According to a 2008 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 52 million people in the U.S. have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose at least once. Thus, the misuse of prescription drugs is something a large group of people has engaged in, and it's growing.
The same survey revealed that between 1992 and 2008, there was a 400 percent increase for people seeking treatment for abusing opioid pain relievers. While some of these people may have stolen or bought a prescription drug illegally for the purpose of getting high, many others may have slipped into abusing their medically approved prescriptions drugs without even realizing it, or knowing the risks.
Lots of people begin taking a medication when a doctor prescribes it, and then developing dependence that causes them to go beyond what was monitored by a health care professional. The way responsible use of needed medications can sometimes slip into more dangerous misuse and abuse of prescription drugs needs to be better understood, so that patients can avoid overstepping the boundary, and putting their selves at great risk.
Prescription drug misuse
Prescription medications are carefully designed and tested to fulfill a specific medical purpose, with dosage deliberately regulated by a health care professional. Misuse occurs when a drug is taken outside of those boundaries, in a manner or at a dosage that goes beyond treating a particular condition.
This is particularly a problem with pain-relieving drugs, sleeping pills, and weight loss medications. A person may at first be taking these drugs following a doctor's instructions, but then slip into dangerous behavior, deciding on their own to take more trying to "finish the job."
From here, such misuse can easily slip into abuse, as drugs stop being used for their intended purpose at all, and instead are used to produce pleasant, euphoric "high" feelings.
The problem with independent use
All drugs have the potential for side effects, or unpleasant, unexpected bodily effects from taking a medication. When managed by a healthcare professional, great care is taken to insure that a drug's benefits outweigh the risks.
When you choose to take a drug against the instructions of a doctor, there is no longer any oversight of the use. Thus, the user opens him or her self up to risks that can be life threatening.
Many people may believe that, because the medical community approved them, prescription drugs can offer a safer high then illicit street drugs, but the truth is that every drug carries risks. The risks for harm from a prescription drug increases exponentially ones it is no longer used for the purpose for which it was intended.
How to avoid addiction and misuse
Before prescribing a medication, health care professionals should make patients aware of the potential risks of a drug, especially ones that have a greater danger for developing dependency. There is also a need for vigilance on the part of the person taking the medication.
Feeling a compulsion to take the drug more frequently and at higher doses without medical direction to do so, as well as using compulsively to a point that interferes with daily life can be an early sign of drug abuse or developing an addiction. Furthermore, remember never share your medications with anyone else, instead directing them to a doctor if they are experiencing similar issues.
This is dangerous and illegal, since every body is different, and may have different needs or responses to a medication. Even if it has the comforting look of "medicine," any drug has the potential to be dangerous, and must be used with care.