Long-Term Health Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse
There are a number of different kinds of prescription drugs that are highly addictive and have the potential for abuse. These include opiate painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, hydrocodone), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Vicodin), and stimulants (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin). All of these drugs can be abused even by patients who have a legitimate prescription for their use and, over time, this can lead to a number of long-term health risks. Each drug class comes with its own set of risks, but across the board, long-term users of prescription drugs will risk health problems that include:
- Organ damage and failure, especially to the kidneys and liver
- Tolerance to the medication characterized by needing more and more of the drug to experience its effects which leads to physical dependence
- Psychological addiction and cravings
- Withdrawal symptoms when without the drug
- Increased mental health symptoms like paranoia and depression
- Decreased cognitive function
If your teen is abusing prescription drugs of any kind, you can help him avoid the long-term health risks associated with chronic abuse of these medications when you enroll him in a comprehensive drug addiction treatment program that offers teen-specific care. Contact us at Muir Wood today and learn more about the types of treatment that will have a positive impact on your child.
Long-Term Effects of Opiate Painkillers
Often prescribed to treat chronic pain, acute pain experienced after an injury or surgery, or cough (e.g., codeine cough syrup), opiate painkillers are the most commonly abused types of prescription drugs. Teens have easy access to these medications because they are so often prescribed – and over-prescribed – to adults, a practice that often results in “leftover” pills that are frequently stored in the medicine cabinet at home. Unfortunately, the short-term risks of use include overdose, especially when combined with alcohol, and long-term health risks include:
- Respiratory failure
- Intense withdrawal symptoms
Long-Term Effects of Central Nervous System Depressants
Termed “central nervous depressants,” these medications work by slowing down the brain’s normal activity. They are often prescribed to patients who are unable to control rapid brain activity and experience anxiety, insomnia, seizures or panic attacks as a result. Included in this classification of prescription drugs are barbiturates (e.g., mephobarbital and sodium pentobarbital), benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax), and sleep medications (e.g., Ambien and Lunesta). Deadly when abused or taken in large doses, they are also extremely dangerous when combined with other drugs, including alcohol.
Some of the dangerous long-term health risks that those who abuse these medications should be concerned about include:
- Brain damage that affects motor function
- Loss of cognitive function
Long-Term Effects of Stimulants
Dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate are both commonly prescribed to teens who struggle with ADHD. In children, these medications provide a calming effect and aid in focus, but in adults, these medications have a stimulant effect that can be addictive and even deadly. Long-term use of the medication can cause health problems that include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Dehydration as well as a slew of related health problems
- Chronic insomnia
Ongoing Risk of Overdose and Death
Many people are under the mistaken impression that those who are new to the use of prescription drugs are the most likely to experience an overdose or to die as a result of their drug use because they are unfamiliar with the medication and unsure what they’re body can handle. While it is true that those who take any prescription medications for the first time without the guidance of a doctor are at risk of overdose if they take too much, chronic abusers of prescription medication are also at high risk of dying due to their use of the drug.
When ongoing drug use is a problem, body chemistry changes from day to day and yesterday’s “normal” dose may be overwhelming today. Furthermore, the addition of other drugs makes the equation even less stable, and when under the influence, many teens incorrectly calculate the time between doses, which means they have more in their body than is manageable.
Perhaps one of the biggest risks of long-term prescription drug abuse is addiction. Regular use of any addictive substance – even under the guidance of a medical professional – can lead to a physical dependence upon it. However, it is important to note that addiction is not the diagnosis until psychological cravings are also an issue. When your teen comes to feel that he “needs” to take a minimum dose of a certain substance daily or craves that drug around the clock, addiction is an issue and one that can only effectively be addressed at a medical treatment program.
If your son is addicted to prescription medications of any kind, we can help. Contact us at Muir Wood today to learn more about our comprehensive, evidence-based treatment program designed for teens.