IntroductionMany people can attest to the benefits of using their friend’s pain relieving pills when having cramps, but what many people do not realize is that this kind of behavior is considered as drug misuse, and in many cases, drug misuse may end up becoming a drug addiction. Pharmaceutical companies are making highly addictive drugs increasingly available in the market, producing advertisements that increase self-diagnosis among the consumers, and not monitoring prescriptions to the extent that is necessary to prevent “doctor shopping” (NIDA, 2014). Humans are psychologically predisposed to abuse prescription drugs because of the way that most prescription drugs interfere with the brain’s communication system, often instilling a seemingly irreversible addiction within the user. Abuse Trends and Current Pharmaceutical MethodsThe abuse use of prescription drugs includes the nonmedical use of any type of pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, or sedatives for any reason other than prescribed (Rockville, 2013). In 2013, there were approximately two million people over the age of twelve who used prescription drugs for the first time (Rockville, 2013), and of the individuals who non-medically used prescription drugs who are over the age of twelve in 2013, 1.5 million people used pain relievers, 1.2 million used tranquilizers, 603,000 used stimulants, and 128,000 used sedatives (Rockville, 2013). One of the primary causes of drug abuse is directly correlated to the perceived risk of the drug. This essentially means that if a certain drug is viewed as low-risk by an individual, like a prescription drug, then that drug is more likely to be abused. Additionally, several crucial factors should be considered when observing the severity of the prescription drug abuse issue in the United States: exponential increases in the number of prescriptions written by doctors, a bigger social acceptance for using medications for purposes other than prescribed, and extensive marketing by pharmaceutical companies (NIDA, 2014). The increased availability of opioid drugs has had many negative consequences, including the increased number of hospital visits and overdose deaths. The number of overdose deaths in the United States has increased immensely over the past 20 years, resulting in nearly 16,600 deaths by 2010 (Losby et al., 2017). Dr. Douglas McDonald and Kenneth Carlson from Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts retrieved from the national estimates in 2008 that there was a total of 146.1 million records of opioid prescriptions prescribed by 76% of United States pharmacies. These drugs included 9 opioid drugs, including oxycodone, methadone, and buprenorphine. Among the people who were prescribed these drugs, approximately 135,000 of the prescribed were considered “doctor shoppers” (McDonald and Carlson, 2008). Doctor shoppers are people who visit multiple doctors or physicians in order to obtain multiple prescriptions or otherwise illegal drugs. This analysis revealed a multitude of gaps in prescription monitoring by individual physicians, which, if monitored closely, will help set better thresholds for prescription drug monitoring programs to eventually be able to identify suspicious purchasing of opioid drugs and notify pharmacies. Addictive Prescription Drugs and their MisuseTo misuse a prescription drug means that the user is taking a prescription drug in a manner or dosage other than prescribed by their healthcare professional. Misusing a prescription drug could potentially lead to a multitude of health problems within the user, the most extreme effects being addiction and death. Reasons for misuse vary depending class, gender, and age, however, one huge factor in drug abuse is the increasing availability and ease of access to prescription drugs (NIDA, 2016). Prescription drugs can be abused in a variety of ways; one way is the consumption of a medication that has been prescribed for somebody else. Many people share their pain relievers with their family or friends, unaware of the danger this may cause. Additionally, many misuse a drug by taking it in a higher quantity or in another manner than prescribed. Most drugs are sold in tablets, and when these tablets are crushed and ingested, the entry of the drug into the body is accelerated, amplifying the drug’s effects. A drug can also be abused by taking the drug for another purpose than prescribed (Volkow, 2014). One common example of this is the abuse of the drug Adderall, an ADHD medication that students often take to improve their performance in school (NIDA, 2016). When these drugs are taken as prescribed, they safely treat the specific mental and/or physical symptoms that the patient is facing. However, when taken in different quantities and manners, or when symptoms are not present, prescription drugs affect the brain in ways very similar to illicit drugs, often creating a drug addiction (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2017). The Human Brain and AddictionAddiction is a disease that affects the functioning of the brain and body. The most common symptoms of addiction are continued use of the substance despite “serious consequences, preoccupation with using, failed attempts at quitting, withdrawal and tolerance” (NIDA, 2017). The severity of one’s substance addiction may range from only having two to three symptoms of addiction to having a chronic disease that can only be treated with long-term, intensive care. Drugs create an addiction within the user by interfering with the brain’s communication system by altering the way that the brain’s neurons send and receive information. Drugs like Buprenorphine mimic neurotransmitters, acting as an antagonist, therefore “fooling” the brain’s receptors and activating the neurons. Antagonist drugs do not exactly activate the neurons in the same way that natural neurotransmitters would, allowing abnormal messages to be sent throughout the body. Other drugs like Belbuca and Amphetamine bind to the receptor sites, acting as an agonist, causing the neurons to release large amounts of natural neurotransmitters and preventing the normal recycling of the neurotransmitters being released. The overproduction of specific neurotransmitters causes the brain to adjust to the overwhelming surges of pleasure that they receive, therefore eventually requiring the drug to feel any pleasure at all, a phenomenon called tolerance (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2017). The human brain is governed by punishment and reward centers designed to repeat life-sustaining behaviors, so when any substance causes a person to feel pleasure, the brain naturally teaches itself to repeat the action that gave the body pleasure. In the same way, if a drug is a catalyst for pleasure in one’s body, the brain learns to abuse the drug, creating an addiction that, depending on the drug, may be life-threatening. Conclusion Because of the high availability and low perceived risk of prescription drugs, many people begin to misuse highly addictive drugs, and unintentionally develop an addiction to the drug that is being taken. Pharmaceutical companies and their advertisement of prescription drugs take advantage of their customers by causing many customers to either self diagnose themselves for an illness that they do not have, or by making addictive drugs easily accessible to the public. By closely monitoring written prescriptions from Pharmaceutical companies, better thresholds for prescription drug monitoring programs can be enacted to hopefully identify suspicious purchasing of opioid drugs and notify pharmacies.