Of the different substances that are prone to abuse, perhaps the most insidious is the prescription drug. From cough syrup to painkillers, these are medicines prescribed legally to treat various illnesses. Despite the good intentions, some of these substances can be addictive especially when taken in ways that ignore doctors’ orders. Some people take prescription drugs in extremely high dosages, sometimes snorting or injecting them to give a greater high. If left unchecked, prescription drug abuse can lead to permanent disability and death, as well as emotional turmoil for the family.

From the US population alone, an estimated 20 percent has used medications outside of prescribed usage, so the problem is indeed prevalent. Action at all levels of society is necessary to prevent prescription drug abuse. In particular, families can do a lot to help their loved ones steer clear of this type of drug abuse. Families play a role in recognizing when a person needs help, and they can also help during therapy and recovery. Understanding more about prescription drug abuse will empower families to protect their loved ones.

How Prescription Drugs Can Be Abused

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Some drugs have higher addictive potential than others. There are three types of drugs that are most likely to be abused: depressants, suppressants, and opioid painkillers. Depressants act by controlling the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, promoting a calm and relaxing mood. Stimulants do the opposite by stimulating a more alert and energetic mental state. Opioid painkillers reduce sensations of pain and are useful for managing conditions that lead to chronic pain.

These drugs have legitimate uses but are likely to cause addiction due to the feelings of pleasure they bring. Upon taking these drugs, the reward center of the brain lights up as a sign of gratification. In many people, this encourages continued usage of the drug. Usually, prescriptions are meant to be short-term to prevent addictions from forming. However, some people use more than the required dosage or take the medications for extended periods, increasing the chances of addiction.

Harmful Effects Of Prescription Drugs

Once an addiction starts, it can have a significant impact on the quality of life of the addict. Fueling the desire for more drugs might push the individual to resort to stealing or other illegal acts. Higher dosages become necessary over time, and failing to consume enough can lead to debilitating withdrawal symptoms. The high consumption of drugs can also injure vital organs permanently.

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The mental effects of drug addiction are also significant. Many addicts are not happy with their condition and want to stop but are unable to quit. This obstacle leads to frustration, which can culminate in more serious mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. Addictions also impact family members, who might feel partly responsible for what happened to their loved one. Feelings of anger, stress, hopelessness, and disappointment can abound in affected families, ruining the mental health of everyone involved.

How Families Can Help

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Family members are in an optimal position to monitor and observe their loved ones for signs of addiction. They can more closely interact with vulnerable people and give them the guidance they need. They can also act as gatekeepers by preventing opportunities for drug abuse. For example, family members can help ensure that loved ones do not hoard excess pills or purchase drugs from unlicensed vendors.  They can also check that their loved ones dispose of expired or excess medications instead of consuming them.

Families can also help by providing support for people currently undergoing treatment for drug addictions. It can be painful, and there will be times when it seems like there is no progress. In addition, relapses can happen, giving the impression that therapy has failed. People undergoing treatment may lose hope that they can improve, further convincing them that their addiction is already incurable. Family members can give the vital support system that will help provide these people with the motivation to continue the struggle towards a drug-free life.

In some cases, the family might also be able to participate in the treatment process. Some people use addictions to escape from the harsh realities of life. If the underlying problems stem from family-related issues, then therapy should also target the family to remove any factors that support a drug addiction. Family members must participate actively so that all the pertinent factors are dealt with, increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

The family can keep the diagnosed person away from opportunities that can restart their addiction. They can monitor the affected people closely for warning signs of a relapse, at which point they can intervene to prevent another potential addiction. They can urge the affected to seek professional health services as soon as possible, before a drug dependency sets in.

As seen above, families play a huge role in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of addictions. Hence, it would be worthwhile for families to become more aware of how drug addictions work as well as how they can help curb addictions in their tracks.