The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly three out of four drug overdoses are due to prescription drugs like painkillers. In 2008 alone, prescription drugs were involved in over 14,000 deaths. These types of drugs are among the most commonly used substances after alcohol and marijuana. These rank higher in drug-related deaths than cocaine and heroin combined, making prescription drug abuse not only serious, but also fatal.
Many people think that because these drugs are issued by physicians, they are safe to use. This fallacy is dangerous as it can lead to overdoses, misuse and abuse of drugs, and unintentional addiction as well as death.
Types of Prescription Drugs
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) an estimated 20 percent of the US population (48 million) abuses prescription drugs. These substances carry a high potential for abuse and addiction. Pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives are among the most commonly used of this drug category.
Popular painkillers like OxyContin are used to treat pain. Other opioids include codeine and morphine. These block the pain receptors in the brain, altering the user’s perception of pain and pleasure. These are highly addictive and especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
Others prescription drugs like CNS depressants, suppress the brain’s central nervous system and can be used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Valium, Xanax and Librium are among CNS depressants. These pills slow breathing and heart rate, causing a potentially fatal reaction when paired with alcohol and other drugs.
Stimulants do the exact opposite of depressants in such that they speed up the body’s processes. Heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure can elevate and contribute to a sense of euphoria in the user. Examples of stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine. They appear to enhance focus and reduce hyperactivity, but they can lead to addiction and cause seizures and heart irregularities.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that physicians can serve as the first step in recognizing an individual’s drug addiction. The NIDA estimates that more than 80 percent of Americans have been to see a physician in the last year. With that high instance of healthcare visits, physicians are in a position to identify persons who may exhibit signs of prescription drug dependency. Signs of addiction can include:
- Stealing or falsifying drug prescriptions
- Selling prescription drugs
- Appearing anxious, restless, overly excited or sedated
- Intense and excessive moodiness; periods of mania or depression
- Change in sleep habits; increase or decrease in sleep; insomnia
- Poor decision-making skills
- Frequently “losing” prescriptions for medication, requiring additional doctor visits to “re-up” on medication
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor in order to obtain more of a drug
Recognizing prescription drug use may be harder than with most illicit drugs due to the fact that prescription drugs are generally distributed by doctors and other physicians. But by understanding the symptoms and signs of prescription drug abuse, it may be easier to help yourself or a loved one seek treatment for addiction. Our experts here at Adjustments Family Services can help you find a way out of prescription drug addiction. We offer specialized individual treatment plans that focus on abstaining from drug use and identifying the underlying causes for addiction, so you can achieve a life of balance and sobriety.
Can You Get Addicted to Pain Medication?
Is it possible to develop a physical dependence upon an opiate medication prescribed by your doctor? Absolutely. In fact, most patients will begin to develop a tolerance to their prescription, requiring higher and higher doses in order to experience the effects after using the medication regularly for a period of time.
Can you become psychologically dependent upon pills you receive through a doctor’s prescription for pain? Definitely. Many patients find that they come to rely on the medication, craving its effects and feeling as if they will be unable to function without the pills long before a physical dependence sets in.
What happens if someone develops both a psychological and a physical dependence upon their opiate painkiller? When this occurs, patients are encouraged to seek immediate and comprehensive rehabilitation and treatment for this addiction.
Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone
Many painkillers have either hydrocodone or oxycodone as their main ingredient. Both are opiate drugs and both are addictive. They are used for the treatment of moderate to severe pain, whether acute or chronic. Some doctors prefer to prescribe one over the other, depending upon the medical issue, the patient, and the other medications being taken. Though, milligram for milligram, oxycodone is more potent than hydrocodone, it is the dose of the pills that is more indicative of strength and chronic and/or heavy use of pills with either drug as the active ingredient can cause an opiate addiction.
More Harm Than Just Addiction
Most of the time, pills that include oxycodone or hydrocodone also include a non-narcotic pain reliever as well. For example, Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, and Vicodin and Lortab are different ratios of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen in large doses and taken regularly can be damaging to the liver, causing more physical damage to the body with chronic, non-addictive use than the oxycodone or hydrocodone alone.
Opiate addiction is still a huge problem, taking more lives than car accidents each year in some states. When someone you love struggles with the problem, it can be terrifying – every day could be the day that overdose occurs, an accident under the influence changes the status quo, or the addicted person puts someone else’s safety in jeopardy.
Contact us at Adjustments Family Services now to learn more about how we can help your loved one overcome dependence upon opiate medications and begin a new healthy life in recovery.