“Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Washington State. There are more deaths annually from prescription drug abuse than from meth, cocaine, and heroin combined.”
– Washington State Office of the Attorney General
If that statistic is shocking to you, you are not alone. Many people do not realize the danger lurking within prescription medications, but it is very present and very real.
What Counts as Drug Abuse?
When it comes to prescriptions drugs, the following actions can be classified as abuse:
- Taking drugs not prescribed to you
- Taking prescribed drugs longer than directed
- Taking more drugs than directed
- Taking drugs in a manner other than directed (i.e crushing pills and snorting them)
- Combining prescribed drugs along with other over-the-counter medications or street drugs/alcohol
The bottom line is that if you are not following the doctor’s orders, you are abusing prescription medications. The consequences can be fatal.
Who is Abusing Prescription Drugs?
According to the FDA, over 257 million prescriptions for opioid drugs were filled in the U.S in 2009. That’s almost enough for one prescription for everybody living in the country. Sadly, those figures have not gone down in the intervening years.
With this amount of drugs being prescribed, it is not surprising to learn that almost anybody can be caught abusing their prescriptions medications. Many people are completely unaware of the dangers present when taking their medications; the prevailing sentiment is that if a doctor prescribes it, it is safe.
Teenagers, in particular, are vulnerable to prescription drug abuse and addiction. A survey by the Washington State Department of Health found that over 7 percent of 12 graders used prescription drugs in the past 30 days to get high. This is why it is essential for parents to be better educated about proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
Which Drugs are Being Abused?
Painkillers are relatively easy to obtain, and are therefore easy to abuse. Drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Methadone are opioids, and are increasingly the target of prescription drug abuse. Stimulants such as Adderal and Ritalin, as well as depressants like Xanax and Valium, are also highly abused prescription drugs.
While all of these drugs have different effects in terms of a ‘high’, they all hold one thing in common. They can be deadly.
Since 1983, there has been a whopping 3,196 percent increase in at-home 'combination deaths' in the United States. These deaths are the result of combining prescription drugs with alcohol or street drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. Sometimes, combining prescription drugs with other over-the-counter medications can result in death as well.
Today, one of the most dangerous prescription drugs available is fentanyl. It is 100 times more powerful than morphine, making it excellent for relieving pain. However, it is also extremely easy to accidentally overdose on fentanyl; this is what caused the recent death of musician and cultural icon Prince. Fentanyl is also being added to street drugs to achieve a greater high, and is causing alarming numbers of deaths across Washington State. For more information about fentanyl, read this article.
When to Get Help
If you find yourself becoming increasingly dependent on your prescription medications, or you are concerned for a loved one, it is not too late to reach out. Common signs of prescription drug addiction or abuse include:
- Mood swings or changes in personality
- Urgent desire for the drug
- Inability to feel normal without the drug
- Stealing or forging prescriptions
- Visiting multiple doctors to get more prescriptions
- Feeling or appearing “high”
- Increase or decrease in energy
- Taking higher doses than usual or prescribed
At Recovery Village Ridgefield, we offer a holistic approach to treating prescription drug abuse recovery. At our beautiful Pacific Northwest campus, you will find the strength and support you need to succeed on your journey to recovery, and take back control of your life. For more information, contact us today. You deserve a life free of addiction, and we can help you get there.