In Part 1, we discussed the abuse of prescription painkillers and tranquilizers, as well as the warning signs of abuse and addiction. Now, let’s take a look at sedatives and stimulant medications.
Prescription Sedative Abuse by the Numbers
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 500,000 people have misused a prescription sedative within the past month. These are sleep medications prescribed for insomnia or poor-quality sleep.
Common prescription sleeping pills:
- Ambien (Zolpidem)
- Lunesta (Eszopiclone)
- Restoril (Temapzepam)
- Sonata (Zaleplon)
Prescription sleeping pills are only meant to be given as a short-term solution for occasional insomnia. For chronic sleeping problems, other non-pharmacological remedies should be considered.
Sedative tolerance builds quickly—sleeping pills may lose their effectiveness in just three days, and increased dosages may be necessary within two weeks.
Despite this, sleeping pills are often prescribed long-term—sometimes, for YEARS. Irresponsible prescribing directly contributes to the progression from therapeutic use…to tolerance…to dependence…to abuse…and finally, to addiction.
Significantly, the use of sleeping pills is associated with a QUADRUPLED risk of early death.
Prescription Stimulant Abuse by the Numbers
Most prescription stimulant abuse occurs among young adults, primarily among the college-age demographic. In fact, college students are twice as likely to misuse stimulant meds as any other age group – at a rate of about 1 in 5.
These drugs are usually given for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but 95% of students who abuse them fake the symptoms.
Common prescription stimulants:
Protecting Your Family against Prescription Drug Abuse
It begins with patient responsibility.
Educate yourself about the medications you and your family are taking – the positives and negatives, the benefits and risks. Although this has always been a good idea, it is absolutely critical in today’s environment. Do your research, because it’s no longer enough to just glance at the drug manufacturer’s pamphlet left in your doctor’s waiting room.
Here is a list of questions to ask your healthcare provider before accepting any prescriptions:
- “What conditions is this medication FDA-approved to treat?”
Avoid unapproved applications.
- “What is the potential for tolerance, dependence, abuse, addiction, and overdose?”
Inform your doctor if you have a personal or family history of substance abuse.
- “Will it affect my other conditions?”
Share your COMPLETE medical mental and physical history with your doctor, including any instances of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.
- “How does it interact with my other medications?”
Give your doctor a comprehensive written list of medications you take, including prescriptions, supplements, vitamins, and even over-the-counter remedies.
SPECIAL NOTE: Always inform your doctor about your alcohol and illicit drug use, if any.
- “Are there any non-drug alternatives?”
This is an extremely relevant question, because in 2016, new guidelines were released saying that opioid drugs should no longer be considered the first-line treatment for pain.
Other options now include:
Hot and cold therapy
When they absolutely MUST be used because other methods have failed, they should always be prescribed at the lowest dose and for the shortage duration possible.
Likewise, sleep disturbances are often treatable non-pharmacologically, with changes to sleep hygiene and environment.
Anxiety can also be considerably alleviated without dangerous benzodiazepines, with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Learn to Insist
If your health care provider doesn’t offer, proactively ask about scheduling frequent follow-up appointments to hold an ongoing conversation about any prescriptions.
But the biggest takeaway is this—do your own research about the medications your family is being given and learn to say “NO” when you feel that the potential risks outweigh the benefits.
If your life is being negatively impacted by prescription drug abuse, Chapman House can help. Since 1978, Chapman House has been the most trusted drug rehab program in Southern California. If you want evidence-based that is tailored to your unique needs as an individual, contact Chapman House TODAY.
by Albert Fontenot