Many painkillers and psychiatric medications, currently so liberally prescribed, are highly addictive. This addiction can lead to what is termed "abuse". However, most people who find themselves dependent on one of these medications, began taking them at a doctor's advice and through a legitimate prescription. I feel using the term "abuse" tends to lay blame on the addicted or dependent individual.
However referred to, whether as prescription drug use or abuse, addiction is a very real problem in our current environmental climate of drug advertising and over-prescribing.
The most addictive prescription medications include painkillers, stimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics and sedatives, also known as depressants or tranquilizers.
To understand what happens when you become addicted to a medication it helps to be familiar with a few terms.
Drug tolerance refers to the body's increasing ability to withstand the effects of a substance, such as a drug, thereby requiring larger and larger quantities of the substance in order to bring about the desired and expected result.Drug tolerance occurs when a personís reaction to a drug decreases. For example, if a person uses painkillers over an extended period of time, then they will need to consume larger and larger quantities in order to get the same results. Drug tolerance, in other words, is desensitization to a drug.
ADDICTIVE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Developing tolerance can become an
issue for patients taking prescribed medications because it reduces
the effectiveness of the drug. This can cause the user to look to
different sources for the drug and is a factor leading to addiction
Drug tolerance has the additional danger. As tolerance develops, the person feels the need to take more and more of the drug potentially leading to overdose and death.Drug dependence refers to a state where the individual is dependent upon the drug for normal physiological functioning. Ceasing to take the drug or significantly lowering the dose produces withdrawal reactions which constitute the only evidence for dependence. Drug dependence can involve disturbances in general bodily function such as vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and the resulting symptoms indicate a physical dependence syndrome which is usually specific for a given class of drug. Drug dependence can also involve disturbances in psychological functioning, such as inability to concentrate, anxiety, depression, and the resulting symptoms indicate a psychological dependence syndrome which often shares common features with other drugs.
depressants / benzodiazepines / sedatives
It is important to note that psychological dependence has a physiological basis and thus it is preferable to use the term physical dependence to refer to disturbances in somatic (having to do with the body) function to avoid confusion.
The term Drug Addiction describes thinking and behavior where the procurement and use of a drug seem to be most important to the individual and where the normal constraints on the person's behavior seem largely ineffective. Inherent in this definition is the overwhelmingly powerful motivation to obtain and self-administer the drug.
Drug Abuse simply means taking the drug in a fashion different from originally intended or in way that does not conform to what is normally acceptable. This could be taking larger doses or taking the medication more frequently than your doctor has prescribed. (Here you can see how physical tolerance can lead to abuse)
Prescription Drug Abuse also refers to taking a drug that has never been prescribed to you or to acquiring the drug illicitly by purchasing it from a non-pharmacy source, taking it from a friend or family member, having it given to you by someone other than your doctor, or "doctor shopping" to find additional medical prescribers to fill your need.
In summary, drug tolerance
refers to the body's
increasing ability to withstand the effects of a substance;
drug addiction describes the motivational
strength of substance use; drug abuse describes the
misuse of a substance without direct reference to motivational
strength; and drug dependence describes the
necessity of using a substance to maintain normal psychological
and/or physical functioning without reference to the motivational
strength of the substance use or to whether the substance use
violates what is acceptable in the current culture.
These three terms have distinctively different meanings although there are obvious and numerous cases where all three apply to the same drug-use situation (i.e., the individual may develop a tolerance to a medication and be dependent upon a drug which they then abuse because they have become both dependent and addicted).
Nothing on this website should be considered as a substitute for medical advice or pharmaceutical labels.