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Abusing any kind of prescription drug can cause both short term (immediate) and long term health implications. All prescription drugs have numerous effects and side effects, it is important to understand the impact these effects can have on you as an individual.

If you are abusing prescription drugs frequently or suffer from an addiction, it is vital to seek professional help. Ignoring the issue or hoping that it will get better on its own only puts your life and health at further risk.

Prescription drug use effects

Reading the information pamphlets that accompany prescription drug packaging will help you to understand that all prescription drugs come with a long list of effects. Some of these effects can be dangerous

Pharmaceutical drugs that can only be obtained on prescription are recognised as having the potential for abuse. They also have more damaging effects than those that can be purchased from over the counter at your local pharmacy.

If you are abusing prescription drugs, it is likely you are doing so for their sought after effects and have not even considered the possible harmful side effects.

The most commonly abused prescription drugs are those that are categorised as controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. 1

Controlled drugs are prescription drugs that have the greatest potential for abuse. They are also the most dangerous drugs, if not used exactly as prescribed.

Struggling with prescription drug addiction? Talk to us today

Most abused prescription drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into 5 categories. All have the potential for abuse and all have addictive properties:

  • Opiate and opioid painkillers – Opiate and opioid painkillers are powerful analgesics prescribed for the short term and long term treatment of moderate to severe pain.
  • Stimulants – Stimulants are a group of drugs prescribed for the treatment of ADD, ADHD, narcolepsy and weight loss

how stimulants act in the dopamine cells

  • Benzodiazepines – Benzodiazepines are depressant drugs with sedative and muscle relaxant properties.They are prescribed for the short term treatment of severe anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, seizures and muscle spasms.
  • Sleeping medications – Z-List sleeping medications have hypnotic and sedative properties and are prescribed for the short term treatment of sleep disorders
  • Gabapentanoids – Gabapentanoids work on the GABA receptors and have many prescription and off label uses. They are commonly prescribed to treat neuropathic pain and epilepsy. Off label uses include anxiety and relieving the symptoms of other mental health disorders.

If you want to stop taking a regularly prescribed medication, regardless of whether you are abusing it or not, always seek medical advice first.

Stopping a prescription drug suddenly when your body has become accustomed to it can result in unpleasant and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms

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The short term and long term effects of prescriptions drugs

The short term and long term effects of prescription drugs vary depending on:

  • If you are taking the drug as prescribed or are abusing it
  • The specific type of prescription drug you are taking, dosage, frequency and route of administration
  • Personal physical/mental health factors and genetics
  • Other medications, alcohol or drugs that you are taking
  • The short term effects of prescription drugs
  • The short term effects of prescription drugs include:
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Excessive sleep or inability to sleep
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Unusual muscle movements

The long term effects of prescription drugs

The long term effects of prescription drugs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appearance (weight loss or weight gain)
  • Changes in physical health
  • Damage to the heart, kidneys, liver and brain
  • Depression
  • Drug addiction
  • Drug dependence
  • Mental health decline

This list is by no means inclusive, both the short term and long term effects of individual prescription drugs are too numerous to list

Side effects of abusing prescription drugs

Abusing prescription drugs carries many side effects, not only to your physical health but also to your mental and emotional health.

As you become more unwell from the side effects of abusing prescription drugs, other areas of your life are likely to become affected. Whilst you may have an awareness that you are physically, mentally, socially, and financially suffering, you still find it difficult/impossible to stop abusing them. Why is this? Why can’t you stop abusing prescription drugs, even when you and your loved ones are suffering as a result?

Prescription drug addiction is a recognised illness and disorder. You are not continuing to take prescription drugs because you necessarily want to, you are taking them because you feel you HAVE to.

Once the brain is addicted to a substance, it becomes chemically and structurally altered. It (the brain) rewires itself to compulsively seek and take that substance, regardless of the possible consequences and the negative effects that have already happened 2

The more prescription drugs you abuse and the longer you abuse them for, the more damage is caused to the brain. Recovery from prescription drug addiction becomes harder to attain and maintain. This is due to addiction being characterised by progression, compulsion and relapse 2

Physical side effects of prescription drug abuse

The physical side effects of prescription drug abuse vary depending on the person, their drug use and the drug they are taking.
Prescription drug abuse carries an immediate threat to physical health. It can cause a person to unintentionally overdose, resulting in respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, coma and death

The long term physical side effects of prescription drug abuse will become progressively worse over time. As your body becomes tolerant to the drug through frequent use, you will find that you need to take more of the prescription drug to gain the desired effects and to avoid prescription drug withdrawal symptoms. This in itself brings a whole host of physical, mental and emotional health issues.

Emotional effects of prescription drugs abuse

By not seeking professional help for prescription drug abuse or addiction, your emotional health will suffer. Instead of learning to cope with day to day events and issues, you will be compelled to pop a pill to dull or change the way that you feel.

Eventually, through damaging your brain’s pleasure/reward system with repeated drug abuse, the sought after effects of prescription drugs stop working. At this point it is likely that you will feel as if you are merely existing and can find no enjoyment in your day to day life 2

Emotionally you will start to experience overriding feelings of hopelessness, shame, depression and dissatisfaction. You may even start to feel suicidal and contemplate taking your own life – just to escape the feelings of misery and entrapment that addiction brings.

The good news is that whilst you may have no choice in your drug taking, you do have a choice in whether to take a positive step towards recovery in the form of accepting professional help.

Prescription drug abuse and addiction treatment

We at Delamere understand the damaging effects of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Just because a drug is prescribed, makes it no less harmful than any illicit drug.

Successful prescription drug addiction treatment consists of medical, pharmaceutical and behavioural therapy treatment components 3 Here at Delamere, we provide everything you need to recover all under the one roof.

We will help you to repair the damage caused by prescription drug addiction, to your physical, mental and emotional health. Recovery from prescription drug addiction is possible.
For more information on how our Delamere team can help you to stop prescription drugs and fully recover from addiction, call and speak with us today.

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Struggling with prescription drug addiction? Take action today…

For more information speak to our team about how we can help you grow beyond addiction and find residential treatment programmes today.

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  1. Department of Health
  2. Definition of addiction
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse