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Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

Substance abuse can start innocently enough, with some people misusing their prescription. But even without the intention to abuse a drug, you can be at risk of developing addiction.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs, Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Abuse, Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse, Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction, Medications Used in Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment, Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, Prescription Drug Use Warnings and Complications, Rehab is Your Best Chance


Prescription drug abuse refers to the act of taking medication for any reason other than why the doctors prescribed it.

Some people are under the impression that prescription drugs are safer to misuse simply because it is prescribed by doctors, but that is not the case. Abusing any drug can have adverse effects on the mind and the body.

Unfortunately, prescription drug addiction is more common than you think. According to drug abuse and addiction experts, more than 18 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in the previous year. This means more than 6% of the US population has engaged in prescription drug abuse.

Substance abuse can start innocently enough, with some people misusing their prescription. But even without the intention to abuse a drug, you can be at risk of developing addiction. Over time, these medications may affect the brain’s ability to make good decisions. This can lead to problems with self-control as the body feels the urge to take more drugs. The person may eventually start taking drugs for recreational use.

Experts believe that more people are abusing prescription drugs simply because there are now more drugs available than ever. Doctors, for example, are writing more prescriptions than ever. Also, in this era of social media and the internet, it is now easier to find pharmacies selling these medications.

Here we will discuss everything you need to know about prescription drug addiction, its warning signs, and how treatment works for those who are struggling with it. Let’s take a closer look.



Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused: opioids, stimulants, and depressants.

Opioids are prescription medications that are used to manage pain. Used properly, they can boost a patient’s quality of life by reducing or eliminating their pain. Examples of opioids include morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine. These medications are quite potent and they need to be used carefully by following the doctor’s prescription to reduce the risk of addiction or dependence.

Although it is still possible to develop addiction and drug dependence on opioids even under a doctor’s supervision, this is not a common occurrence. Generally speaking, if you follow your prescription carefully, you should not worry about opioid addiction.

Because of their risk for abuse and addiction, opioids work best when used for short term pain management. Long term usage of opioids may lead to addiction, tolerance, and dependence. There is also the risk of opioid overdose, which can be life-threatening. The risk of an overdose increases if the drug is taken along with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates. Mixing these substances can cause breathing problems or even death.

Some people take opioids by crushing and snorting them, or by injecting them directly into their veins. Recreational users do so in order to achieve the euphoric effects faster. This also puts them at greater risk of addiction and overdose, not to mention some blood-borne illnesses such as HIV, specifically if sharing needles.

Depressants, or central nervous system (CNS) depressants, are used to treat sleep disorders and anxiety. Examples of depressants include Ativan, Valium, and Xanax. These medications affect the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, which lowers brain activity. Taking depressants will make a person calm or drowsy, which helps them sleep faster.

Some depressants such as amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital, and phenobarbital are called barbiturates and are used to treat seizures or as anesthesia.

Depressants may give you a calm and sleepy feeling if you take it for a few days or weeks, depending on how long it was prescribed by your doctor. But any longer than that and you may begin to feel the need to take larger doses just to experience the same effects.

Just like opioids, you are not supposed to take these substances with alcohol as this may slow your breathing and your heartbeat and lead to death. It is also common for people who take depressants to experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and seizures if they suddenly stop.

Finally, we have stimulants. Stimulants have the opposite effect of depressants. Instead of reducing brain activity, these prescription drugs give your body a jumpstart, providing a huge boost in energy, attention, and alertness. Stimulants can raise your heart rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

At first, doctors prescribed stimulants to treat asthma and obesity. But now they are also used to treat ADHD, ADD, narcolepsy, and depression. Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Concerta, Methylin, Daytrana, Adderall, and Ritalin are some examples of stimulants.

Misusing stimulants may cause uneven heartbeat, addiction, and drug dependence. Some recreational users crush and snort the pills to get more intense effects. Just like the other drugs, abusing stimulants may lead to mental health conditions and physical health problems.

If you or someone you love is struggling with prescription drug misuse, seek treatment immediately. What they need is psychological and medical support for their substance use disorder, and this can be achieved through rehab.


Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Abuse

Misusing prescription drugs is the main cause of prescription drug addiction. But researchers found that there are certain factors that make a person more likely to abuse these prescription medications. The more risk factors a person is exposed to, the higher the likelihood that they will abuse their medications and get addicted at some point in their life.

Risk factors include age, family history of drug abuse, mental health disorders, peer pressure, poverty, and attitude towards drugs.

There are many reasons why a person may start abusing their prescription medications. The most common reason is they want to feel good or get high. They experiment with prescription and illicit drugs just to see their mental health effects. They do it to fit in with their friends or win their approval.

Most people go through a lot of stress on a regular basis, and they want to take these drugs just to feel relaxed or calm.

Patients who are suffering from pain may abuse opioids to feel better. Some take these drugs to enhance their performance at work or in school. They use it to become more alert or attentive in class. Some people would rather stay addicted just to avoid the unpleasant effects of withdrawal.

In some rare cases, people accidentally misuse their prescription by taking it too often or taking more than they were supposed to. Despite their innocent mistake, they can still get hooked on these substances and end up getting addicted.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

The first step towards helping a person who is dealing with a prescription drug addiction is to recognize the signs and symptoms. Watch out for these warning signs if you think someone you care about is misusing their prescription.

The effects of prescription drug abuse may vary from one person to another, and it may also depend on the type of drug they abused. For example, if they abused opioids, they may suffer from dizziness, slow or shallow breathing, vomiting, constipation, upset stomach, poor coordination, slurred speech, and mood swings. In some cases opioid users also experienced depression or anxiety.

Depressants may cause mood changes, poor coordination, difficulty concentrating, poor judgment, slow movements, slowed reflexes, memory problems, slurred speech, and slow breathing.

Finally, stimulant abuse may cause lack of appetite, weight loss, headache, dizziness, nervousness, insomnia, high blood pressure, and uneven heart rate. Some users even report feelings of paranoia.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction is not just a burden to the person but also to the people around them including their friends, family members, and society as a whole. Not only does it affect their physical and mental health, it also damages their relationships.

Addiction tends to have an overwhelming effect on the user, making it feel impossible to recover. So instead of trying to get better, they just continue on their downward spiral of drug abuse and addiction. The drugs make them feel better for a little while, but then it causes them problems, which they then try to cope with using more drugs. It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to break out of without proper help.

The good news is that years of research have proven that substance use disorders can be treated effectively. While there is the misconception that breaking free from addiction is all just a matter of willpower, it takes more than that to make a full recovery.

The first time someone abuses a substance, they may do so voluntarily for a number of reasons. But once addiction and drug dependence set in, it becomes a disease of the mind, which affects their ability to make good decisions. There is also the physical threat of withdrawal symptoms, which can range from unpleasant to life-threatening.

A substance use disorder is a type of brain disorder and must be treated as such. A proper treatment plan is needed in order to help the individual get the best chances of making a recovery.

A successful treatment plan includes several components such as medical detox, counseling, and the use of medications. Oftentimes, patients have to go through multiple courses of treatment. Relapse is very common and should not be viewed as a failure but rather as just another obstacle on the road to sobriety.

The first step towards recovery is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help. A lot of addicted individuals struggle with this first step. Some people are in denial and think they have their addiction under control, while others are afraid of going through the treatment process.

Of course, understanding how the process works can help ease their fears and move them towards a sober lifestyle.

Prescription drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs are designed to slowly make the person less dependent on these substances. The exact process may vary from one person to another because everyone has different needs. Everyone experiences addiction differently, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A personalized approach works best when treating any type of addiction.

That said, you can expect the person to go through medically-assisted detoxification. The detox process gradually lowers the person’s drug intake as their withdrawal symptoms are managed by medical professionals. This is the safest way to help an individual who has become dependent on a drug and can no longer function normally without it.

The detox process is done in a safe and comfortable environment, where the patient’s progress can be tracked and their symptoms can be managed with the use of medications.

During or after detox, the patient will undergo behavioral treatment. This is where most treatment options vary. While detox helps you get sober again by reducing the effects of addiction and substance abuse to your body, therapy can help address the root causes of addictive behaviors.

Behavioral treatment teaches patients healthy coping mechanisms that they can use once they are done with the treatment program. This will help them stay sober even on their own. Therapists and counselors will help patients recognize unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, as well as triggers that make them more susceptible to substance abuse. They can then apply these coping mechanisms to avoid relapsing.

When it comes to rehabilitation, there are inpatient and outpatient programs. Outpatient programs are more suited to those who have mild to moderate cases, as well as those who have responsibilities outside of rehab that they can’t leave behind. Outpatient programs allow them to receive the treatment they need while still keeping up with their responsibilities in the real world.

Inpatient programs are more intensive and structured. They also require patients to stay in a treatment facility for a certain period of time. Usually these programs last from 30 to 90 days, but different rehabs may have different approaches. Inpatient rehab takes the person out of their usual toxic environment and puts them in a healthier space where they can just focus on getting better.

A lot of treatment facilities offer different payment methods to ensure that no one is locked out of the services they need due to financial concerns. Most of them accept health insurance and support various payment plans.

Medications Used in Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

In addition to the methods mentioned above, medications may also be used to aid in the treatment of addicted individuals. Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are the most commonly used medications in the treatment of prescription drug addiction.

Some of these drugs can help prevent other opioids from affecting the brain while others help relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Medical professionals administer these medications to help prevent relapse and also increase the chances of making a safe and successful recovery.

These medications work best when used in combination with medical detox and behavioral treatments. This is known as medication-assisted treatment or MAT.

Buprenorphine helps with drug dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Along with naloxone, it is used to prevent relapse.

Naloxone is able to reverse an opioid overdose, rapidly restoring a person’s respiration. This can potentially save a person who has stopped breathing altogether. It is administered by medical personnel and first responders, but it can also be used by bystanders during an emergency.

Experts believe that medication-assisted treatment is the best way to treat patients who have an opioid addiction.

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Prevention is still better than the cure, so the FDA has offered some guidelines for safe usage of prescription medications.

The first and most important rule is to follow the doctor’s directions carefully. This means you should not raise or lower your doses without consulting your doctor first. Do not stop taking a prescription medication all on your own.

Do not crush or break your pills, especially time-release pills. These pills have a special mechanism that allows them to be absorbed by the body over time rather than all at once. Crushing these pills will break the mechanism and cause the body to absorb the entire dosage which may lead to an overdose.

If you will be driving, make sure you are aware of how the medications will affect your capacity to drive and perform your tasks throughout the day. Do your own research on your specific medications to find out how they will interact with alcohol and other substances.

If your doctor gives you a prescription drug, let them know about any personal or family history of substance abuse or addiction.

Finally, do not allow others to use your prescription drugs, and do not take theirs. These medications can be beneficial if you use them properly and as prescribed by your doctor.

Prescription Drug Use Warnings and Complications

Depending on your prescription, there may be certain substances that you have to avoid, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For example, you should never use opioids with depressants like alcohol, barbiturates, sleep medications, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, and general anesthetics.

Do not take depressants with alcohol, opioids, allergy medications, and other substances that can dull your central nervous system. It goes without saying that doing so will increase your risk of a fatal overdose.

If you are taking stimulants, avoid using antidepressants, decongestants, and certain asthma medications without proper medical support and supervision.

If you think someone you love is abusing a prescription drug, look for an addiction treatment facility near you today and learn more about their treatment options. There’s always help available. Recovering from an addiction may be a long and difficult process, but your journey can start today.


Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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