Prescription drug abuse is one of the most dangerous drug addictions today resulting in approximately 27,000 deaths per year due to accidental and intentional overdoses. Opiate drugs are often legal painkillers. Some examples would be Percocet, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, and Codeine. General practitioners today will prescribe them for a client who is in pain. The client may have had a painful surgery, they may be suffering from complications from an accident, or they may be suffering from the painful side effects of an illness, like cancer. Statistics have shown that there has been a sharp increase in abuse of these painkillers and a high number of prescriptions written in recent years.
Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction
Prescription drug abusers develop addictions because they need pain relief. However, tolerance builds quickly, leading to a need for a higher dose. Prescription drug abusers also seek that addictive, temporary euphoric reward. Painkillers produce a massive level of endorphins. If taken excessively for an extended period, painkiller addiction can change brain functioning for the worse. The central nervous system will be impacted. The individual will experience a decrease in pain, while relaxation intensifies. This will dangerously affect overall health and safety.
Prescription drug abuse is problematic because the addiction may have been unintentional. Medical doctors routinely prescribe them to provide pain relief for clients. In recent years, doctors wrote 219 million prescriptions, a rapid increase over the span of ten years. However, painkillers provide a legitimate purpose for many. When used properly and in small doses, it can be an effective method for relief.
The Rise in Addiction
Prescription drug abuse is now a dangerous addiction, which cannot be ignored. This year, the United States has stated, “more than three out of five of these deaths involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers…has nearly quadrupled. Many people who die from an overdose struggle with an opioid use disorder or other substance use disorder, and unfortunately misconceptions surrounding these disorders have contributed to harmful stigmas that prevent individuals from seeking evidence-based treatment.”
This addiction is rising and fatally affecting communities and families. Awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse is being raised more, which has positive benefits. As this happens, stigma slowly vanishes and people struggling with a secret addiction will more likely seek help.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
Finding hidden prescription papers or empty pill bottles and social withdrawal may be signs of prescription drug abuse. People often want to keep their addiction a secret, so they isolate themselves and hide materials from others out of fear or knowing disapproval.
Other noticeable changes in behavior may be a sign that someone is suffering from a prescription drug addiction. For example, someone with a stimulant prescription addiction (example: Adderall) might be excessively paranoid and exhibit intense behaviors like jumpiness, mood swings, or outbursts. Additionally, physical signs like dilated and bloodshot eyes, paleness, or dramatic weight loss may be another sign. Weight loss is a side effect of an addiction to Adderall. Prescription drug abuse can affect anyone, including older people of either gender.
Another sign of addiction would be when a person visits numerous doctors as a way to get multiple prescriptions. Addictive behaviors will cause anyone to get what they need at any cost, even if it is illegal. Acquiring multiple prescriptions for drugs without the other physicians knowing that you already have a prescription is considered fraud and it is against the law. More recently, it has been referred to as “doctor shopping.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “States with general doctor shopping laws prohibit clients from obtaining drugs by any or all of the following means: fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, subterfuge, or concealment of material fact.” All states and the District of Columbia have “doctor shopping” laws in effect, along with verifiable databases to check on a client’s existing prescriptions. This is one way to prevent a rise in prescription drug abuse.
Another sign of prescription drug abuse may be financial struggles. Selling jewelry, stealing, gambling, and excessive debt may be signs of a hidden drug addiction. Additionally, secretive behavior may also be a big sign. A change in social circles, excessive partying, refusal to share whereabouts, and unusual disappearances for excessive amounts of time may indicate a serious problem.
It is important to encourage loved ones to open up and find treatment today. While stopping illegal prescription acquisition is ongoing, more and more people are discussing their addictions openly and honestly, thus shattering stigma. There is no reason not to speak up and ask for help.
Treatment facilities across the nation are trained and available to accept new clients. Painkillers are narcotics and tolerance for moderate doses develops fast, resulting in out of control addictions and fatal consequences.
Primary treatment and detox programs help abusers complete the withdrawal process. For opiate withdrawal, symptoms like depression, physical pain, anxiety, anger, and even suicidal ideations may result. The withdrawal process forces the body to go without the normal flood of endorphins, which may dangerously lead to depression and related symptoms.
It is important for people to seek professional treatment. Because of the easy nature of acquiring painkillers, many fool themselves into thinking that they can stop on their own. This is incredibly risky due to the relapse rate and the potential for an accidental overdose.
Withdrawal from opioids is dangerous due to its depressive and suicidal symptoms when coming off of the drug. Close medical monitoring and assistance is needed. Sometimes anti-depressants are needed for the withdrawal process. If a person attempts to quit independently there can be fatal consequences. Prescription drug addiction is a chemical dependency just like all other substances, whether legal or illegal.
After treatment, sober living is the best step in achieving lasting sobriety. Twelve-step meetings, psychotherapy, holistic activities, and a controlled, substance free environment contribute to erasing prescription drug addiction. Treatment is only a step away. Ask for help today.