How are Prescription Drugs Abused?

How are Prescription Drugs Abused?

There are about as many ways that prescription drugs can be abused as there prescription drugs that can be abused.

Some of the most common ways are listed below, but this should not be considered an all-inclusive list, because if a person wants to abuse a drug, that person will find a way to do so.

Many people take prescription drugs even when they do not have the medical condition for which the drug is intended to treat. Examples of this include:

  • College students taking drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) so that they will have better concentration.
  • People using stimulants simply because they want to stay awake or have more energy.
  • People using tranquilizers or sedatives to help them sleep when there is no physical or emotional reason for sleeplessness.

Not Following Medication Dosage Instructions

Many people abuse prescription drugs by increasing the dosage without the authorization or consent of a health care professional or by taking the drug more often than it should be taken. If the prescribed dosage is not having the desired effect, the person taking the drug should consult the health care professional first. Instead of increasing the dosage or frequency of dosage of that drug, it may be possible for the health care professional to prescribe another drug that will work better but without having to increase the strength.

One way to prevent this is for the person for whom the drug is prescribed to make sure that all dosage instructions are clearly indicated, and to make sure they are understood. If the dosage instructions say, "Take twice a day as needed," a patient may want ask how much time should elapse between the doses.

Likewise, if the instructions read, "take 1-2 tablets as needed," it's always good practice to start with one. If relief is not evident within approximately thirty minutes to an hour, then another one can be taken. However, the dosage time for the next pill should be calculated according to when the last pill was taken.

In other words, if one pill was taken at 8:00 AM, and it was necessary to take another one at 8:30 AM, and the time duration on the prescription reads "every four to six hours," the next dose should not be taken until four to six hours have passed since the last pill was taken at 8:30.

The majority of prescription drugs, especially those intended for pain relief or a temporary condition, are designed for short-term use only. Once the pain has diminished to where it can be controlled with non-narcotic pain relievers, or once the temporary condition has resolved itself, the drugs prescribed should not be taken. It may be necessary for a person to decrease the dosage gradually so that prescription drug addiction withdrawal symptoms will not occur, but once the "weaning" process is completed, the drug should not be taken again.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

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