Entries tagged with “prescription drug addiction”.


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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**Updated August 2017**

I recently spoke with a young man who was “having a problem with opiates.”  In actuality, he was trying hard to convince both himself and me that his prescription medication abuse wasn’t serious.  Certainly he felt it would be wrong to call himself an “addict.”

The hard facts make it impossible to offer comfort or minimize the severity of opiate addiction, whether to painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, or street drugs like heroin.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 91 Americans die every day from opioid use. They are now the #1 cause of accidental death in this country.

opiate addictions are incredibly difficult to overcomeThe severity of an opiate addiction cannot be stressed enough; they hijack the brain and can quickly lead to behaviors that destroy relationships, careers, financial success and character.  Prescription drug use is also fueling a heroin epidemic because the high cost of an addiction to Percocet, Oxycodone or other painkillers often forces a switch to heroin, which is less expensive but much more dangerous.

Here are 7 hard truths about opiate addictions:

  1. Addiction to opiates occurs very rapidly and withdrawal symptoms can occur after only a week of using.  One study suggests that addiction will inevitably occur within 12 weeks of continuous use…but the struggle will last a lifetime.
  2. The “physical” pull of addiction is short-term and is not the major trigger that creates cravings.  The more powerful pull is “psychological” because the brain remembers the change in feelings produced by the drug. The addict must learn to manage this pull to avoiding using again.
  3. Detox from opiates – without a proven, effective recovery program – is usually a waste of time and money. Until an addicted person has learned how to manage his or her thoughts, and the “psychological pull” of the disease, the cravings will most likely return and cause relapse.
  4. Using medications to manage opiate use has a very poor success rates. The only lasting road to recovery is a lifestyle change in which stress and emotions are managed, and a solid support network is established.
  5. Tolerance toward opiates (and all other drugs for that matter) increases with use. A progressively larger amount is needed, which increases the likelihood of overdose. One study recently calculated that most opiate abusers only live for 10 years after starting the drug if they do not enter into recovery.
  6. The physical pull of withdrawal is hardest in the first week, as opiates leave the body fairly quickly. The rebalancing and repair of the brain takes months, and while the psychological pull of addiction may be strongest for the first 90 days, many different things can trigger it at any time.
  7. Opiate addicts who try to manage their addiction with “willpower” rarely have more than 60-90 days of sobriety.  The majority of those people relapse in less than 30 days.  The people who truly succeed in overcoming their addiction are those who work hard to stay in recovery every day for the rest of their lives.

There were no easy or comforting words that can be offered to an opiate addict without minimizing the dangers of their addiction or the importance of committing to recovery.  Too many people underestimate the severity of an addiction to painkillers because they are legal drugs.  We must all realize that opiate addiction is truly a national crisis.  We must help people break free of this addiction that is destroying so many families, so many futures and so many lives.

For more information about the opiate and heroin epidemic, including recovery options, visit the following blog posts:

 

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