The abuse of prescription drugs is UK’s fastest-growing public health problem. Health experts worry that the rising incidents of drug-related harms and deaths linked to these legal drugs are almost surpassing the cases of abuse and overdose deaths caused by illicit drugs.
Prescription medicines are a miracle for those burdened by painful health conditions, but misuse results in dire health consequences.
Exploring the Dark Side of Prescription Medications
Prescription drug abuse involves taking or using a prescribed medicine in a manner that’s different from what the health specialist instructed.
There are three major categories of prescription medications widely abused:
- Opioid painkillers prescribed to relieve chronic pain
- Stimulants issued for treating conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Central nervous system depressants prescribed to manage sleep disorders and anxiety
The nation-wide misuse of these medicines has reached an epidemic level. Here are some worrying facts about the state of prescription medication abuse across the UK:
- In 2018, opioids accounted for 80% of the drug-related fatalities recorded in all the countries in the UK
- The overdose of prescription drugs is a popular form of drug poisoning in the UK
- Between 2017 to 2018, 11.5 million adults (in England alone) had received a prescription medication and dispensed it to others
- Almost half of those (in England) who were receiving a prescription drug in March 2018 had been using it continuously for over 12 months
Many users believe that these medications are perfectly safe because they are issued by trusted health specialists. Prescription medications are commonly abused in the following ways:
- Exceeding the specific dosage recommended
- Using someone else’s drugs, even if you are doing so for medical reasons
- Mixing the prescribed medicine with alcohol and other drugs
- Changing the medication into another form and taking it differently— For example, crushing a prescription pill and snorting the powder
- Taking the prescribed drug for non-medical reasons, that is, to experience a “high”
When you use a prescription medication repeatedly, your body develops a tolerance towards the drug. What this means is your body adapts to the usual level of the drug’s presence and thus doesn’t achieve the desired effect when you take the normal dose. You’ll feel the need to take the prescribed medicine in higher doses to experience the exact relief you often feel when you take it in the recommended amount.
High tolerance towards a prescription drug puts you at risk of overdose. As you take the medication in larger quantities, its presence in the body reaches toxic levels, interfering with the normal functioning of body cells. Overdosing on these medications can lead to a coma and even death.
Prescription medications are designed to manage complex health conditions. Due to their powerful nature, these drugs often affect the body in uncomfortable ways — what we call side effects. In most cases, the side effects are bearable if you stick to the doctor’s dosage instructions.
If you repeatedly increase your dose, you are at risk of experiencing life-threatening effects such as:
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory depression
- Extreme body temperatures
- Kidney damages
- Circulatory system irregularities
- Loss of consciousness
- Seizure episodes
When you take more than the recommended dose or opt to change the intake method, you interrupt how the medication works in your brain and body. For example, when you crush and inhale a prescription pill that generally works over the course of 8 hours, it means the drug will hit your system all at once, increasing your risk of an overdose.
Changing the drug’s form and route of intake also worsens the addictive potential of the medication. It will only be a matter of time before you develop severe dependency issues.
Mixing prescription medications with alcohol causes dangerous drug interactions in the body. Both prescription drugs and alcohol come with their own set of side effects. For this reason, you’ll experience intense symptoms because of the combined action of the two substances in your body.
Alcohol can also alter the concentration of the medication in your body to toxic levels.
Taking alcohol and prescription medication at the same time leads to life-threatening complications, such as:
- Changes in blood pressure (to deadly levels)
- Internal bleeding
- Severe headache
- Breathing difficulties
- Rapid heartbeat
- Intense nausea and vomiting
- Loss of memory and consciousness
- Worsened judgment and coordination
- Heart problems
- Liver damages
Overcoming Alcohol and Prescription Drug Addiction with Professional Help
When taken as directed, prescription medicines are safe and effective in treating a wide range of health conditions. However, if abused, these medications end up being part of the problem rather than the solution.
If your relationship with prescription medications and alcohol is at an unhealthy level, there’s still hope. UK alcohol detox is one provider that can help you rid your body from the toxins and chemicals that alcohol has ‘uploaded’ into your system. By going through their home detoxification, you will sober up while having constant access to addiction professionals who will guide you through the process. Supervision and communication, alongside confidentiality are the qualities which you should be looking for in whichever provider you choose to employ.