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Patterns of Prescription Drug Abuse

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, learn important terminology related to prescription drug abuse. Explore the many social, physical, and psychological aspects related to this type of abuse.

Prescription Drugs

I've taken just a few drugs in my life. No, no, never illicit substances. So if the DEA is reading this, don't worry guys. But I have taken some over-the-counter and prescription drugs for various, thankfully minor reasons. In fact, many of us have. Prescription drugs are drugs that have been called for by a licensed medical professional to be dispensed to you by a pharmacy for the prevention, or treatment, of some ailment. These prescription drugs, just like illicit substances, can be abused. Let's go over the terminology and patterns of drug abuse related to this.

Important Terminology

Let's meet Cindy, a mother of an 18-year-old son name Bill, who will walk us through the horrendous nature of prescription drug abuse and what it's done to Bill and her family. Cindy tells us that Bill was originally prescribed a powerful prescription pain-killing medication after a car accident. By the way a drug is a chemical substance, not including food, which affects the body's physiological and/or psychological processes.

At first, Cindy says that Bill was actually misusing, instead of abusing the drug. What's the difference? Well, drug misuse refers to the improper use of legal drugs, the ones that are prescribed to you by a doctor. Cindy says that instead of taking the pills by mouth as directed by the doctor, Bill began crushing the pills into a fine powder and snorting them instead. That's an example of misusing the drug.

Eventually, however, Bill was abusing the drug. Prescription drug abuse is a continuous pattern of using a legal medication in such a way that it negatively impacts a person's physiological and/or psychological functions. What those functions are, and how they impact the body and other people, will be described by Cindy in the next section.

Cindy went on to say that Bill became addicted to the prescription pain killer. Drug addiction is a persistent physiological and/or psychological need for the drug. She noticed that as he was abusing this drug, as he became addicted to it, he was actually using more and more pills to try and reach the same high he once did. That's because Bill was undergoing drug tolerance, a physiological and psychological state where a person needs a higher concentration of the drug in order to feel the same effects as he once did at an originally lower concentration.

Cindy said she severely admonished her son for what he was doing to himself and their family, and he decided to quit cold turkey as a result. The problem is, by now the body had become used to the drug to the extent that it actually needed it in order to feel and function at least semi-normally. Once Bill quit, he began to experience symptoms of withdrawal, a set of psychological, physiological, and emotional problems that include nausea, vomiting, depression, sweating, and tremors associated with a rapid discontinuation, or large reduction in, drug use.

Cindy says that because Bill felt horrible from his withdrawal symptoms, he took a massive amount of the pain killer to try and feel better and in the process he overdosed. A drug overdose is a condition where a toxic amount of the drug has been taken into the body, an amount that may lead to a coma or even death.

The Pattern of Prescription Drug Abuse

So how did Cindy know that Bill was abusing prescription drugs? She noticed a tell-tale pattern of signs that are often visible in people who abuse. At first Bill's medication began to 'disappear'. He claimed he lost it or that he accidentally dropped a bunch on the ground and thus didn't want to drink them. He made seemingly legitimate excuses as to why he needed more of the drug. Then she started to notice that Bill's grades were suffering and that he was fired from work. This was completely out of character because he was a good student before and was never even late for work once in his life. She was also appalled at how he began to neglect his beloved pet dog.

Cindy told us that Bill also began to bring home new friends who seemed to be into drugs while she never saw his old friends again. However, with time Bill even lost these new friends and seemed to be isolated. Within a few months, Bill was arrested for petty theft. Cindy suspected he was trying to get money to buy more drugs somewhere off of the street.

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