Consequences of Prescription Drug Addiction

Millions of people are prescribed medications to alleviate pain, to help them sleep, or to help them with mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. It seems there is a pill for just about anything. When taken as prescribed, these medications can be effective but often, the person enjoys or comes to rely on the way the medication makes them feel and they begin to use more amounts or more often. When the lure and ease of taking away an unwanted symptom or to get “high” becomes compulsive and the person uses drugs despite negative consequences they have become addicted.

What Happens?

Prescription drugs often have psychoactive compounds that change the way the brain functions and disrupts nerve cells that send, receive, and process information. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals that activate the brain’s receptors and tell the body how to think, feel, or react. Dopamine is one of these chemicals that activate brain receptors to produce feelings of pleasure. Opioid and amphetamine prescription drugs increase dopamine which results in a euphoria or “high”. Repeated drug use causes disruptions that can damage these neurotransmitters and cause the person to become physically or psychologically dependent on the drugs.

Psychological Consequences

drug abuse

Drug addiction causes distress in many aspects of a person’s life.

Prescription Drug Addiction can cause many adverse psychological reactions such as depression, anxiety, and other abnormal responses to behaviors linked to survival. They may become confused, withdrawn, or inattentive to their environments and change their habits of eating or spending time with family and friends. The repeated rewards that a person achieves when they get “high” prompts them to obsess over the next dose and they compulsively begin to seek ways to obtain more of the drug. They may develop fears of running out and commit acts that they normally wouldn’t do in order to get the drugs. Prescription Drug Addiction causes the addict to associate their drug use with their ability to “feel well” and that, without drugs, they cannot function in family, in work, or in society. Long term or chronic abuse can lead to other more serious mental health disorders such as suicidal tendencies, hallucinations, psychosis, schizophrenia, mania, or phobias.

Physical Consequences

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “in the USA, at least 23% of drug-related emergency department admissions and 20.4% of all single drug-related emergency department deaths are due to the non-medical use of prescription drugs.” Prescription drugs can cause an insurmountable number of physical problems short term and long term. Warnings of side effects include cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological problems. Depending on a variety of factors, people have experienced everything from nausea and vomiting to seizures, coma, organ failures, and death.