Prescription Drug Addiction
People take prescription medicines for many reasons. They may use them to ease pain,
anxiety, or attention deficit disorder. Most of these people use such potentially
addictive drugs correctly. But some people end up abusing them.
In some cases, people may abuse drugs that aren’t prescribed to them. They may get
them from friends or family members. Or they may buy them illegally from someone else.
The number of teens and young adults ages 12 to 25 who abuse prescription painkillers
has more than tripled since the mid 1990s.
Here is a Q and A about prescription medicine addiction. It can help you or a loved
one seek help, if necessary.
Q. What drugs are likely to be abused?
A. Three kinds of prescription drugs are most often abused without a prescription:
Opioids. These are for pain relief. They include morphine, codeine, and drugs that contain
hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl.
Tranquilizers. These are for anxiety and sleep disorders. A few examples are alprazolam and diazepam.
Stimulants. These are for narcolepsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Examples are
amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and methylphenidate.
Q. What are the symptoms of prescription addiction?
A. Signs of addiction include:
Loss of control over taking a medicine
Obsessively counting pills
Finding ways to get more of a drug by making unnecessary visits to the emergency room
or a healthcare provider's office
Taking a drug or medicine more often than directed
Taking higher doses than instructed because the previous dose did not provide the
Taking a drug with other drugs or alcohol
Crushing and snorting a pill instead of swallowing it
Q. Who’s at risk for prescription addiction?
A. Both women and men abuse prescription drugs at about the same rate. Women are twice
as likely to become addicted as men. People at the highest risk for addiction are
those who have other addictions or who have abused prescription drugs in the past.
Q. What steps can be taken to avoid addiction?
A. Take medicines only as prescribed. Get possibly addictive medicines only from a
single licensed healthcare provider at one pharmacy.
If you have opioids, tranquilizers, or stimulant prescription medicines, keep them
in a safe place. Lock them up to keep them secure. Don’t share them with anyone else.
The prescription is for only you.