What is prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is using prescribed medication for purposes other than for what they were originally prescribed, or using them in a way different from how they were prescribed. This could be taking more pain pills in a day than were intended, or doubling up on sleeping pills. It could also be taking a pain pill just for the feeling of the euphoria it can cause or to numb one's emotions when being stressed. It may also include using medications without a prescription.
Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Most people use prescription medications responsibly, but a growing number are taking certain classes of these drugs for nonmedical reasons—a phenomenon the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) refers to as "prescription drug abuse." In fact, nationwide, about one in five people reports using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at some point in his or her lifetime. However, abuse in this context doesn't correspond to the definition that appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Rather, it means any use that is outside the medically prescribed regimen, such as taking a different dose, getting the drug from a nonmedical source (a relative, friend, or Internet seller), or taking the drug for its psychoactive effects. The three classes of medications that are most often abused are opioids (powerful painkilling drugs), depressants, and stimulants.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.