Prescription drugs are often utilized to treat a wide range of health problems. They can be very helpful, but they can also be very dangerous. Some prescription drugs can cause people to develop habits or become addicted, which can lead to their misuse. When you misuse a prescription drug, you take it in a way that is different from what the doctor told you to do.
It is thought that 18 million public in the U.S. have mistreated prescription drugs in the last year. This is a big problem that can be risky. Misusing medicines can have both short-term and long-term effects on your health. In the short term, opioids can make you feel sleepy and sick. When used for a long time, opioids can make you have trouble going to the bathroom and breathing.
Why do doctors prescribe drugs that are so addicting?
If doctors know that drugs can be addictive, why do they still give them to people? It’s easy to figure out. Some prescription drugs abused are also very good at treating different conditions. Opioids, for example, can make people addicted and are easy to abuse, but they are also very good at treating pain.
Some drugs that slow down the central nervous system (CNS) can lead to dependence, but they also work well as sleep aids or to calm anxiety. When prescribing medicine, doctors must balance how well it works and how likely it is to become a habit. Before deciding if these medicines are the best choice for you, your provider needs to weigh the pros and cons of each one carefully.
Difference between being physically dependent and being addicted
- You could be wondering what the difference is between dependence and addiction. People sometimes use these words the same way, which is wrong.
- Most of the time, the word dependence is used to talk about how the drug makes the person feel.
The person’s body has come to depend on the medicine, and if they stop taking it all of a sudden, they may go through withdrawal. But a person physically dependent on drugs will still take them the way their doctor tells them to. You don’t have to be addicted to a drug to be physically addicted to it.
Substance use disorder (SUD), a better term for addiction, describes behaviors people can’t stop doing or chemical changes in the brain. These changes can be caused by taking too much medicine. People with SUD who aren’t getting treatment keep using drugs or other substances even though they know what will happen. These effects often affect one’s work, social life, or family life, and they can even get them in trouble with the law and put them in jail.
Most addicting prescription drugs
Now that we’ve discussed a few of the risks of abusing medications let’s talk about some of the most addictive prescription drugs you need to be extra careful with.
Opioids are very good at treating pain, but they can also get people hooked. They block the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, making you feel less pain. Unfortunately, opioids also mess with your brain’s reward center. This means that some people who take opioids may feel euphoria, a very good feeling, or “high.”
When a drug makes you feel good, it sends a message to your brain’s reward center and tells you to take it again. This makes you more likely to abuse the drug. Because opioids could indeed affect the brain’s reward center, there is a high chance that they will be abused and lead to dependence. So it’s very important to only take them as directed and for the shortest time possible to treat pain that isn’t chronic.
Some common prescription opioids are:
Codeine is often mixed with other medicines, like acetaminophen or promethazine, to treat pain or coughs that aren’t as bad. This means that you could take an opioid without knowing it. Make sure to read the label on your prescription and ask your pharmacist or doctor if you aren’t sure if it contains an opioid.
Benzodiazepines are in a group of drugs called CNS depressants. The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain make benzodiazepines work. They slow down brain activity, causing us to feel calmer and sleepy. They treat anxiety and brief sleep problems, among other mental health issues.
Benzodiazepines are good at treating these conditions, but they can also make you dependent on them and cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them suddenly. When they are utilized for a long time, the body gets utilized to them and starts to depend on them. This makes the chance of abuse and SUD go up.
Some commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are:
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
Barbiturates are a type of drug that is used less and less often these days. Like benzodiazepines, they work by binding to GABA receptors. Barbiturates are CNS depressants like benzodiazepines and can be used to treat sleep problems or seizures. Because they have more risks and side effects than other options, they are no longer the first choice. There is also evidence that barbiturates are addictive and have a higher risk of overdose than benzodiazepines.
Barbiturates are drugs that are used to treat:
Butalbital is a barbiturate that can also be found in common migraine medicines. Butalbital is sometimes given with other drugs like caffeine, acetaminophen, aspirin, or codeine. These combinations are sold under the brand names Fioricet and Fiorinal.
Some of these pharmaceutical formulations are controlled substances that could be used incorrectly or lead to addiction. If you’re unsure if your medicine has barbiturates, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Stimulants CNS stimulants can make you more awake, pay more attention, and have more energy. They work by making chemicals in the brain, like norepinephrine and dopamine, make more of themselves. Most of the time, stimulants are used to treat attention disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, but they can also treat severe forms of depression.
Stimulants can turn into habits because of what they do to dopamine. Dopamine is sometimes called the “feel-good” hormone because it is part of the reward center in our brains and tells us to do things again. Some drugs that increase dopamine or its effects put people at risk of addiction and substance use disorder (SUD) because the extra serotonin can make our brains want more of the drug.
There are a lot of different stimulants. Two of the most important classes are:
- Amphetamines (such as Adderall and Vyvanse)
- Methylphenidates (such as Ritalin or Concerta)
In each class, there are numerous different types and brand names. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medicine is a stimulant.