Individuals taking Rx drugs should exercise caution. The best way to avoid the chances of developing a dependence or addiction is to stop taking the medication once there is no longer a medical need. For persons who cannot stop their drug use on their own, seeking the assistance of a medical detox facility and/or rehab treatment program is strongly encouraged.