Has your doctor prescribed painkillers for you after surgery or an injury? Do you know anyone with ADHD taking medication for it?
Addiction to prescription drugs doesn’t necessarily happen to everyone who uses them. Things like environment, family dynamics, genetics may have a strong influence on whether someone will be able to stop using an addictive prescription drug when they no longer need it according to their physician’s recommendations or standards for the drug. People that suffer from mental illness, such as depression or anxiety are more likely to use prescription medication like painkillers on a long-term basis.
Types of addictive prescription drugs:
Opioids are used as pain killers. When used according to prescribed instructions, opioids induce a euphoric feeling which is typically mild. However, when abused or used in ways other than prescribed, increased euphoric feelings do occur. Sometimes the person will take more than the prescribed amount, or take the medication in a different fashion (snorted or injected) in order to achieve an increase in the effects. Doing these things to increase the euphoric feeling can lead to dependency on the drug, when a person begins needing more and more to get the same effect or even to feel normal. Sometimes a person will change doctors if/when the original doctor will no longer write a prescription for more of that prescription.
Benzodiazepines are used to depress the central nervous system and are commonly used to treat anxiety, and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines have a sedative effect, decreasing brain activity, inducing drowsiness and have relaxing and calming effects. Something many people do not realize is they should never stop taking benzodiazepines without physician supervision. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be life threatening if not done under physician supervision.
Stimulants are used to create an increase in alertness, energy, attention, and can also increase heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure, constrict blood vessels, and open pathways of the respiratory system. They are most commonly used in the treatment of ADHD, ADD, depression, and narcolepsy.
When a person becomes dependent or addicted to a prescription drug, they may experience withdrawal if/when they stop or run out of the prescription. Withdrawal may bring pain; however, the pain may not be from the original issue that the prescription drug was treating. When a person is addicted to a prescription drug, if they experience withdrawal, pain may be a symptom of the withdrawal itself. So begins a vicious cycle.
Signs that help is necessary
- Stealing or forging prescriptions
- Continual loss of prescriptions
- Rapid increase in prescription dosage
- Crushing or breaking pills
- Use of prescription medications with alcohol, or combining multiple prescription medications against doctor instructions (or using OTC medication in addition to prescription to treat the same issue/condition)
- Doctor shopping looking for a doctor to write a prescription if other(s) have refused or using multiple pharmacies to fill prescriptions
- Excessive mood swings
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Appearing to be high, sedated, or unusually jumpy
- Illegal drug use
How Do People Keep Getting Prescription Drugs?
Often times, a doctor will prescribe a medication that is completely medically necessary for a specific condition or issue. While it’s important to realize that not everyone who takes painkillers, for example, will become addicted to them, if someone DOES become addicted to them, they will likely start by going back to their physician to ask for a refill of their prescription. Their doctor may refill the prescription, maybe even refill it a few times depending on the reason the person needed to take it, however, at a certain point, many physicians will (and should) notice that the person may have a problem. When this happens, many times the person will simply look for a new physician to write the prescription that they need. Online pharmacies also make it easier for people to purchase highly addictive drugs without having to face a live human being.
More often than not, teenagers may steal medication from a medicine cabinet and begin a pattern of prescription drug abuse. If a family member has a prescription and has pills leftover, it’s important to get rid of those leftover pills. Don’t save them. Teens incorrectly assume that taking prescription drugs isn’t dangerous because they came from a doctor. But most kids don’t know what they are taking and how it can damage their body, or even lead to death, especially if mixed with alcohol and/or other prescription drugs.
Treatment for prescription drug addiction
Even if prescription drug addiction doesn’t progress to the addiction to street drugs, there is help available and prescription drug abuse should be taken seriously. While an intervention and detoxification may be necessary, treatment shouldn’t stop there. Inpatient residential prescription drug rehab in California is the best option for a successful recovery. There an addicted person can be removed from their dangerous environment and can receive the best possible care with access to various therapies and services.
If you or a loved one are battling with prescription drug abuse, please contact an addiction counselor today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.