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The most common medications which can lead to abuse include benzodiazepines (i.e., Xanax, Serax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium, Restoril, Halcion, Tranxene, Valium, etc.) sleep medication such as Zolpidem (i.e. Stilnox, Ambien) and pain killers such as opiates (morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, pethidine, codeine, methadone, etc.).
Abuse of prescription and over the counter medication often start with a prescription from the doctor, be it to calm anxiety or for sleep problems, or after injuries or operations (pain killers). Often the prescription gets repeated and over time the person might find themselves becoming dependent on the substance. Some people with medication dependence might engage in doctor shopping or buying medications illegally on the internet, from pharmacies or via a dealer.
A pattern of use might ensue where the person needs to use more to achieve the same effect, using more than the prescription, continuing use regardless of negative effects on functioning, home life, relationships, work or other life areas, using it secretly or hiding usage, going to great lengths to obtain more substances, craving the medication, finding oneself struggling to function without the medication (i.e. start of withdrawal symptoms), changes in personality when under the influence of the medication, continuing use regardless of physical health or psychological consequences, poor functioning.
Abuse of medication which in some cases started for medical reasons, but eventually became repetitive and habitual use, tend to follow the same patterns and consequences as abuse of alcohol or other drugs.
Loss of control over using can be signified by:
- Using more than planned.
- Not being able to predict how much you are going to use once you start, or what will happen once you start using.
- Continuing use despite negative impact on relationships, work, finances or other life areas.
- Obsessive thinking about how to obtain substances or when it can be used.
- Cravings or urges to use.
- Developing tolerance, thus needing to use more of the substance to achieve the same or desired effect.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the substance (for example sweating, high pulse, tremor, sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, depressed mood, etc.) when not using.