Drug Misuse and Abuse - Pharmacology

Substance abuse affects all socioeconomic groups and has become a major medical, social, economic, and interpersonal challenge for society. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 people in the United States is a substance abuser and 19.5 million people over the age of 12 use illegal drugs resulting in 19,000 deaths per year.

A medication is misused whenever a person indiscriminately uses the medication (such as when an individual uses medication that was prescribed for someone else). A medication becomes abused when the person continually self-medicates resulting in a physical and/or a psychological dependence on the drug.

A person is considered addicted to a medication if the person experiences three or more of the following characteristics over six months.

TOLERANCE

Tolerance occurs when an increasingly larger dose of the medication is required to achieve the same physiological reaction. It is important to realize that tolerance is not addiction. In some treatments, patients commonly develop a tolerance for a drug, but don't become addicted to it. The prescriber increases the dose to achieve the same therapeutic effect. The medication is discontinued once the treatment is completed.

WITHDRAWAL

Withdrawal is a physiological and/or psychological reaction a person experiences when a medication is no longer administered. Prescribers properly manage treatment by gradually decreasing the dose and/or frequency of administration of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms in a patient.

INCREASED DOSAGES

Person who is addicted tends to regularly increase the dosage of the medication expecting to increase the physiological reaction of the drug such as reaching a higher state of euphoria for a longer period of time.

UNCONTROLLABLE USE

A person addicted to drugs is unable to control the urge to self-medicate. The desire for the drug must be met as quickly as possible.

TAKING THE DRUG IS A SCHEDULED EVENT

The person spends a lot of time to acquire the drug, self-medicate, and recover from the effects of the drug. This is evident with a patient who is addicted to sedatives whose thoughts are focused on how to get the next dose. Time in the day must then be set aside to administer the medication and to avoid contact with other people until the visible effects of the drug have worn off.

PRIORITY OVER ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIFE

Daily activities are scheduled around times when the patient acquires, uses, and recovers from the effects of the drug. Everything else, including family and work, takes a backseat to the addiction.

ADDICTION CONTINUES DESPITE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES

The person continues to self-medicate regardless of the repercussions. Individuals who are addicted to drugs will begin to be late for work and gradually begin to miss entire days until they lose the job. However, the self-medication will continue.


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