Prescription drugs

What is prescription drug abuse

This is using prescription drugs in higher quantities than prescribed, using them more frequently than required, using drugs prescribed to other people or taking prescription drugs to obtain a “high.”

The three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused are

  • Opioids which are generally prescribed to deal with the pain
  • Depressants including tranquillizers, sedatives, and hypnotics and these are generally prescribed to treat anxiety or sleep deprivation.
  • Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for further information see The National Institute of Drug Abuse

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Prescription Drugs most commonly abused in Australia are


  • Diazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Nitrazepam
  • temazepam
  • Valium
  • Zanax


  • Tramadol
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Fentynal

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The danger of long-term prescription abuse 

  • Psychological dependence; with constant use comes a dependency on the drug and a craving for it.
  • Tolerance; requiring more and more of the prescription pill in order to experience the high originally felt.
  • Becoming addicted to the drug
  • Life changing choices; regular long-term use of prescription drugs increases the likelihood the person will start making poor life decisions.
  • Poor work record; ongoing use of prescription medications inevitably affects the person’s ability to work and earn money,often ending in financial hardship.
  • Breaking the law; the dependency and craving for the drugs often leads the person to engage in criminal activity to obtain their drug of choice. Their dependency can also lead to criminal behaviour as a result of their to the drugs.
  • Health issues; every prescription drug affects the body in some way and can cause or contribute to a variety of health problems even with  therapeutic doses
  • Changes to the brain; long-term abuse of prescription drugs can affect and cause physical changes to the brain. The end result of this is a negative impact on a person’s ability to make wise choices and deal with emotional issues.
  • Erratic behaviour; With regular use comes an increased risk of emotional turmoil and extreme changes and mood swings. These changes in a person’s behaviour often cause a deterioration in personal and work relationships.
  • Early death; Among chronic abusers of prescription drugs is the heightened risk of over dosing. Tolerance and the bodies ability to metabolise medication and the rate of metabolisation changes over time so inadvertent taking of higher than prescribed doses can have a fatal outcome.


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The Cycle of Change

It is important for everyone involved to understand the cycle of change and it is best summed up in an article by ADFAM

  1. Pre-Contemplation

People in pre-contemplation do0 not recognise they have a problem or issue with their use of drugs, alcohol or gambling

Dealing with people who are in pre-contemplation is not easy and if not approached properly can lead to arguments and hostility. It is best to seek professional advice on how to deal with the situation as every situation is different and there is not a one size fits all approach.

  1. Contemplation

When someone moves from pre-contemplation into contemplation it means they are starting to recognise they have a problem and they are thinking they want to do something about it.

The best way to assist someone who is contemplating taking some action is to encourage them to seek help and do some research into the options they might have such as contacting alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous. 

  1. Planning

In this stage of the cycle of change, the person has made the decision they want to change and is actively putting together a plan on how they intend to achieve this.

The best help you can give someone in this stage is to be supportive and positive. It also helps if you get them to explain to you what their plan is and how they are going to implement it.

  1. Action

In this stage, the person will be putting their plan into action and the best help you can give them is to be supportive and understanding as they commence to address their issues.

Mood swings are often prevalent in the early days of this stage so it helps to be aware of this and remains supportive and positive.

  1. Maintenance

At this stage of the cycle, the person has made the changes and is now moving along with their plan.

Implementing the plan will often involve changes in routine in the persons home and family life and if not handled correctly can cause disruption and hostility. It is important to communicate with the person and get them to create a living plan at the start of each week so as everyone in the household is aware of what is happening. For example not being home for meals due to their plan.

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At 21renew we add a further stage and that is to work with the client to ensure they have a plan going forward with how they want to live their life and what they want to achieve in their life. We believe this is critical to the client being successful in the maintenance stage of the cycle.