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According to the statistical data, the level of prescription drugs abuse has grown recently because of the misthought that the overdose of prescribed drugs is safer than taking illegal street drugs. Consequently, pharmacological companies should start working on minimizing the possible abuse of their new medication at the very beginning of the drug development process. Doctors have to monitor the appropriate use of the prescribed drugs thoroughly, and constantly improve their qualification by visiting special trainings.  Pharmaceutical drug addiction is a significant problem which needs constant studying, elaboration of effective strategies, and implementation of the appropriate programs. The goal of these actions is to prevent misuse or overdose of prescription drugs which can have serious side effects and lead to the death of the patient.

 Pharmaceutical Drug Addiction

Statistics of Pharmaceutical Drug Addiction

Nonmedical use of prescription drugs has remained steady since 2008. However, data from the health surveillance system proves that during the last few years the number of prescriptions for neuropsychiatric medications has significantly increased. The frequency of side effects connected to the nonmedical use of prescriptions drugs is growing significantly. For example, drug poisoning of drivers has caused multiple motor vehicle accidents. Besides, 78 % of those drivers overdosed the medications unintentionally (Food and Drug Administration, 2010). However, the analysis proves that multiple types of illicit drugs are used primarily for euphoria and not for the purpose of recovering. According to the statistics, more than 15 million people in the USA abuse prescription drugs. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University claims that the number of people who abuse prescription drugs exceed the number of those who are addicted to alcohol, marijuana, and illegal street drugs (Food and Drug Administration, 2010). The US Drug Enforcement Administration refers many prescription drugs to the same class as cocaine and opium. Those drugs include Ritalin, Dexedrine, and such painkillers as OxyContin, Roxanol.

Prescription Drug Abuse Among the Young People

According to the investigation, teens and young adults more frequently become victims of drug addiction. Statistical data proves that teens are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than illegal street drugs. Many of them consider prescription drugs safer because a doctor prescribes them. However, taking prescription drugs for non-medical purposes is as dangerous and addictive as taking illegal street drugs.  Every day 2500 youths (from 12 to 18 years) in the USA abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time. Statistics show that 6% of all young people from 17 to 25 years old have abused prescription drugs (Fortuna, R. J., Robbins, B. W., Caiola, E., Joynt, M., & Halterman, J. S., 2010).  Depressants, antidepressants, and opioids become a reason for more overdose deaths than heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

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Types of the Abused Prescription Drugs


The prescription drugs which the patient takes for recovering are divided into such categories as depressants, opioids and morphine derivatives, stimulants, and antidepressants. Depressants belong to the central nervous system downers which slow down the brain function. Higher doses of depressants can cause an impairment of memory, irritability, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. Some people experience aggression after consumption of those drugs (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012). Long-term use of depressants can lead to depression, sleep problems, and chronic fatigue. Consumers of high doses feel agitation, high body temperature, and hallucinations. According to the investigation done by USA Today based on the data of the Food and Drug Administration, antidepressants and antipsychotics become the reason for more than 40 deaths caused by heart problems (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012).

Opioids and Morphine Derivatives

Opioids are drugs which affect the nervous system and relieve pain. Abuse of those drugs can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Continued use of opioids can cause addiction. The human body can adapt to the drug and will demand it if the dose is reduced (Manchikanti, L., Helm II, S., Fellows, B., Janata, J. W., Pampati, V., Grider, J.S., & Boswell, M. V., 2012). Consequently, the person can experience restlessness, pain in muscles and bones, insomnia, and vomiting. A long-term consumer must increase the dose of the drug to get a previous effect.


Stimulants cause a temporary surge of energy. These drugs fall into the same category as cocaine and amphetamine. Usually, the doctor prescribes stimulants to the patients who suffer from apathy and depression. The effect of alertness stimulates the patient to take the drug again. Soon, the person starts to take it not for the excitement but for a normal health state. High doses of stimulants may cause a dangerously high body temperature and irregular heartbeat.


Antidepressants include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Remeron. The studies have identified that those drugs can cause insomnia, irritability, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.  The investigation of the problem showed that 14% of young people who take antidepressants become aggressive and even violent (Fortuna et al., 2010). There are multiple examples of people who abuse prescription drugs expressing their fury towards the others and even trying to kill them.

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Prevention of Pharmaceutical Drug Addiction

Physicians, patients, and pharmacists play a significant role in the prevention of pharmaceutical drug addiction. Doctors should not only prescribe medication but also recognize drug abuse and prevent the escalation of this condition to addiction. Screening for prescription drug abuse should be incorporated into the routine medical check-ups  of the patients by asking about the history of drugs consumption, current prescriptions, and reasons for use of the specific drugs. Doctors have to look out for the increase of the amount of drugs needed by their patients, unscheduled refill requests, and try to prevent  the abuse in a timely manner. According to the statistical data, the majority of the addicted to pharmaceutical drugs are teens and young people. Thus, doctors should encourage parents to store prescribed drugs safely in order to prevent their children  from addiction. The Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey (PATS) identified that 59 percent of the interviewed teens have easy access to prescribed drugs in their parents’ medicine cabinets (Warner, M., Chen, L. H., Makuc, D. M., Anderson, R. N., & Miniño, A. M., 2011). To prevent pharmaceutical drug addiction pharmacists should also monitor the falsification of prescriptions and help the patients understand the instructions for taking the drugs.

Elaboration and implementation of different programs and trainings also play a great role in the prevention of pharmaceutical drug addiction. For example, in 2006 Dr. Lynn R. Webster, elaborated the program  that presented six principles which can help reduce the unintentional overdose deaths. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) opened a free international hotline which gave people an opportunity to report illegal sales or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs anonymously.  Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) require pharmacists and physicians to log every filled prescription into the database of the State, which can help identify the patients who get prescriptions from different sources.

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Pharmaceutical drug addiction and its prevention are important issues that need constant analysis. There are many special programs and trainings that are focusing on prevention of pharmaceutical drug addiction. However, multiple manufacturers of drugs produce medication with high abuse liability on purpose. That is why consumption of prescribed drugs should be thoroughly controlled by the doctor. The patients also must treat the problem consciously and use the prescription drugs according to the instruction because its abuse can lead to negative results.