Prescription and OTC Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction affects more than 15 million people in the U.S. The numbers of adult abuse of prescription drugs now far exceeds all of those that abuse cocaine, inhalants, heroin and hallucinogens combined.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 48 million have used prescription medication for non-medical purposes at some point in their lifetime; this number indicates that around 20% of the U.S. population have abused at least one of their prescription drugs.

Prescription Drugs and OTC Medications Commonly Abused

In recent years WebMD reports that studies of the reasons for doctor or ER visits show a dramatic increase in the abuse of prescription and OTC (over-the-counter) medications. Addiction drug treatment programs show just as sharp an increase in drug addiction admissions. The drugs most commonly abused are:

  • Opioid Pain Relievers such as Vicodin, Opana, or OxyContin, codeine, morphine
  • Stimulants used for ADHD such as Adderall, Concerta, or Ritalin
  • Depressants for relieving anxiety or sleep disorders such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin

The OTC drugs that are most commonly abused are:

  • Cough and cold OTC remedies that contain dextromethorphan

What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic brain disease that typically has numerous periods of relapse into abuse. Abusing drugs, including prescription medication leads to actual changes in the function and structure of the adult brain.

Following the dosage and frequency of a prescription may become more and more difficult to follow, affecting self control and the ability to make good sound decisions. Visits to the ER or to multiple doctors for more medications is abuse and the intense impulses to take more drugs become more and more frequent.

There is Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription and OTC medications are very effective when they are taken as ordered. Long term pain relief medication use however, such as with an opioid, can lead to drug abuse with both physical dependence and addiction. Professional help is crucial for a sound recovery.

An experienced psychiatrist and other medical professionals can help change the direction your prescription drug use is heading. Call the office for an appointment.

About Darvin Hege

Dr. Darvin Hege, MD, PC, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He is an Emory Hospital residency trained psychiatrist who has been practicing psychiatry for more than 25 years. He maintains over 50 hours of AMA certified education each year to stay informed of advances in psychiatry.

View posts by Darvin Hege