If you take a medication in a way that is different from what the doctor prescribed, it is called prescription drug abuse.  It could be:

  • Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else
  • Taking a larger dose that you are supposed to
  • Taking the medicine in a different way than you are supposed to. This might be crushing tablets and then snorting or injecting them.
  • Using the medicine for another purpose, such as getting high

Prescription medications have many legitimate and helpful uses when taken as prescribed and under the supervision of a physician.  Many people, however, find themselves misusing prescription medications for a number of reasons.  For some, a physical dependence on medications such as pain killers or sedatives results in a need for more of the same medication in order to produce the desired effect.  For others, prescription medications are used recreationally to produce euphoria or a “high.”  There are three types of prescription medications that are commonly misused:

  1. Opioids – usually prescribed to address pain
  2. Central nervous system depressant – this includes tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics; usually used to treat anxiety and/or sleep disorders
  3. Stimulants – usually prescribed for attention disorders such as ADHD

There are serious dangers in abusing or misusing prescription medications, including overdose and developing a physical dependence that can result in a withdrawal syndrome if the medication is stopped abruptly.

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States.  Once an individual develops a physical dependence on a prescription medication, it is not uncommon for he/she to resort to buying the prescription medications “on the street” due to not receiving enough from the prescribing physician.  This can result in serious financial problems as the value of prescription medications is much higher when purchasing on the street versus purchasing from a pharmacy.  The individual also runs the risk of legal involvement as buying and selling prescription medications is illegal.

Historically, many individuals that abuse or misuse prescription medication did so feeling like they were using “safe” drugs since the dose and ingredients of the drug were consistent.  In recent years, however, the illegal drug trade has evolved and there are drug dealers that are manufacturing “look-alike” prescription pills.  These “look-alike” pills sometimes contain dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and can cause unintentional overdoses.  The drugs that some viewed as “safe” are no longer safe.

Physical dependence on prescription opioids causes the individual to need a higher dose in order to achieve the same results.  As mentioned above, this often leads to purchasing additional medications illegally.  Research has shown that individuals who are physically dependent on opioids often end up using heroin due to higher availability and lower cost.

At Pathways Florida, the treatment team uses addiction counseling (link to 28 day page), cognitive-behavioral therapy, and drug rehab and support groups to address the addiction issues that arise from prescription medication abuse and misuse.  These treatments address the root causes of the prescription abuse and teach clients various coping techniques for preventing relapse.  Medication assisted treatment. options may also be explored to assist with reducing cravings and relapse prevention.

Individual and group therapy offer support and encouragement to help addicts address their underlying issues.  Life skills and coping skills training help those new in recovery acquire the tools necessary to cope with stressors and triggers.  At Pathways Florida, the goal is to address the addict’s physical, mental and spiritual issues.

An important piece of the Pathways Florida treatment plan for clients who are struggling with prescription abuse is coordination and communication with the prescribing physician.  Open communication with all treating medical professionals is essential.  This allows the physician to know about the client’s prescription abuse and allows the medical professionals the opportunity to find alternatives for treating any ongoing medical issues.

Also important to the treatment program is the creation of a long-term care plan.  The Pathways Florida licensed mental health counselors work with each client to ensure that he/she is connected to the necessary resources for success.  This might include additional counseling, additional substance abuse treatment, and referrals to medical professionals.