Prescription Drug Addiction: Statistics & Symptoms

The numbers are staggering: 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has declared prescription drug addiction an epidemic.
But what does being an addict entail? What are the most common symptoms in those addicted to opioids? As with any other epidemic diseases, it’s crucial to understand who is at risk and what are the characteristics of people affected by it to end it.
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What is a drug addiction?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, whether prescribed or not, a drug addiction is defined as a “chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”
It’s considered a disease because it affects the brain by changing its structure and function.
How can you know whether a loved one suffers from prescription drug addiction?
Some symptoms are easier to pick up than others. The easiest ones to spot are the behavioral ones, as those who struggle with addiction will try to have their prescriptions refilled more often or will even try to get prescriptions from more than one doctor. It’s also common to see an unusual need for money when someone struggles with addiction.
Physical symptoms are more difficult to pick up because they can resemble those of other common conditions. However, the most distinctive physical traits of someone with prescription drug addiction are constipation (or buying laxatives to cope with it), smaller pupils and slower breathing.

Who is at risk of becoming a prescription medication abuser?

According to the CDC, out of five people taking a ten-day prescription for pain medication as directed, one person will end up addicted. This is something that, unfortunately, happens every day. Someone walks into the oral surgeon’s office to get their wisdom teeth removed and walk out with a 10-day supply of a narcotic like hydrocodone. It’s easy as that and that’s why post-surgery patients are at risk of becoming addicts.
Additionally, in the US, 18-25 is the age range with the most abusers of prescription pain relievers, according to the National Institute Drug Abuse. In 2014, more than 1,700 young adults died from prescription drug overdoses, more than any other drug including heroin and cocaine combined.

How can you help?

The first step to prevent prescription drug addiction is education. Learn about opioids, a class of drugs that includes pain relievers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine.
It’s also important to avoid holding on to medicine you no longer need. Dispose of them safely and promptly so children or young adults won’t come across them. To find medication disposal programs at an independent community pharmacy in your neighborhood visit
Educate your children about the risk of consuming drugs, whether they’re prescribed or not. Experts agree that starting the discussion early on is crucial. It may not be an easy conversation to have but there are resources online with tips and tricks to make it less uncomfortable.
Lastly, if you see the warning signs of opioid abuse in yourself or someone you love, talk with your healthcare provider.

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