Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment, Facts and Long Term Effects
It’s simple: Doctors prescribe medicine to treat us when we have a legitimate medical issue. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable after an injury or surgery. Too often, though, seeking relief from our ailment(s) can lead to an unintended consequence: addiction.
It happens all too easily: downing an extra pill for good measure, or taking the next dose sooner than the scheduled time because you don’t want your symptoms to become unbearable. Another slippery slope begins with asking for another person’s medication, simply because you forgot your prescription or had a sudden, difficult episode.
For many, the euphoric effects of prescription drugs become enjoyable and a way of escape. They continue taking the medication long after their symptoms subside. Alternating between reality and euphoria can feed one’s addiction on a psychological level, and even physically, as well. Soon, the desired result is harder to achieve, leaving individuals to always need more – and more will never be enough.
Prescriptions Drugs by the Numbers in the United States
Prescription painkillers are more prevalent than tobacco use in America, pointing to an opioid epidemic. In fact, roughly 38 percent of adults in the United States use painkillers (whether legally or illegally), with an estimated 2.2 million suffering from opioid addiction.
Those figures are no surprise considering there has been a 400 percent increase in opioid prescriptions over the last 10 years, enough to fill one prescription for every adult in the country. In fact, the U.S. accounts for nearly all the world’s opium consumption, by way of opioid prescriptions and heroin, that is.
The consequences? Dire, to say the least. An unprecedented 28,000 Americans died in 2014 from opioid overdose, more than double the death rate from 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The opioid epidemic has led to an explosion in heroin abuse, with 80 percent of new heroin users who started with prescription painkillers. Unfortunately, the negative side effects and deadly potential consequences fail to deter many a user.
What Are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?
Opioids top the list. Once a term used only to refer to synthetic forms of opium, opioids is now the generally accepted term for all the drugs in that family, whether they are synthetic, natural or a hybrid of the two (semi-synthetic). These include commonly prescribed drugs such as:
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax take the second spot, as they were involved in nearly 8,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2014. Side effects of benzodiazepines can include troublesome symptoms such as:
Continue reading to learn more about these and other prominent prescription drugs.
These naturally derived drugs have been in use since ancient times for pain relief and, more recently, as anesthesia during surgery. The Chinese began using opium recreationally more than 500 years ago, a practice that was later prohibited. Some forms of opiates, such as heroin and morphine, were sold as over-the-counter medications in the U.S. as recently as the early part of the 1900s. Opiate use can lead to nausea, vomiting, liver damage and other serious complications. Learn even more about opiates by clicking the following button.
Tranquilizers such as Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) account for tens of thousands of rehab admissions in the U.S. each year. Although benzodiazepines (aka benzos) are prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and more, medical professionals still don’t precisely know how these drugs work within the brain. Benzodiazepine addiction recovery can be especially slow, requiring close management with the help of a health care provider.
OxyContin is the brand name of a powerful synthetic drug – one that is capable of easing terrible pain, but also of causing terrible problems. It short-circuits the pleasure centers in the brain, often leading to dependence. Overdosing can lead to respiratory failure, coma and death.
Codeine, morphine, fentanyl and analogs work in the same manner as oxycodone, which is the generic form of OxyContin. Oxycodone can deadly when not handled properly. Oxycodone use can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating and mood changes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drug addiction is a prolific issue in the United States, affecting citizens from all income brackets, regions and demographics. Anyone headed down the road to recovery should have some idea of what to expect, and it’s wise to know the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse.
Read through our answers to several frequently asked questions to educate yourself even further on prescription drug addiction:
How Do Prescription Drug Addiction and Heroin Addiction Intertwine?
Opioid painkillers are quickly habit-forming, and a person who builds a tolerance to his or her prescription may begin searching for alternative means of staving off withdrawal symptoms. This phenomenon has effectively created a pipeline from legal prescription drugs to heroin addiction. Heroin is cheap, widely available on the street and extremely potent.
Opioid withdrawal is very unpleasant and can be life threatening for individuals with advanced addictions, tempting them toward heroin when their addiction has reached this stage and they can’t secure more prescription painkillers.
Who Suffers the Most from the Opioid Epidemic?
The ongoing opioid epidemic has affected people from all levels of society in every state in the U.S. Since the early 2000s, opioid prescription rates have skyrocketed, and so have the numbers of new addiction cases, overdoses and overdose deaths.
One of the most common paths to opioid misuse stems from legitimate medical issues, such as a major surgery or athletic injury. The patient receives a prescription to manage pain and gradually becomes dependent on the medication, or seeks out similar, yet illicit, drugs. Two-thirds of all opioid addicts began taking these drugs on a prescription basis – rather than recreationally, as some might assume.
Men are more likely than women to misuse prescription opioids, and to have an opioid use disorder. The prevalence of misuse and opioid disorders is also higher among disadvantaged adults – those who may be considered low income, or are unemployed and/or uninsured.
What Is Fentanyl?
Many Americans have seen this word appear in news outlets and major media headlines in recent years. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than heroin. A lethal dose of fentanyl is only a small fraction of a lethal dose of heroin. Even worse, some drug dealers are adding fentanyl to their heroin supply to produce more potent and more addictive product for their customers.
Risks of Fentanyl Abuse
Fentanyl can be lethal, and people who purchase heroin on the street can never be sure of the purity and integrity of the product they buy from street dealers. The risk of overdosing on fentanyl is notably much higher than the risk of heroin overdose.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction?
If your family member starts showing uncharacteristic signs of disturbing behavior, it could be an indication of prescription drug abuse. Look for pills and bottles among their personal effects, and pay close attention to the names on the bottles. A person with a prescription drug addiction may steal pills from others or attempt to fraudulently fill prescriptions.
Other signs of prescription drug addiction include:
Frequent trips to the ER or doctor’s office – for a variety of complaints
Shopping around for doctors
Reporting lost prescriptions
Forging signatures on prescriptions
Other, less-obvious signs to watch for that can point to addiction include:
Problems with decision-making
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction?
Over time, the biggest risk of prescription drug addiction is having it lead to a heroin addiction, but any type of prescription drug addiction can have long-term consequences. Numerous prescription drug addiction resources can provide people struggling with addiction with options for treatment and support. It’s vital for anyone battling prescription drug addiction to acknowledge the problem and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Long-term prescription drug addiction can lead to, or run concurrently with:
Depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues and disorders
Problems at work – possibly even leading to unemployment
Serious financial problems
An addiction of any sort can cause serious relationship problems and tear families apart, creating rifts between loved ones.
What Are the Effects Prescription Drug Addiction Has on Families?
Prescription drug addiction obviously affects the user, but the entire family can pulled down into the mire of this complicated issue. A user’s spouse or partner often becomes a target for anger, blame or abusive behavior.
Children of addicted parents can suffer in myriad ways, often leading to:
Feelings of fragility or inadequacy, and/or
Their own experimentation or abuse of substances.
If a child is the addicted one in the family, this can tear parents apart, as they are unequipped to deal with the problem at hand and struggle to cope. Any family member or friend of someone struggling with addiction will likely experience feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment or hopelessness at some point while trying to help their loved one.
Prescription Drug Treatment Options
Counseling is almost always the first step toward recovery (after detox, that is). A licensed drug and alcohol counselor is your best resource for crafting a recovery plan and offering support to family members.
Addiction specialists help you discover what made you susceptible to dependence in the first place. They help you develop the skills and strategies necessary for becoming clean – and staying that way. Addiction specialists work with you and your family on rebuilding healthy relationships and avoiding situations where temptation could be an issue. If relapse occurs, addiction specialists are there to get you back on the right track.
Medication therapy may also be needed to quell the effects of withdrawal. Symptoms from detox medication range from mild to severe, but with proper management, you can overcome the initial hurdle and greatly reduce your risk of relapse.
For the Patient
The beginning is the hardest part. Those who struggle with addiction also might struggle with shame, fear and regret. So often, these negative emotions overpower any effort to break free of them. The longer individuals struggle, the more enmeshed they become in the destructive cycle. The danger lies in the loss of hope, when people no longer think recovery is possible.
That’s why the mindset of an addict is crucial. Once patients make a commitment to beat the addiction, they are already on the path to success. They should seek out strong individuals who will support them in recovery and not expose them to tempting situations where relapse could occur.
For the Family
No one is ever prepared to confront a loved one about substance abuse. It is hard enough to watch a loved one suffer, but often friends and family fall victim, too. They must bear the brunt of unstable moods, disorderly behavior and unkind words. Their feelings are hurt and they become exhausted from the stress. Professional counselors can help families learn how best to support and love their family member through this challenge.
Download our free guide to recovering from substance abuse without addictive medication:
Maryland Recovery offers unique and highly successful therapies to facilitate recovery from prescription drug addiction. We’re located just outside of Baltimore in the picturesque town of Bel Air, where we offer recovering addicts comprehensive and long-term care. Our therapists are trained to address a litany of prescription drug addictions, and we cater to dual diagnosis patients. Learn more about our addiction treatment philosophy by clicking below.
"Maryland Recovery gave me the tools and counseling to accept my past and forge a new future for myself. Life today has a hope and brightness to it that had not experienced before. I got a job and an apartment with the help of Maryland Recovery. I am able to be part of my family’s life again."
— Robert M
"I am certain that this program helped save my life. I was provided with an opportunity to learn how to live a sober life. I learned to be responsible and accountable for my behavior. When practicing the principles of the program and remaining willing to grow on this journey, I experience a freedom I never knew, but always wanted."
— Morgan S
"The only things that I knew when I arrived at Maryland Recovery (MR) was that I was broken: spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken and that my way of doing things had gotten me there. The people at MR understood who I was better than I did. They assured me that I was not alone, with that came a glimpse of hope and some relief."
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