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Prescription Drug Glossary

prescription drug addiction

Prescription drug abuse

Prescription drug abuse refers to the overuse and addiction to a medically prescribed substance. Prescription drug abuse often develops due to a person becoming addicted to a strong substance that is prescribed as treatment, such as the prescription of morphine as a painkiller.

Prescription drug abuse may lead to addiction when a person sees their drug prescription run out and finds themselves physically dependent on the substance. In the case of prescribed drugs such as morphine, this can lead a person to seek an alternative that is bought illegally, such as heroin. Prescription drug abuse is a widespread issue in the UK and most other countries in the world.

Opioids

Opioids are a form of medication that is prescribed by a doctor to treat symptoms of severe pain. Opioids can be prescribed for many different reasons, including the treatment of pain for a person who is recovering from surgery, experiencing pain from cancer and cancer treatment and for individuals with chronic backaches and headaches.

Opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors on nerve cells within the brain and other areas of the body. By doing so, they block pain messages sent through those receptors. Opioids can be highly addictive, making opioid and prescription drug abuse and addiction a serious problem in most countries.

Pain management

Pain management in addiction refers to individuals who use drugs to manage symptoms of extreme pain. The reasons for pain can vary but commonly include medical conditions, recent surgery and chronic conditions such as backache and headaches.

Pain management using illegal drugs or the diverted and unintended use of prescription drugs is dangerous. Addiction can easily develop due to the addictive nature of strong painkillers such as morphine, leading a person to turn to illegal equivalents such as heroin in order to continue to manage both their pain and cravings. If you are concerned about pain management and are presently on prescribed drugs, please speak to your prescribing medical professional about your concerns.

Central nervous system depressants

Central nervous system depressants (CNS) are a kind of drug that affects the brain, slowing its function down in some respects. This makes CNS drugs very useful in the treatment of a variety of conditions. Central nervous system depressants function by working on neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. Side effects of CNS depressants include senses of relaxation, decreased inhibition and increased drowsiness.

CNS depressants are used in a range of medical applications, particularly to help in the alleviating of symptoms from disorders including anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia and stress. The three main types of central nervous system depressants are hypnotics, tranquilisers and sedatives.

Barbiturates

Barbiturates are a form of synthetic drug which is traditionally used and prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and depression. Barbiturates were previously a popular choice for the alleviation of these symptoms but have since mostly been replaced by a different drug called benzodiazepine. Barbiturates were partly replaced due to their addictive nature. The small difference between a dose of barbiturates and an overdose was also a contributing factor to their replacement.

Barbiturates are highly addictive. Street terms for barbiturates include barbs, blue devils, blue bullets, barbies, pink ladies, red devils and many more. If you are concerned about addiction to barbiturates, please contact the Help Me Stop team or your local medical professional.

Stimulants

Stimulants are a type of drug that acts by speeding up the transmission of messages between the body and the brain. The sensations you receive from using stimulants are that of feeling more alert, energetic and confident, although specific effects will vary depending on the stimulant used.

Stimulants can be addictive and can cause a variety of side effects if large doses are taken, including anxiety, seizures, panic, headaches, paranoia and aggression.

Examples of stimulants include amphetamines, mephedrone and khat. Non-drug stimulants include caffeine, cocaine and nicotine. Stimulants can be swallowed, smoked or injected depending on the type of substance in question and can also be consumed orally.

Online pharmacy

Online pharmacies are pharmacies that operate over the internet, providing prescriptions and orders of drugs to customers through shipping companies and mail. There are a variety of online pharmacies in existence in the UK and online, some of them illegal. Some online pharmacies administrate corporate prescription drug plans. Illegal online pharmacies often con customers by distributing substances which are counterfeit, have passed their shelf-life or have been produced in a way which does not follow required safety standards.

If you have any questions or concerns about the use of an online pharmacy, you are advised to contact your local NHS branch directly for advice and guidance.

Vicodin

Vicodin is a brand name for a prescription drug that is commonly used to treat severe pain. Vicodin is actually what is known as a “hybrid drug”, being a combination of an analgesic and an opiate painkiller. Other brand names for the same drug are Norco and Lorcet. Vicodin can be ingested as a tablet or liquid and can also be inhaled or injected.

The combination of the two substances into this drug (hydrocodone and paracetamol) allows Vicodin to be an effective treatment for moderate to significant pain with a drug that isn’t as strong as other painkillers – or as liable to cause addiction. Vicodin addiction is still possible, however, and can cause serious harm.

Oxycontin

Oxycontin is the brand name for a drug that is medically known as oxycodone hydrochloride. This drug is an opioid analgesic, meaning it acts as both a pain reliever and a narcotic. Oxycontin is prescription only and is effective and powerful in its ability to block pain for long periods. This is done by the drug affecting the brain and nervous system’s response to pain.

Oxycontin is a popular drug, particularly in the United States, where its abuse has reached epidemic status in scale. Popularised in the media, Oxycontin has a serious potential for addiction and subsequent harm through abuse and misuse.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is an opioid drug. Being produced instead of occurring naturally, it is a synthetic substance that is anywhere from 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is prescribed medically for a variety of reasons but is also made and sold illegally. Similar to morphine, Fentanyl is a substance used to treat severe pain. It is often used to treat patients who have just finished surgery, but is also useful in its application as an opioid for patients with chronic pain symptoms, particularly if they are tolerant to other opioid drugs.

Fentanyl overdoses can be fatal and the drug is one of the leading causes of overdose deaths in some countries, most notably the United States.

Adderall

Adderall is a drug that is used to treat individuals who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used to help treat individuals who have the sleeping disorder narcolepsy, as it helps users to stay awake in the day.

Adderall works by altering the balance of specific natural substances within the brain. As a stimulant, Adderall is often used outside of prescriptions to increase focus and attention. Although Adderall is of benefit to many individuals who are prescribed it, the drug has the potential to cause addiction. This danger is increased if you already have a substance use disorder.

Ritalin

Ritalin is a drug that is primarily used to treat individuals with ADHD. Ritalin functions similar to Adderall in that it alters the balance of naturally occurring substances within the brain. Its effects are also similar to Adderall; when consumed, Ritalin increases a person’s ability to focus on an activity, particularly for longer periods of time.

Suddenly ceasing use of Ritalin can lead to withdrawal symptoms including mood swings, suicidal thoughts and depression. If you are prescribed Ritalin, your doctor will work with you to slowly wean you off the substance safely. Overdosing on Ritalin can be fatal, with other symptoms including heart attacks, seizures, comas, strokes, rapid breathing and panic.

Valium

Valium is a benzodiazepine with strongly addictive properties. It is unique in that its effects last longer than other drugs in its

types of prescription drug addiction

Physical dependence

Physical dependence refers to when a person continues to take a drug over time, becoming addicted to it and experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop continuing their use of the substance. Physical dependence often occurs when a person is prescribed a drug legally for medical reasons, particularly if the prescribed substance is a strong painkiller such as morphine.

Physical dependence is a leading cause of addiction to prescription drugs. Individuals who become addicted to a prescribed drug may look to purchase more of it illegally or, as is often the case with morphine and heroin, may turn to an illegal alternative to alleviate their withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Mental addiction

Mental addiction is often referred to as psychological dependence. This refers to when a person experiences strong emotional and mental dependency on a substance. Mental addiction does not always involve an element of physical dependency, but it can be just as serious and crippling to a person who is experiencing it.

Mental addiction relates to the cognitive and emotional aspects of addiction. Even if a substance is not physically addictive, mental addiction can still occur for a variety of reasons.  A person may become mentally addicted to a substance or even an activity in order to alleviate the stress and anxiety they experience regularly, for instance.

Tolerance

Tolerance refers to the fact that, with many drugs, sustained and heavy use leads to the individual not experiencing the same high as they did when they consumed the same amount before. Tolerance is dangerous, particularly with addictive substances such as strong painkillers such as morphine. This is because individuals can exceed their prescription or seek illegal alternatives in a bid to obtain a strong effect as they did when they began using the drug in question.

Tolerance can, in many cases, lead to the development of dependence and potential subsequent addiction through sustained use. It is common for people who are prescribed painkillers to develop some degree of dependence.

Trigger

The term trigger refers to anything that brings about a strong response in a person. In addiction and drug use terms, a trigger can be anything that, when experienced, compels the individual to consume drugs or alcohol again.

Triggers can vary drastically and may be as seemingly benign as walking past a certain building, such as a pub where alcohol was previously consumed. For a person recovering from addiction or dependency on drugs or alcohol, learning their triggers is an important part of recovery and is vital in building the resilience so important in achieving a life free from substance abuse.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal refers to the negative symptoms experienced when a person stops using a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the substance in question, the age and physical state of the user and the extent of their substance use. Depending on the substance, sudden withdrawal from a drug or from alcohol can be fatal.

Many individuals addicted to or dependent on prescription drugs feel strong sensations of craving when they stop taking their prescribed drugs or when their prescription runs out. This often leads individuals to seek alternatives, such as using heroin as a replacement for prescribed morphine.

Nonmedical use

Nonmedical use refers to when a person uses drugs they have been prescribed for reasons not specified in their prescription. Going against the intended use of a prescribed drug is often done when a person seeks a recreational high from the drug in question, such as nonmedical use of prescribed morphine.

Nonmedical use of a prescribed drug is very dangerous, as it can lead a person towards developing a dependency or addiction on the substance in question. This is particularly dangerous with strong painkillers such as morphine. Nonmedical use of prescribed drugs is also dangerous as it is often the case that the user is uninformed on the dangers of withdrawal and overdosing, some of which can be fatal.

Prescription drug addiction is a serious issue for many people If you are struggling or know someone who is, contact Help Me Stop today.

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