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Prescription Drug Addiction in Ohio

Prescription drug addiction in Ohio, continues to be an increasing problem. In 2013, the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Ohio was unintentional drug overdose, higher than deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, and suicide.

Reports also show that prescription drug addiction in Ohio, has been linked to the increase in heroin abuse in recent years. A significant number of people first develop an addiction to prescription opiate painkillers. Due to the relative difficulty and expense of obtaining prescription opioid pills in the state, many addicted individuals turn to heroin because it is much cheaper and easier to buy.

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Taking any medication that was intended for someone else, or taking higher doses than the doctor prescribed, are both forms of prescription drug abuse. Using any prescription medication for recreational purposes or to get high, is also considered drug abuse.

Many people believe that taking prescription medications, is safer than taking illegal street drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor. Yet the risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose is just as significant.

Statistics for Prescription Drug Abuse in Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health released statistics showing that the number of deaths caused by accidental drug overdose, increased by 413% from 1999 to 2013 (2).

In the years from 1997 to 2011, there was a 643% increase in the number of prescription opioids distributed to retail pharmacies across Ohio (3). The same statistics show that 34.4% of those fatal overdoses, were a result of abusing prescription opioid painkiller medications.

Of those medications noted in the report, 22% involved commonly-prescribed opioid painkillers, including oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and morphine. Only 5% of fatal overdoses involved the prescription opioid drug, methadone.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that both oxycodone and hydrocodone ranked among the top 10 drugs identified in drug reports from items seized by law enforcement in Ohio.

Common Drugs of Abuse

The most commonly abused prescription drugs, fall into three categories. These are:


Prescription opioid painkillers are simply pharmaceutical-grade heroin. OxyContin and Percocet are two of the most frequently prescribed opioid narcotics used to treat chronic pain. Both narcotic medications contain oxycodone, which is almost identical to heroin on a molecular level.

Prescription opioid medications act on the same systems in the brain as heroin and morphine. When used for recreational purposes, the risk of abuse and addiction is extremely high.

Some of the short-term health effects of abusing opioid drugs include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Constipation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

Continued abuse of opioid medications can lead to a tolerance, which requires a person to take higher doses in order to achieve the same effects. Taking larger doses of any opioid narcotic, significantly increases the risk of overdose.

Abusing opioid narcotics can also result in dependence and addiction. Opiate drugs cause significant changes to the brain’s chemistry. Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of drugs in the system. Essentially, it is tricked into believing it can no longer produce dopamine naturally, unless it has the artificial stimulation of drugs.

The brain will then trigger overwhelming cravings to take more of the drug. The user also experiences terrible withdrawal symptoms when intake of the drug stops. At this point, the user is considered to be dependent on opioid drugs.


Prescription stimulant medications, often referred to as ‘uppers,’ are designed to increase energy and concentration. For people with ADHD, prescription stimulants are designed to have a focusing effect.

Commonly abused prescription stimulants, include amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin or Concerta). Cocaine is also a strictly controlled prescription medication, although it is most generally used for recreational purposes.

When taken in ways other than those prescribed, stimulants artificially flood the brain with dopamine, which disrupts normal communication between brain cells and increases the risk of addiction. Abusing stimulant drugs causes changes within the brain’s chemistry, which can induce symptoms of hostility, paranoia, and psychosis.

Stimulant medications increase blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. In high doses, stimulants can lead to serious heart and respiratory problems or stroke.


Prescription sedatives are commonly prescribed to treat people with anxiety or sleeping problems. Sedative medications are also commonly known as tranquilizers or depressants, and include barbiturates (Nembutal, Amytal, or Luminal) and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, or Ativan).

Sedative medications decrease brain activity, causing slowed breathing and pulse, fatigue, fever, and depression. Sedatives also lower blood pressure, which can cause dizziness, confusion, disorientation and lack of coordination.

At higher doses, depressant medications can cause memory impairment. As sedatives interfere with the normal functioning of the brain, they can induce feelings of depression, paranoia, irritability, and suicidal thoughts.

Tolerance to sedative medications develops quickly, requiring the user to take higher doses than before, in order to achieve the same effects. Increasing the dosage of depressant medications, can cause coma or death by overdose.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

The signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse will vary, depending on the type of drug being taken. For example, someone abusing prescription stimulants may appear revved up or high, while others abusing prescription painkillers may seem stoned.

However, there are some common signs of prescription drug abuse, which include:

  • Loss of control over the amount of drugs being taken
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Spending more time using, buying, or recovering from drug use
  • Tolerance
  • Taking more drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Continued abuse of drugs, despite the adverse consequences

Treatment Options for Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction

Treating addiction to prescription medications, requires the correct combination of medically-assisted treatments and therapies to achieve recovery. The right treatments will depend heavily on the type of drug being taken, the dosages, the severity of the addiction, and any underlying or co-existing mental health disorders that may also need treating.

Opioid Treatment: Treatment for opioid addiction may involve the use of replacement medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms during the detox period, such as methadone or Suboxone. Over time, the dosage of replacement medication is tapered down, so that the recovering person ends up free from both substances. Individual counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy are also required to treat the psychological side of the addiction.

Sedative Treatment: At this time, there is no FDA-approved medication to treat addiction to sedative medications. Treating addiction requires that dosages be gradually tapered down under medical supervision until the person is drug-free. It is crucial that the use of sedatives is not stopped abruptly, as sudden withdrawal can cause seizures. Anticonvulsant medication may be administered to treat any severe symptoms that may arise. Treating the psychological side of the addiction requires intensive rehab therapy and individual counseling.

Stimulant Treatment: Treating addiction to stimulant drugs can be challenging, due to the severe psychological withdrawal symptoms many users experience during detox. Symptoms can include vivid hallucinations, aggression, violent behavior, psychosis, profound depression, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies. As a result, it is strongly advised that addiction treatment be conducted under medical supervision in a licensed rehab facility. Recovering addicts will also require individual counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy to treat the psychological side of the addiction.

Why Seek Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse?

It is common for people to believe they can simply stop taking drugs with willpower alone. This false belief leads many people who are struggling with drug abuse and addiction, to attempt to quit ‘cold turkey’ at home.

Unfortunately, the greatest risk of accidental overdose, occurs when a person relapses back to drug abuse after the detox period. Detoxing from many addictive prescription medications can cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that require emergency medical attention. It is vital that people recovering from stimulant addiction, have proper medical supervision during treatment for their own safety.

Seeking professional treatment for prescription drug abuse and addiction, offers the best possible chance of making a successful recovery. With the right rehab treatments, it is possible to live a healthy, happy life without the need for drugs. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to prescription medications, reach out to a qualified addiction treatment center in Ohio today.