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Ohio Prescription Drug Addiction


Despite increased media coverage and tougher efforts to crack down on levels of abuse, Ohio prescription drug addiction is reaching epidemic proportions. Reports indicate that Ohio prescription drug addiction is a major contributor to the increasing number of fatal overdose cases, which has become the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the state. Accidental drug overdose is responsible for more deaths each year than motor vehicle accidents, suicide, and falls.


What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Taking any prescription medication for non-medical purposes, or in order to get high or stoned, is classified as drug abuse. Taking medications that were intended for someone else or taking higher doses than prescribed by a doctor also constitute drug abuse.

It is common for people to believe that prescription medications are somehow safer than illicit street drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor. Yet, the opioid painkiller oxycodone is almost identical to heroin on a molecular level.


Statistics Related to Ohio Prescription Drug Addiction and Abuse

Statistics released by the Ohio Department of Health indicate that the number of deaths caused by accidental drug overdose increased by an alarming 413% in the years from 1999 to 2013.

A survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2014, showed that nearly 50% of people who inject heroin on a regular basis reported abusing prescription opioid painkillers first before starting heroin use.

Between 1999 and 2011, statistics show a 643% increase in the number of prescription opioid painkillers that were distributed to retail pharmacies across Ohio. A total of 22% of the fatal drug overdoses in the state involved the common prescription painkillers oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and morphine. Only 5% of overdose deaths were related to the prescription treatment medication, methadone.


Commonly Abused Drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs can be broken down into three categories. These include:



Prescription opiate painkillers are little more than pharmaceutical-grade heroin. Two of the most commonly prescribed opioid narcotics are OxyContin and Percocet, both of which contain oxycodone.

Prescription opioids act directly on the exact same brain systems and neurotransmitters as morphine and heroin. Abusing any opioid drug can cause significant changes within the brain’s chemistry. The medications bind to the brain’s opioid receptors, triggering the brain to release a flood of dopamine into the system. Dopamine is normally associated with natural reward and pleasure pathways.

The artificial stimulation tricks the brain into believing the only way it can achieve the same level of reward is to continue taking more drugs. Eventually, the brain is fooled into believing it can no longer produce dopamine naturally unless drugs are present within the body.

Tolerance to opioid drugs develops quickly, and therefore the user may try to take higher doses in order to achieve the same effects that used to be reached with smaller amounts. Taking higher doses increases the risk of accidental overdose.



Sedative medications are also known as tranquilizers or depressants, although on the street they are frequently called downers or tranks. Commonly prescribed sedative medications include benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin) and barbiturates (Nembutal or Luminal).

Sedatives cause the brain’s activity to slow down, and they are often prescribe to treat sleeping problems. However, depressant medication can also result in slow heartbeat, slowed breathing, fatigue, and depression. Sedatives can also cause low blood pressure, which results in dizziness, confusion and lack of coordination.

Sedative medications interfere with the brain’s normal functioning. Abusing sedatives can result in loss of memory and cognitive impairment. Many people struggling with sedative abuse problems may also display symptoms of depression, paranoia, agitation, irritability, and suicidal thoughts.



Stimulant medications are often known as ‘uppers’ on the street and are intended to increase energy and concentration in low doses. They are sometimes prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Commonly prescribed stimulant medications include amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin or Concerta). What many people may not realize is that cocaine and methamphetamine are also strictly controlled prescription stimulant medications that cause similar effects to other types of stimulants.

When taken for non-medical reasons, stimulant medications trigger the brain to release a flood of dopamine. At the same time, the brain’s ability to recycle, or re-uptake, dopamine is blocked, disrupting the normal communication between brain cells and neurotransmitters.

Abusing stimulant drugs can cause significant changes within the brain’s chemistry that result in symptoms of paranoia, delusions, hostility, aggression, and psychosis. At high doses, stimulants can cause high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and elevated body temperature, all of which increase the risk of serious heart and respiratory problems or stroke.



Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

The signs and symptoms of drug abuse can vary, depending on which drug is being abused. For example, a person abusing opioid painkillers may seem stoned, while someone abusing prescription stimulants could appear high or revved up, yet a person abusing sedatives will seem drowsy and unusually sedated.

While the signs and symptoms of abusing individual drugs will differ, there are also some common things to watch for, including:

  • Visiting more than one doctor for more prescriptions
  • Frequently losing prescriptions
  • Spending more time obtaining, using, or recovering from drug use
  • Taking higher doses than were recommended by a doctor
  • Tolerance, or taking higher doses to achieve the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drug intake stops
  • Continuing drug use, despite negative consequences


Treatment Options

Treating an addiction to prescription drugs can be complex, as it is important to address both the physical and psychological aspects of the addiction. The treatments used will depend on the type of drug being taken, the dosage, and how severe the addiction is. Each patient is also assessed to determine whether any underlying or co-existing mental illness may also need simultaneous treatment.

Opioid Treatment: treating opioid addiction begins with the detox process, which should be conducted under medical supervision. The detox process can be completed slowly over a period of time using prescription treatment medications, such as methadone or Suboxone. Over the treatment period, the dosage of treatment medication is tapered down, until the person is free from both drugs.  Rehab therapy and counseling is also required to address the psychological aspect of the addiction.

Sedative Treatment: withdrawing from sedative medications suddenly can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms that require emergency medical attention, including seizures. It is important that the detox process is conducted under medical supervision for the person’s safety. Detoxing from sedatives involves slowly reducing the dosage of the drug over a period of time to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for the psychological aspect of the addiction involves intensive rehab therapy and counseling.

Stimulant Treatment: treating stimulant drug addiction is complex, as the person may experience severe psychological withdrawal symptoms during the detox process. Withdrawal symptoms can include violent behavior, extreme aggression, psychosis, profound depression, and suicidal tendencies. It is advised that anyone withdrawing from stimulant drugs, does so under medical supervision. Individual counseling and behavioral therapy are also required to address the psychological side of the addictive behavior.


Why Seek Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse?

Many people believe that quitting drugs should be a simple matter of just saying no and applying some willpower. This mistaken belief leads far too many people to try and quit ‘cold turkey’ at home.

Statistics show that the greatest risk of accidental overdose happens when a person goes back to a pattern of drug abuse after a period of detoxing from the substance. As withdrawing from many drugs of addiction can induce potentially life-threatening symptoms, it is crucial that treatment is conducted under proper medical supervision for the person’s safety.

Reaching out and asking for professional treatment for prescription drug addiction offers the best chance of achieving a successful recovery. With the right combination of treatments, medications, and therapy, it is possible to live a healthy, sober life over the long term. Pick up the phone and speak to an addiction specialist when you are serious about your sobriety.