Prescription Drug Addiction Guide
In recent years prescription drug use has skyrocketed and the number of people becoming addicted to legal medication has increased to 15 million in the U.S. About twenty years ago, it used to be much more difficult for people to prescribed addictive prescription drugs such as opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines because of the dangers of abuse.
However, in the past decade or so some of the restrictions on prescribing these kinds of medication have been lifted and doctors provide them to patients who are experiencing pain, anxiety and other issues that might require medication. Unfortunately, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs and equally addictive for many people.
In America today, prescription drug abuse causes the largest percentage of overdose deaths compared with every other type of drug. Since the year 2000, overdoses from opioid abuse have increased by 200 percent and have reached an all-time high. Pill abuse has become a serious problem affecting a vast number of people in the country and it is important for everyone to be educated about the dangers of prescription drugs. This prescription drug addiction guide, helps supply information necessary to fight addiction.
How Addiction Begins
Because prescription drugs are legal, abuse and addiction can occur in a number of different ways. Many people are given pain medication following a traumatic injury or surgery and some might be provided with sedative drugs for insomnia or anxiety. An individual may have no intention of abusing the drugs at first but they begin to rely on the medication and even develop a tolerance. They may begin to take more than the recommended dosage because they are not feeling the same effects that they had initially. It is common for patients to become adjusted to a certain dosage and a physician may even acknowledge the need to increase the dose over time.
If a doctor denies their request to increase the dose then the patient may deviate from instruction and choose to take more. In other cases, people may begin using prescription drugs with the intention of abusing them or taking them recreationally rather than for legitimate medical reasons. While their initial intention may be to take medication occasionally to alter their mood, they can quickly become addicted and even dependent on prescription drugs.
One of the problems with prescription medication is that people are not properly educated about the potential for addiction that certain drugs may have. The prevailing belief is often that because these types of drugs are legal and provided by doctors that they are safer and relatively harmless compared with illegal street drugs.
The reality is that opioid prescription drugs and heroin actually have very similar effects and are comparably addictive. In a lot of instances, people may begin abusing opioid painkillers and eventually switch to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain. People may also be less likely to recognize prescription drug abuse in loved ones because it is a misunderstood problem. Prescription abuse is one of the most poorly recognized types of chemical dependency especially in women. Most people know very little about prescription addiction and often when people are prescribed certain medications they may not be familiar with the types of drugs they are given and their effects.
Types of Addictive Medication
Prescription drugs are available in many forms and categories but the most addictive and frequently abused typically consist of opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines as well as some stimulants. The most common addictive drugs are usually provided to patients for issues with pain, anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty focusing for issues like ADD or ADHD. The top prescriptions abused are opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet which are all used to treat moderate to severe pain; Adderall and Ritalin which are stimulants to help people with attention disorders to increase focus; Xanax, Ambien and Phenobarbital which are sedatives prescribed to help people with anxiety, sleep disorders and seizures respectively.
Most people are familiar with these names as they are the most frequently used and some of the most problematic prescription drugs available. People can abuse these kinds of drugs usually by ingesting them orally, crushing them up to inhale them or diluting them in water for an injection. Many of them can cause serious side effects when taken in high doses and the danger of overdose is always an issue for each medication.
Signs of Prescription Pill Abuse
While issues like alcoholism may seem more recognizable to the average person, there are some definite signs and symptoms of prescription abuse that people should learn to understand. As with most addictions, drug-seeking behavior becomes one of the primary warning signs that indicate abuse. If it seems that someone is putting in frequent requests for more medication, claiming that they lost their prescription and need a replacement on a regular basis or borrowing medication from friends, family members and neighbors than they may be abusing pills.
Someone who is developing an addiction may seem to finish their prescription faster than they should, quickly running out and needing more. They might visit multiple doctors asking for more medication for similar conditions to stock up on certain types of prescriptions. When asked about their prescription drug use, an addict might give inconsistent answers or lie in order to hide how much they have really been taking. They might also have some visible symptoms like intense mood swings, changing sleep patterns, or dramatic weight changes. Some signs associated with sedative abuse could be frequent drowsiness, confusion, poor judgement and difficulty with memory. Stimulant abuse can lead to symptoms such as irritability, seizures, high blood pressure, paranoia, insomnia and weight loss. Addiction to opioid painkillers can cause issues like depression and low blood pressure as well as withdrawal symptoms such as cold flashes, vomiting, diarrhea and in serious cases even cardiac arrest.
Treating a Prescription Addiction
When it becomes apparent either to themselves or a loved one that someone is abusing prescription drugs it is important to get professional treatment. Attempting to quit a chemical dependency alone is very dangerous and can even be fatal in many situations. Before entering rehab, each patient seeking treatment needs to go through the process of detoxification. Prescription pill detox is not an easy task as it requires an addict to completely abstain from taking drugs that they are completely physically dependent on to function. Abusing drugs like opioids can cause chemical changes in the brain making the user crave the drug and experience serious withdrawal symptoms when they don’t take it.
Because withdrawal symptoms can be a painful physical experience and even dangerous for some people, it is important to have medical supervision and complete detoxification in a specialized facility. Withdrawal symptoms can be flu-like in nature with abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, irregular heart rate and chills. Patients can become severely dehydrated and require assistance from medical staff to keep them relatively comfortable and stable. As a patient goes through withdrawal they can also experience psychological symptoms like cravings, irritability, depression and anxiety. Patients with co-occurring disorders may be provided safe medication for any existing symptoms of mental illness.
Assisted Detox through Medication
In some cases of pill withdrawal, the symptoms of detox may be so intense and difficult that different kinds of medication may be necessary. For people that are addicted to opioids, the withdrawal experience is similar to that of heroin and it can be one of the most challenging drugs to quit. Many people attempting to quit opioids end up relapsing because the drug is so incredibly addictive. For some people who are severely addicted, opioid withdrawal can be treated with methadone to help them ease out of their physical dependency.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid drug which is used to treat addiction because it activates the same opioid receptors as narcotics and can effectively prevent the most severe withdrawal symptoms. The right dose of methadone can make detox much more comfortable and eases a lot of drug cravings which can be intense without any medication. Methadone can work as an option for recovery because it does not create the same sense of euphoria that opioids provide.
The dosage of methadone during detox can be slowly tapered off which will effectively eliminate their physical dependence once they have stopped taking the medication. Other similar medications are available to help people through opioid detox such as Subutex or Suboxone. These drugs provide an alternative to methadone but they work using the same principle of activating opioid receptors to reduce cravings and prevent withdrawal.
Treatment and Aftercare
Once a patient is able to finally eliminate their physical dependence through detox, they must continue the rehab process through a treatment facility. Although chemical dependency can play a major role in addiction, it is often psychological and social factors that can lead people to relapse. Many addicts have grown so accustomed to using their prescription as a way to deal with stress that they may feel triggered or experience cravings any time they are confronted with a stressful situation. For this reason, it is important for each person in recovery to spend a few months in rehab so that they can be provided with more education and tools regarding their addiction and how to cope with it in their daily life.
Some opioid addicts may continue taking their medications like Methadone or Suboxone while they attend rehab so that they can ease into the transition of becoming sober. Rehab requires hours of counseling including individual cognitive behavioral therapy, and group or family therapy. Counseling is an important process because it allows each patient to better understand their addiction including the root causes and how it has affected their life. Therapy can also give patients a chance to discuss family issues or traumatic experiences that have shaped who they are as an adult.
Each patient needs to attend therapy so that they have the opportunity to heal before they move on and begin a completely new life as a sober person. Patients can also learn the kind of skills that will help them cope with stress so that they do not turn to drugs as an escape. They can learn more effective coping mechanisms such as talking to loved ones, engaging in more positive activities, attending support meetings or focusing on a healthy lifestyle. Each individual will find their own methods that work for them as a way to combat cravings and deal with stress without using prescription medication.
After completing their rehab program, many patients are understandably scared and worried about how they will stay sober in their daily lives. A treatment facility is a safe space but once they return home they will have to confront more serious experiences with temptation, cravings, difficult relationships and the everyday tensions of work or family life. Pill addiction treatment does not have to end once a patient leaves rehab. They can continue working on their recovery through opportunities like aftercare programs which offer people the chance to keep coming back to counseling or treatment periodically so that they are able to stay on track. Aftercare is an important part of recovery because it is necessary for many people in order to prevent relapse.
A lot of former rehab patients would struggle to get through those very challenging first few months on their own without the support of continued therapy and group meeting. Twelve step programs are also an option that keeps people connected to a group of people who are experiencing many of the same things. Meetings give people in recovery a support network that they can rely on when their struggle to stay sober becomes overwhelming. The most important part of recovery is having people to talk to who can provide advice and emotional stability in stressful times. Although prescription drugs may take over a person’s life for a period of time there is always the chance to start over and learn how to be sober. Prescription addiction can be one of the hardest issues to overcome but with the right resources it is possible for anyone to recover.