Has Prescription Drug Abuse Become a National Problem?

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Prescription drugs have been a gray area to this day. As much as they can benefit those who need them, their properties can be lethal due to misuse. Because of a widespread belief that prescription drugs are miraculous substances that enhance focus and help with pain relief, it’s not a surprise that the number of addicts is rising. That leads to a question: Has prescription drug abuse become a national problem or not? To answer this, it’s necessary to dissect this issue. It involves a myriad of factors – from psychological to sociological – that made prescription drug addiction so prevalent.  Various addiction treatment Boynton Beach FL centers confirm the rising number of cases involving addiction to at least one prescription medication.

How prescription drugs cause addiction

To understand how addiction to prescription drugs happens, it’s necessary to explain the types of prescription drugs and their properties :

  • Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine) treat ADHD symptoms.
  • Opioids (Oxycotin, Norco) are also known as painkillers and help with injuries.
  • Sedatives (Ambien, Xanax, Valium) are used to mitigate panic attacks, ease anxiety symptoms and help with insomnia.

These medications are obtainable by prescription or illegally. Both groups of people – those who need the prescriptions and those who don’t – can become addicted to them.

a woman demonstrating how has prescription drug abuse become a national problem
Prescription drugs start to take a major toll on a person’s health after long-term use.

Early signs of prescription drug abuse

The following symptoms show early signs of drug abuse, depending on the type of prescription drug:

  • Stimulants cause irregular heartbeat, high body temperature, feelings of jittery, and reduce appetite. High doses of stimulants increase anxiety and cause paranoia.
  • Opioids (or painkillers) can interfere with coordination, and make a person feel euphoric, as well as drowsy, with a lack of focus. The dosage required to ease pain increases due to prolonged opioid misuse as a person builds tolerance.
  • Sedatives mess with a person’s focus tampers with short-term memory, and cause slow breathing, and dizziness. Slurred speech is also common due to long-term abuse of anti-anxiety medications and sedatives

Risky behaviors are also signs that a person might be suffering from prescription drug abuse. Long-term abuse of the above-mentioned drugs influences the decision-making process. Over time, a person starts to believe they can’t function without either stimulants, opioids, or sedatives. Stealing from home or robbing a pharmacy stem from a severe addiction where a person lost touch with reality and wants the next dose.

heart rate
Irregular heart rate is one of the many health complications that stem from prescription medication misuse.

Mixing prescription medications with other drugs and alcohol is often the case

After some period, an individual frequently using any of these drugs starts to build tolerance. This doesn’t lead to increased doses only, but to alcohol abuse as well. It’s not a rarity to mic prescription drugs with cocaine, speed, and other so-called party drugs. This is an example of deep addiction that may end up fatally.

Causes leading to the widespread use of prescription drugs

Multiple factors must be taken into account in order to explain why prescription drug abuse has reached a nearly epidemic level. Widespread prescription drug abuse hasn’t come to that level overnight. It’s a long-term process fueled by various contributors some of which are:

  • Stress – We live at a fast pace and on tight schedules. For many, there’s so much to do within a limited time frame. The question is whether would it be enough if a day lasted for 48h. All those accumulated duties and added stress are draining, especially mentally. That’s why people resort to illegally obtained prescription drugs that keep them alert and help them go through another overwhelming and stressful day.
  • Mental health issues – The thing is that not everyone has access to psychotherapy. This often happens among teenagers and young adults who struggle to make ends meet. Since they don’t have access to proper therapy, they resort to miraculous drugs they were told about by their peers, coworkers, and so on. For example, sedatives help ease intense panic attacks. Furthermore, they stop overthinking, thus providing mental relief as well. What a person using sedatives on their own forgets about are detrimental consequences that come after prolonged drug misuse.
  • Tight schedule – People nowadays have an array of obligations to attend to, and it seems there’s never enough time and energy. Therefore, they resort to stimulants to accomplish all tasks, frequently at the cost of their sleep.

It’s easier to obtain prescription drugs than other substances

Accessibility is another crucial factor in growing prescription drug use. Contrary to popular belief, prescription drugs are actually easy to get by. For example, let’s say a college student desperate to get Adderral has a cousin who has a prescription for it. Or maybe someone in the immediate family. It’s easy to get Adderall either by stealing or asking a cousin for help. On the other hand, an athlete determined to participate and win the race is likely to abuse oxycodone medications by taking more than the doctor proscribed. These examples show how psychological factors and accessibility can drive a person into further addiction.

People of all ages across the nation struggle with prescription drug abuse

Different motivations drive them to search for prescription drugs that seem to promise immediate results. It’s important to note that addiction to prescription drugs starts with good intentions. The main goal is to make life less painful, reduce problems with anxiety, etc. However, the end result isn’t what anyone hopes for in the beginning. When a person experiences the initial benefits of a drug for the first time, that very drug becomes a part of their daily life. Also, we can’t attribute prescription drug abuse to only one category or age range. All age groups are affected by this problem – from children to seniors. 

Stimulants are popular study aids among the college population

Stress and high expectations at college are the most common reasons why students seek stimulants like Adderrall or Ritalin (also known as study drugs). Over 40% of interviewed students admitted they helped themselves with prescriptions at least twice. Stakes are high to the point students feel like they have very little room for mistakes. This especially applies to ambitious students, those who study to remain on scholarship, and those pressured by their families. Even those who balance a job and lectures aren’t exempt from this. The common goal remains the same – to have more energy and focus, and thus to retain as much information in order to achieve remarkable results. However, what happens is that a one-time use becomes more and more frequent.

a woman doing a deep dive research on why has prescription drug abuse become a national problem
Over 20% of the college population used stimulants on their own at least twice.

Students who used to take stimulants claim they were able to have uninterrupted study sessions that last hours thanks to prescription drugs. However, prolonged prescription drug abuse comes at a great cost, both mentally and physically. Health problems arise when drug misuse goes out of control. Prescriptions become necessary for students to function. That further impacts not only their sleep schedule but their health as well. Irregular heartbeat, excessive sweat, loss of appetite, and hallucinations are some of the main symptoms recorded among the college population. For those struggling with anxiety, prescription drug misuse can lead to severe panic attacks and paranoia. The number of students leaving college to enter rehab is rising every year.

Teenagers resort to Xanax to cope with anxiety and stress

Abuse of opioids among teenagers has risen to staggering numbers. More than 15% of adolescents ages 12 to 19 abuse opioids, with Xanax being the main. Factors like parenting style, anxiety issues, and peer pressure mostly contribute to this. The usage begins in pre-teen years (age of 11-12) and continues into teenagehood. Teenagers find it easier to reduce intense emotions and numb anxiety for a while. Abuse of Xanax, for example, leads to cognitive dysfunction. Attention span becomes shorter than before, grades drop, and a teenager becomes less and less unable to cope with daily life. Teenagers coming from unstable households where at least one family member abuses substances are likely to start doing it as well.

angry teenager
Teenage cases of prescription drug addiction are more common than it seems.

Accidental addictions to prescription drugs often happen among the senior population

Elderly people with multiple health issues are obligated to take various medications. According to the latest data, over 50% of people between the ages of 55 to 90 became addicted to prescription drugs by accident. This issue can be explained in two ways:

  1. Dosage – Elderly with progressing Alzheimer’s or dementia often forget they already had taken a prescribed dose. As a result, they increase the dosage and end up taking medications twice a day instead of once, for example.
  2. Poor healthcare – Areas with poor healthcare systems might not have access to all the necessary medications. It often happens that medical staff prescribes an alternative to the medication a patient actually needs. In addition, the dosage ends up being higher than it should be. Fatal cases mostly stem from wrong medications.

A high percentage of painkiller abuse is prevalent among athletes

Injuries that must be treated for a prolonged period of time often prevent athletes from achieving top-level results and the best performance. In addition, the number of scholarships is limited, and losing them means the end of a sports career for many. Hence, the increased use of medication containing oxycodone has become a major issue. Wanting to go back to training and competing as fast as possible, athletes go above the prescribed dose, thus putting themselves in a danger. Multiple cases of painkiller overdose in High School and college sports have been recorded in the past few years. Although the abuse of painkillers has always been present, the problem is now prevalent more than ever.  According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 12% of male and 8% of female athletes admitted to using painkillers in the past year.

tired athlete in the locker room
Opioid addiction is common among athletes.

Early signs of oxycodone abuse among athletes are increased heart rate, nausea, and disrupted sleeping patterns. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of athletes seek help in the early stages of addiction. Due to continued abuse of painkillers, oxycodone rehab becomes the only solution.

Black market profits from prescription drugs

As mentioned before, prescription drugs are more accessible than other substances. Furthermore, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to market them to minors, let alone other age groups. On top of that, the prescription drug trade within the black market networks has become increasingly profitable. In addition, pharmacy robbery cases significantly increased in the past few years.

Prescription drugs are easily marketable to minors, seniors, and young adults trying to make ends meet. Illegally sold medications can sometimes cost even less.

The dark web is where prescription drugs are sold illegally

The internet the government doesn’t have control over enabled many drug dealers to sell substances to anyone who orders them. Since the dark web is hardly detectable, traders can reach their target audience in a safer manner. Drugs are packed and transported hidden in candy boxes, wine magazines, or any other item the customs normally wouldn’t check. It takes more work than ever before to track illicit drug trade due to the dark web market, encrypted phones, and other tools that allow traders to cover their tracks.

a person holding pills in their hand
Easy access to stimulants, opioids, and sedatives is one of the reasons why has prescription drug abuse become a national problem.

Addiction to prescription drugs must be treated accordingly

When early signs of prescription drug abuse are addressed on time, it’s possible to prevent addiction. On the other hand, severe addiction must be treated in a controlled environment. At this stage, a person starts depending on prescription medications mentally and physically as well. They need professional assistance in order to get out of the addictive loop instead of trying to overcome it by themselves. When addiction, in general, takes a hold of one’s life, withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating. For that reason alone, the best option is to seek a residential drug treatment Florida has on offer.

The treatment a patient will receive depends on the type of prescription drug, its properties, and duration of misuse. For example, the treatment for stimulants is way different than the treatment for opioids. So, make sure to seek the exact therapy you or your loved one need.

What to look for in a treatment center

It’s important to entrust the addiction recovery process to credible professionals. That’s why it’s best to take time researching Adderall addiction rehab Boynton beach centers first. Find out more about their programs, conditions, and success rate. Also, read recommendations of others on multiple online platforms and forums.

psychologist explaining why has prescription drug abuse become a national problem
Psychotherapy is an integral aspect of the recovery process.

Don’t forget to check the accreditations of therapists who work in any particular treatment center you consider contacting. Rehab is to be entrusted exclusively to a team of professionals with strong training and experience under their belt. Misdiagnose can result in a wrong treatment, which can further lead to consequences.

Medical detox will be necessary

A patient must undergo a medical detox to get rid of substances from their body. Withdrawal symptoms can be almost excruciating and draining, which is why medical assistance is necessary. Once a medical detox is completed, an individual can enter the next stages of recovery.

fatigued person
Fatigue and confusion happen due to prolonged use of sedatives.

Psychological treatment

An addiction psychiatrist works with a person in the process of recovery on underlying issues. When a patient is aware of the motives behind prescription drug use, progress becomes easier to attain. Furthermore, a therapist working with a patient can help them realize they don’t necessarily need the drugs to achieve goals, or cope with stress. It’s a long process through which a patient must learn to recognize triggers – emotional, physical, etc.

Relapse prevention

Overcoming addiction to prescription drugs includes a relapse prevention plan, just like meth rehab Florida treatments, for instance. The purpose of relapse prevention strategy isn’t that a recovering patient abstains from drug usage only. The key is to replace the need for opioids with healthier coping mechanisms. That’s why post-recovery therapy is essential for a recovering individual to stay sober and prevent relapse. Post-recovery involves a tailored relapse prevention strategy a patient can refer to and live drug-free as long as possible.

Payment options to consider

Rehab centers accept different insurance coverage options. Each of them covers specific rehab or multiple them. Therefore, make sure to learn about insurance options and whether you qualify for them, and is drug rehab covered under FMLA as well.


Tricare can cover rehab expenses for military veterans and their families. Make sure to check does Tricare cover alcohol rehab and other necessary treatments in a rehab facility you consider.


If you wonder does Aetna cover drug rehab, the answer is – yes. However, check with the rehab facility whether they accept Aetna in the first place.


Ask a rehab facility does Cigna cover drug rehab before you choose this insurance option. While it certainly covers alcohol and drug rehab treatments, it may not be fully accepted in every facility.


So, does Aflac cover alcohol rehab in all rehab centers? The answer is – only in some of them. Make sure to check whether you qualify for the coverage and if it’s accepted in a rehab center you chose.


Humana provides various insurance plans such as Medicaid and Medicare and covers most drug and alcohol treatments. However, contact a treatment center and ask does Humana cover alcohol rehab and other treatments first.

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance is widely accepted in many rehab centers. However, does Blue Cross Blue Shield cover alcohol rehab and drug treatments in a specific center that interests you? It’s better to check with the rehab center before you opt for this insurance.

What can be done regarding prescription drug control?

Although prescription drug abuse has grown into a problem on a national level, it doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions to this. Treating an individual case is just a drop in the sea of social aspects that play a big role.

Educating people on the damage of prescription drug usage

Educational workshops are one of the ways to introduce people to the dangers that come with prescription drug use. Schools and public seminars can help a wider population familiarize themselves with the detrimental consequences of drug misuse.

health word made of pills
Has prescription drug abuse become a national problem? The answer is – yes. However, improved healthcare and monitoring can help mitigate this issue.

Improved healthcare and access to psychotherapy

Access to healthcare would ease the issue of prescription drug addiction to some extent. In addition to this, the responsibility should be shifted to medical professionals. It’s not a rarity that a doctor overprescribes a dosage without looking into the problem a patient might face. In some cases, patients happen to be given expired medications as well. This is yet another reason why has prescription drug abuse become a national problem. That being said, improved monitoring is much-needed.

Another important component is access to psychotherapy. Drug addictions aren’t only physical but psychological. In fact, subconscious issues that aren’t treated on time often result in addictions. A person suffering loss wouldn’t engage in dangerous sedative misuse if they had had access to mental help.

Prescription drug abuse has become a national problem that must be addressed

With all things considered, has prescription drug abuse become a national problem? The answer is – yes. It’s, not due to staggering statistics only. The fact that prescription drug abuse affects basically everyone is telling. If we factor in accessibility and the increasingly profitable black market, it’s safe to say the problem has become severe. Experts still debate the solutions that could minimize the prevalent prescription drug illicit trade and misuse. However, it will take plenty of improvements in terms of laws, education, and healthcare to make the statistics go south.


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