Prescription pillsAlthough the general public often assumes anyone in rehab actively set out to develop an addiction, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, most people who struggle with an addiction to prescription painkillers originally took their medication exactly as prescribed.

Prescription painkillers are often viewed as safer than illegal drugs, but this misconception can lead people to ignore the warning signs of an addiction until a crisis occurs. Working professionals, busy parents, retirees, or people who are otherwise upstanding members of the community can fall prey to unintended addiction even if they have no statistical risk factors for a substance use disorder. The opioid epidemic does not discriminate when it comes to choosing victims.

According to the CDC, as many as one in four people using long-term prescription opioids will struggle with addiction. Addiction to prescription painkillers is also a well-known risk factor for progressing to illegal heroin use.

Determining if You May Have an Addiction

Prescription opioid painkillers are typically prescribed after surgery or to help a patient dealing with chronic pain from a condition such as cancer or osteoarthritis. When used correctly, these medications can greatly improve a patient’s overall quality of life. However, the risk of unintended addiction is a serious downside.

If you think you might be developing an addiction to prescription painkillers, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I started to need higher doses of my medicine to get the same effects?
  • Am I taking this medicine because I am in pain or am I only taking it because I feel like I might need it?
  • When I haven’t taken the prescription drug at the normal time, am I experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, chills, headaches, or nausea?
  • Do I exaggerate my symptoms or otherwise mislead my healthcare provider to try to obtain additional pills?
  • Do I take medication that I wasn’t directly prescribed?
  • Am I often preoccupied with determining when I can obtain more of this prescription drug?
  • Do I mix my medications with alcohol?
  • Are people close to me expressing concern about my behavior?

If you have a family history of addiction or suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, you should be aware that you’re at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder than someone who does not have these risk factors.

Understanding Psychological vs Physical Dependence

People who use prescription pain medication can be either psychologically or physically dependent. A psychological dependence means you’re taking the medication in anticipation of pain, instead of trying drug-free ways to alleviate your pain, or because you simply like how it makes you feel. A physical dependence means you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try not to take your medication.

If you’ve developed a physical dependence, it’s important not to abruptly stop your medication. Your doctor can help you taper the medication. You may also be able to use special drugs to safely manage withdrawal, such as buprenorphine.

Physical dependence can occur if you’ve taken a medication for a very long time, even if you’ve always followed the doctor’s orders precisely. However, physical dependence can be a warning sign of a substance use disorder.

The Deadly Consequences of Addiction

The formal definition of a substance use disorder requires your use of opioid medication to be causing problems with your daily routine. This can include financial or legal problems as well as performance difficulties at school or work or strained relationships with family and friends.

However, the ultimate danger of addiction to prescription opioid painkillers is a fatal overdose. Opioids depress the respiratory system, which can cause you to stop breathing. Naloxone (Narcan) can temporarily reverse an overdose, but not all first responders have easy access to this lifesaving drug.

Getting Help

If you think you may be developing an addiction to prescription opioids, your first step should be to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. Be open and honest about your medication usage. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Your doctor’s top priority is protecting your health and wellbeing.

If your doctor agrees that treatment for an opioid use disorder is necessary, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction can help. Our campus is located on a beautiful mountain-side in central Pennsylvania, offering a peaceful and serene environment in which to take the first steps towards recovery. We provide detox, counseling, holistic treatments, and access to aftercare resources designed to heal the mind, body, and spirit healing.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Sign of Pennsylvania

St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s rehab programs can provide you with medically supervised detox and counseling to build the skills necessary for sobriety. However, since addiction is a chronic illness, you may find it helpful to take advantage of some of these community-based resources for ongoing support.

Penn State Collegiate Recovery Center

Penn State’s Collegiate Recovery Community helps students recovering from substance abuse successfully reach their academic goals by connecting them with a variety of campus-based resources.

For example, students in need of campus housing can choose to live in the ROAR (Residence of Addiction Recovery) House. Located in the White Course Apartments, this drug and alcohol free community connects students with their peers in recovery to provide a safe and supportive living arrangement.

Support for students doesn’t end after they graduate. In addition to the student-run Lions for Recovery, there is also an alumni support group that helps graduates with substance abuse issues stay sober and take advantage of professional networking opportunities.

United Against Heroin Addiction

Formed to address the heroin epidemic in Centre County, United Against Heroin Addiction offers direct assistance to people with addiction problems, emotional support to those affected by addiction, and a number of community education and awareness programs. A key component of this process is the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), a self-designed prevention and wellness process that can be used by people of all ages to address substance abuse as well as other mental health challenges.

In addition to working directly with those affected by addiction, United Against Heroin Addiction also advocates for effective legislation to address the state’s growing opioid epidemic and additional funding for research into new addiction treatment options. All of this work is made possible by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Just for Today

Founded in 2006, Just for Today provides addiction education and advocacy for the recovery community in central Pennsylvania. They are a licensed provider of Vivitrol, a non-narcotic, monthly intramuscular injection that blocks receptors in the brain associated with the “high” from opioids such as heroin or Oxycontin.

In addition to providing general recovery services, Just for Today offers special recovery houses for veterans, as well as recovery groups and meetings focusing on the unique challenges former service members face in maintaining their sobriety.

Women for Sobriety

Founded in 1975, Women for Sobriety is self-help recovery group for women offering face-to-face meetings as well as online chats and a 24/7 forum. They are not affiliated with any other recovery organization and operate by the philosophy ” “Release the past – plan for tomorrow – live for today.”

Although Women for Sobriety is based in Pennsylvania, they have members from throughout the U.S. and Canada. In June, the organization hosts an annual three-day conference to help members take the next step in their recovery.

Hearts for Homeless

If substance abuse issues are related to a lack of stable housing, Hearts for Homeless can help by provide temporary shelter, access to case managers, and 24/7 support. The organization serves those who are currently homeless as well as those who are in danger of becoming homeless.

In addition to offering connections to substance abuse treatment resources, Hearts for Homeless can provide job search assistance and help navigating problems with the criminal justice system. They are one of the few community shelters open during the day and encourage residents in need to drop in whenever they have questions or need a place to get away from the elements.

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

This state-run website helps you learn more about your insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment and provides a searchable directory of care providers within the state.

You can also use the site to search for your local county drug and alcohol office. Staff members at these offices are able to provide personalized assistance finding addiction treatment options, with a focus on free or low-cost choices for individuals who do not have adequate insurance coverage.

Centre Helps

Centre Helps offers a 24-hour hotline at 800-494-2500 or 814-237-5855 to help residents in crisis. In addition to answering questions about addiction treatment and recovery resources in Pennsylvania, they can provide answers about financial assistance for low-income people, help for victims of domestic abuse, and resources for the disabled.

If you’d rather talk to someone in person, you can visit the drop-in center that is open weekdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm at 410 South Fraser Street in State College. At the drop-in center, you can request a case manager who will be able to provide personalized assistance tailored to the specific challenges you are facing.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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TeensThe term high functioning addict refers to someone who is outwardly successful while inwardly struggling with addiction. In contrast to the stereotypical vision of an addict as someone who is disheveled in appearance, struggling financially, and frequently in trouble with the law, a high functioning addict appears to have it all together.

People of all ages can be high functioning addicts, but this problem is most often seen with teens abusing drugs or alcohol. Teens can be high functioning simply because they have fewer responsibilities to juggle. However, once a teen heads off to college or the workforce, it will likely become more apparent that a problem exists.

Signs of a High Functioning Teen Addict

Learning to identify the signs of a high functioning addict can help you get treatment for your teen before drug or alcohol abuse takes over his or her life. Here’s what to watch for:

Seeming ill or irritable in the morning. Many teens dislike waking up early for school, but a teen with a drug or alcohol problem may complain of constant headaches, irritability, and fatigue during the morning hours. This could be the signs of withdrawal, which occurs when an addictive substance leaves the body.

A new group of friends with drinking or drug issues. Hanging out with a crowd that likes to “party” indicates that your teen is likely engaged in risky behaviors. Peer pressure can be a powerful motivator for young people.

Avoiding time with parents or concerned adults. A teen who is hiding an addiction may make excuses to avoiding spending time with people who have expressed worry about his or her drug or alcohol use. Your teen may wish to avoid a confrontation or be trying to protect others from knowing the truth.

Unexplained finances. A teen who has no job, but suddenly seems flush with cash may be dealing to support a drug habit. Items that go missing in your home or cash that disappears from your wallet may also indicate your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Losing interest in sober hobbies. If your teen suddenly stops wanting to participate in extracurricular activities at school or past hobbies at home, this may suggest a preoccupation with drugs or alcohol.

An extreme desire for privacy. Although teens are entitled to some privacy, a teen who won’t answer basic questions about his or her whereabouts may have something serious to hide. Monitoring phone and computer usage may be necessary for your teen’s safety.

Convincing an Addicted Teen to Seek Help

A young high functioning addict is likely to be in deep denial. He or she may think that everything is under control, especially when school work and relationships with friends seem to be fine. However, the following signs indicate a problem regardless of how things appear to the casual observer:

  • Your teen believes drugs or alcohol are necessary to relax.
  • Your teen forgets what happened while he or she was under the influence.
  • Your teen makes poor decisions while under the influence, such as drinking and driving.
  • Your teen drinks or uses drugs when he or she didn’t intend to.
  • Your teen develops a tolerance or needs more of the abused substance to experience the same effects.
  • Your teen feels ill or experiences other designs of withdrawal when unable to use.

Planning an intervention is an excellent way to encourage a teen to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, coaches, friends, and other concerned parties come together to express their concerns and present a plan for treatment. This is done without judgement or accusation, but consequences are given for refusal. Review our post on How to Plan an Intervention to learn more.

How Treatment Promotes a Lasting Recovery

Addiction treatment depends on specific substance being abused and if a teen has any special considerations such as a co-occurring mental health disorder. However, the process typically begins with medical detox to clear the body of the addictive substance. During detox, a team of medical professionals provide 24/7 supervision and emotional support.

After detox, a teen will enter residential treatment. Individual and group therapy helps a teen learn the coping skills necessary to lead a fulfilling sober life. Holistic treatments such as music or art therapy help reinforce key lessons. Family therapy can help promote positive communication and break patterns of enabling or codependency.

Residential treatment is followed by a detailed aftercare plan that involves outpatient therapy, 12-step groups, and various community-based recovery resources. This helps create the support system necessary for a lasting recovery.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s drug or alcohol use, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction can help. Contact us today to learn more.

By Dana Hinders

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