Prescription drug addiction is the compulsive seeking and overuse—despite harmful consequences—of prescription drugs. Addiction can sometimes be difficult to diagnose since patients with chronic pain often do need frequent pain medication, and physical dependence can occur with many drugs taken as prescribed. A drug-addicted body, however, requires the drug regularly to avoid withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, and sweating) and to feel good.
Misuse of prescription drugs involves using a medication for a purpose other than which it was prescribed (eg, taking pain medication to aid sleep or ease anxiety , rather than to treat pain). Physical dependence happens with many drugs, even non-addictive drugs, such as corticosteroids and beta-blockers, and is noticeable after a medication is stopped suddenly. Addiction is a much more severe physical dependence and brain disease, marked by an out-of-control need and craving, affecting relationships, and impacting social obligations (eg, work and school).
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are:
- Opioids—used to treat pain; examples include morphine , codeine , and oxycodone
- Central nervous system depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders ; examples include barbiturates and benzodiazepines
- Stimulants—used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ; examples include dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate
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