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Prescription drug abuse is an alarming trend. With more drugs than ever being created and prescribed, the opportunity for misuse and abuse of prescription drugs by individuals is on the rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are some of the most commonly abused substances in America. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that in 2012, 4.9 million people in the U.S. were abusing pain relievers.

According to the NIDA, “The classes of prescription drugs most commonly abused are: opioid pain relievers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin; stimulants for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall, Concerta, or Ritalin; and central nervous system (CNS) depressants for relieving anxiety, such as Valium or Xanax.”

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drugs are carefully controlled substances that are prescribed by a doctor to an individual patient for a specific condition. Taking a drug that was prescribed to someone else, in a higher dose than prescribed, or with the specific intent to get high is abuse.

Some individuals are abusing prescription drugs by altering them; for example, crushing tablets to snort or inject the powder thus amplifying the drug’s effects.

What are the Risks?

Many individuals assume that prescription drugs are safer than illegal substances. Prescription drugs are given for a specific purpose. Nearly all drugs have side effects, and when prescribing a drug, doctors are aware of any possible effects and have considered them with regards to the overall treatment plan. When prescription drugs are taken outside of their intended purpose, the user is at risk for adverse health effects including the possibility of overdose or a reaction to another drug or alcohol.

Nearly all of the most commonly abused prescription drugs have the potential for addiction. The risk of addiction becomes further amplified when the drugs are taken improperly and abused. Additionally, abuse of prescription drugs can be a dangerous gateway into the use of illegal substances. The NIDA reports that, “Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.”

Prescription drug abuse is serious and is on the rise in the United States. Taking drugs prescribed to someone else, or taking drugs beyond their intended use is abuse and the individuals doing so face dangerous side effects and addiction.

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