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Prescription Drug Addiction


Substance abuse and addiction are complex problems that require careful management and treatment to overcome. A wide range of psychoactive substances are abused on a daily basis, including legal drugs like alcohol, prescription medications such as morphine and Valium, and illegal street drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Prescription drug addiction in Hawaii is a large problem that affects both the individuals who use and wider society, and professional treatment is often needed to help break the bonds of addiction. If you know someone who is living with prescription drug addiction in Hawaii, it is important to contact a specialized treatment center as soon as you can.

What is prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is defined as the misuse or over use of prescription medications. While prescription drugs are usually taken for medical purposes, some people also take them recreationally, or as a way to enhance physical or mental performance. Generally speaking, prescription drugs are abused whenever they are taken in a different way other than intended by a medical professional. Common methods of abuse include: taking a larger dose than prescribed, combining medications together in a dangerous fashion, taking drugs intended for someone else, buying prescriptions or drugs on the black market, and choosing to crush up tablets in order to snort or inject them. While prescription medications are safe when taken in a controlled manner for specific medical conditions, they can cause severe medical complications when abused.

Prescription Drug Categories

Prescription drug abuse affects all elements of society, from the rich to the poor, and the old to the young. While hundreds of drugs are abused on a regular basis, however, the vast majority of abuse falls into three distinct categories: Opiates, Sedatives, and Stimulants. Opiate painkillers are the most widely abused prescription medication, including the naturally occurring opium alkaloids morphine and codeine and the semi-synthetic medications oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone, and many others. Sedatives are the second most widely abused class of drugs, including barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, Librium, Serax, Valium and many others. Stimulants are the third most widely abused drug class, including the brand names Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin among several others.

Prescription Drug Statistics in Hawaii

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem throughout Hawaii and across the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American people consume an astonishing 75 percent of the world’s supply of prescription medications, while only accounting for 5 percent of the global population. 52 million adult Americans have misused or over used prescription drugs at some point in their lifetime, including opiates, sedatives, and stimulants. 5.1 million people abused opiates in 2010 alone, followed by 2.2 million who abused sedatives and 1.1 million who abused stimulants. According to Trust for America’s Health, Hawaii scored 6 out of 10 on a report card called “Promising Strategies to Help Curb Prescription Drug Abuse”, with the state coming 34th in America in terms of overdose fatalities. With the majority of drug overdose deaths coming from prescription medications, this is an area that requires constant vigilance and attention.

Physical vs Psychological Dependence

Prescription medications interact with the human system in a range of different ways, as some drugs cause central nervous system (CNS) depression and others cause CNS stimulation. CNS depressants are more likely to cause physical dependence, including the existence of a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome upon cessation of use. Both opiates and sedatives are capable of causing physical dependence, and stimulants are more likely to cause an emotional or motivational reaction when drug use is stopped. Physical dependence is typically treated through a combination of medication and psychotherapy, and psychological dependence is treated through behavioral therapy and psychotherapeutic measures alone. An initial medical detox period is normally advised for both opiates and sedatives, with medications prescribed to help alleviate and manage withdrawal symptoms prior to rehab.


Opiates are the most widely abused class of prescription drugs in Hawaii and across the United States. These drugs are typically prescribed for pain relief purposes, including various forms of acute pain and certain chronic pain conditions. Opiates are also widely abused for their euphoric properties, and extensive exposure to these drugs often causes tolerance and addiction over a period of time. The three naturally occurring opium alkaloids are codeine, morphine, and thebaine, with the former two available commercially in a range of pain relief products. The semi-synthetic drugs made from these alkaloids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and many others. People who abuse opiates over a long time period often develop a range of physical and psychological health problems, with medical detox and rehabilitation measures both needed to break the bonds of addiction.


Sedatives, also known as tranquilizers or CNS depressants in some situations, are the second most widely abused class of prescription drugs in the United States. Most sedative abuse is related to the benzodiazepine class of medications, including the brand names Valium, Klonopin, Serax and many others. These medications are prescribed for anxiety and sleeping disorders and are abused for their hypnotic and sedative qualities. Much like opiates, sedatives are associated with a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome, which can be dangerous if left untreated. Treatment typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapeutic techniques, including behavioral therapy and counseling.


Stimulant abuse is common in Hawaii and across the United States. While stimulant drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin do not necessarily cause a physical addiction, they are associated with severe emotional and motivational withdrawal symptoms. Stimulant medications are normally prescribed for obesity and attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD), and are abused for their stimulating qualities. While most stimulant abuse is recreational in nature, people also take these drugs to enhance their physical or mental performance.

If you are struggling with a prescription drug abuse problem and are serious about your sobriety, then it is important for you to pick up the phone and speak to an addiction specialist today about the benefits of treatment.