Most people start taking prescription drugs for medical reasons. But over time, repeated use of these drugs can damage the part of the brain which manages self-control and the ability to make good decisions. While this is happening, the person will keep having powerful impulses to take more drugs. There are three types of prescription drugs that are often abused: benzodiazepines for treating anxiety and sleep issues (Xanax, Valium, Ativan), opioids for pain relief, and stimulants, like Adderall or Ritalin, used to treat ADD and narcolepsy. (source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)
Please know that this information is not meant to replace medical advice. We aren’t healthcare professionals, and so we recommend telling your doctor if you’ve been abusing prescription drugs during your pregnancy.
When opioids are used long-term, it can lead to drug abuse, addiction, and physical dependence. Opioids can be life-threatening in an overdose. When they are taken with substances like alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines, there is a much higher chance of slow breathing or death.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
Millions in the U.S. use benzodiazepines to treat anxiety and sleep disorders like insomnia. Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium will lower brain activity and can make you feel drowsy or calm.
Barbiturates like Amytal, Nembutal, Luminal, and Seconal are also CNS depressants. They’re prescribed to treat seizures and are commonly used for anesthesia.
Taking CNS depressants for a few weeks helps treat anxiety. But after a while, you’ll need larger doses to get the same calm feeling. If you use CNS depressants and drink, it may slow your heart rate and breathing, leading to death.
After this type of drug for a long time, stopping all of a sudden may have a life-threatening side effect like withdrawal seizures.
Stimulants give you a boost in energy and alertness. Stimulants raise blood pressure, heart rate, tighten blood vessels, and open up the respiratory system. Examples of stimulants include Ritalin and Adderall. Taken as prescribed, they’re safe. But if the pills are crushed or taken in higher doses to get high, they can make you addicted.
How Do I Know if I’m Addicted to Prescription Drugs?
You may be taking higher doses than your doctor prescribed, or using them for other reasons. If you’re taking meds more often than prescribed (or taking twice as much), you might be on your way to addiction. Another sign of prescription drug abuse is taking the medication for reasons other than prescribed, such as boredom.
People addicted to prescription drugs often end up asking their doctor for refills often or asking for a higher dose. Prescription drug abuse can be recognized by a pharmacist, who notices modified prescription forms or multiple prescriptions from different doctors.
Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
There are treatments and non-addictive medications that can help people stop prescription drug addiction and get control of their lives again. Experts believe that combining medications with therapy is the best way for most patients to heal addiction. We can connect you with a rehab center or treatment facility. Just call us at 1-800-923-6784 for a referral.
Pregnant and Addicted: Laura’s Story
“When I was a junior in college, I stepped on a piece of broken glass in my room. It pierced my left foot, which then got infected. Since I had really high fevers for a couple of days, I had my boyfriend take me to the hospital.
They prescribed me antibiotics and hydrocodone, which made my infection and pain went away. But I kept the extra hydrocodone and took it because it made me feel less stressed about my grades and paying bills. I started buying Oxy from a friend who had a prescription.
Eventually, I had to use Oxy every day and couldn’t stop. It got to the point where I couldn’t afford anymore. Then, after a few missed periods, I took a pregnancy test, and it was positive.
I knew needed help. I couldn’t figure out how I’d raise a baby, but also I don’t believe in abortion. So, I started thinking about adoption. I found the website of an adoption agency, Lifetime, and started to look at adoptive families.
I called Lifetime and got right to the point. I confessed, ‘Look, I’ve been using Oxy, and there’s no way I can raise this baby. Can I still choose adoption?’”
If you’re abusing prescription drugs and just found out you’re pregnant, you might not feel ready to become a mom. Adoption has been the right answer for many women facing difficult situations. In choosing adoption, a woman is able to give her baby the best life possible, even if she can’t provide that herself.
There are numerous adoptive couples open to adopting a baby who was exposed to prescription drugs. These adoptive families have the means to parent a baby who may develop special needs. Adoption is always an option, even if you’re using drugs during your pregnancy.