By now, it should be no surprise that many people in the United States suffer from prescription drug addictions. There are so many addictive medications on the market, and not every doctor does their due diligence to inform their patients of the risks.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers the following statistics:
There are many types of prescription drugs, and it is important to understand the risks before starting to take them. Once people do take them, they need to know what to expect as well.
It is our goal to offer this helpful prescription drug addiction guide for anyone who thinks they might be addicted. It contains a lot of information on many of the most commonly prescribed medications on the market.
Many people make the false assumption that addiction is all about willpower. That is not the case at all. In fact, it has nothing to do with that whatsoever. Once someone has a drug addiction, it means that they have become both physically and mentally dependent upon a substance. It can happen with both illegal drugs and legally prescribed medications.
This is how The American Association of Addiction Medicine defines addiction:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry…It is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.”
Once a person is addicted to prescription drugs, it is very difficult to stop. It is possible, but usually only with the right kinds of treatment. Also, being an addict does not mean that someone lacks self-control. It only means that they have taken a drug for far too long to be able to quit without assistance.
It is actually quite common for people to become addicted to prescription medications completely by accident. They usually start taking them because a doctor recommended them and prescribed them. Sometimes doctors will allow their patients to take drugs for far too long, and an addiction inadvertently happens. Eventually, that individual feels as though they cannot cope without their medication.
Others may become addicted to prescription drugs because they were using them illegally. There are ways to buy painkillers and other types of medications online, and they are also available on the street. It is not uncommon for young people to steal pain medications, or for college students to share addictive prescription stimulant drugs.
Continued abuse is what leads to addiction. At first, the drug is a way to relieve pain, or to experience a euphoric high. Eventually, it becomes something the person needs.
Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that is released when someone has a pleasurable experience. It makes them feel good, and it encourages that experience again.
Through repeated substance abuse, dopamine levels are increased even more than they normally would be. Over time, the brain is no longer able to make the chemical on its own, and it relies on the drug for those moments of euphoria. It is at that point that a person becomes addicted to the drug. They no longer feel like themselves unless they use, and they have to have it to feel normal.
There is no doubt that our country is in the middle of an opioid crisis. There are also sources that say that we are also facing a serious stimulant crisis as well. The question is, how did we get to this point?
Opioid pain relievers began being heavily prescribed in the late 1990s. The pharmaceutical companies assured those working in the medical field that their patients would not become addicted to them. As a result, the number of prescriptions being written started to increase.
It was not very long before their misuse began. The drugs were found to be highly addictive, but it was only in recent years that the government started making regulations to change the situation.
The same is true for other types of addictive prescription medications. Many were once believed to be non-addictive, and doctors needed options to treat their patients. Once they found something that was working, it was common to leave the patient on the drug for quite some time. When these drugs are used in higher doses, they cause sensations of euphoria, and often lead to addiction.
There are several types of addictive prescription medications on the market today. Again, many of the people who use them do not realize that they might become addicted. They fall under different classifications and there are different medications listed within each one.
Opioid drugs are often referred to as painkillers, pain relievers or narcotics. These are Schedule II controlled substances, and they are some of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.
Some examples of opioid drugs include:
Many of these drugs are used to treat short-term pain. But there are some on this list that are much more potent than the others, and they are frequently used to treat severe, chronic pain.
You will notice that there are several medications on this list that are actually used to treat opioid addiction. They themselves can also be addictive when they are abused.
Opioids are so addictive because they activate the pleasure centers of the brain. This encourages people to take them, and it discourages them from stopping. These drugs attach to the opioid receptors in the body. When these receptors are activated, the result is pain relief and sensations of euphoria.
Psychological dependence occurs before physical dependence and addiction occur with opioids. People first begin to believe that they need the drugs to feel OK. Eventually, they do not know how to cope without them.
It is very important to consider the potential short and long-term effects of opioids before starting to take them. Many of the short-term effects are desirable. They drive people to continue to take them. Others can be dangerous.
The short-term effects of opioids include:
The long-term effects are much more concerning, and they include:
When someone is addicted to these medications, they are said to have an opioid use disorder. There are different symptoms used to identify this problem, and they include:
Prescription stimulants are medications that are used to treat a variety of different ailments. Usually, doctors will prescribe them to treat ADD or ADHD. They can be used to treat narcolepsy, as well as some other medical conditions as well.
When these medications are used as directed, on a short-term basis, they can be quite effective. But many doctors will keep their patients on them long-term. They can easily get addicted by accident, although there are also people who abuse them purposefully too.
Some examples of prescription stimulants include:
On college campuses across the United States, these are referred to as study drugs. Students will regularly take them because they say they make them feel smarter. They will use the medications as a way to stay up later and study, and change their procrastination habits.
Typically, the students get the medications from other students, who will sell them willingly. There are also ways to order the drugs online, illegally.
Even though there are many students who claim that using study drugs gives people an unfair advantage, it still happens. Colleges all over the country are cracking down on the practice, but there are many students who feel there is no better way to get ahead.
For many who misuse prescription stimulants, they begin with a psychological addiction. They notice how well the drugs work, and they become convinced that they need them to study. It is not long before they also become physically addicted as well.
These drugs also cause an increase in the dopamine levels of the brain. The body gets used to having them, and the human body is always seeking balance. With the medications, it finds a new way of balancing. Once that balance is thrown off, and withdrawal symptoms occur, an addiction is certain.
It is extremely important to understand the short and long-term effects of prescription stimulants. When taken in the short-term, these drugs may not cause much harm in normal doses. But when higher doses are taken, or they are used long-term, the consequences can be quite serious.
In the short-term, these drugs can lead to:
With long-term use, people often suffer from:
There are additional risks associated with the long-term use of ADHD medications. Abusing prescription stimulants can also cause serious problems with the heart. Users may develop heart disease or have irregular heartbeats. They may even eventually get diagnosed with high blood pressure or suffer from seizures.
There are several signs that someone might be addicted to prescription stimulants. These individuals may:
Benzodiazepines are a classification of psychoactive drugs that are used to treat many conditions. Frequently, they are prescribed to patients to help with anxiety and/or insomnia. They are also known as depressants, and are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States.
Most addiction treatment experts agree that when used correctly, benzos can be very effective for many people. But when they are used long-term, the risks certainly outweigh the benefits.
There are many different types of benzodiazepines, and they include:
Benzos do have their uses in the medical community. They can be effective at stopping seizures in those who are going through alcohol withdrawal. They are frequently used during detox for this purpose. They can also stop people from having panic attacks.
The problem is that they are so effective that they are heavily overprescribed. Like with other medications, patients often are not notified that these drugs can be addictive. There are even cases of elderly individuals being prescribed these medications long-term. This can lead to hallucinations, suicidal ideations and psychosis.
According to NIDA, benzos have been widely prescribed ever since they were introduced in the 1960s. Research has shown that addiction occurs much the same way it does with opioids, cannabinoids and other, similar drugs.
For the longest time, the addictive nature of benzodiazepines flew under the radar. Today, researchers know that benzos weaken the influence of inhibitory interneurons in the brain. These neurons usually help to prevent excessive dopamine levels, but when people use benzos, more dopamine is released.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, benzodiazepines can be the most dangerous drugs in the world. They are very difficult to stop, and they can cause many short-term and long-term effects, depending on how long they are used.
Like other drugs, most people use benzos because of their short-term effects, which are:
The longer these drugs are used, the more dangerous they can become. The long-term effects of benzos include:
There is also a correlation between the long-term use of benzos and Alzheimer’s disease.
Someone who is abusing benzodiazepine medications is usually taking them in higher doses than they should. They may be addicted if they are exhibiting the following symptoms:
They may also have any of the following signs of addiction:
Marijuana is a drug that is considered to be both good and bad. It all depends on who is talking about it. This drug has gained a huge following over the last several years. This is mostly due to the fact that it has become legalized in many states for medicinal use.
According to WebMD, more than half of the states in the U.S. have legalized medical marijuana. A growing number of them have also legalized it for recreational use. Federally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, just like heroin and cocaine.
Medical marijuana utilizes the plant itself or the chemicals in it to treat diseases or conditions. It contains more than 100 cannabinoids, which all have a different effect on the body. The main ones are TCH and CBD.
Medical marijuana can be used to treat many different conditions, such as:
Medical marijuana is essentially the same plant that has been used illegally for several decades. There has been so much controversy surrounding the question, is marijuana addictive? The answer to that question is that yes, it can be.
In severe cases, frequent use of pot can result in a diagnosis of marijuana use disorder. Research has shown that as many as 30% of those who use the drug may have MUD. Those who use it before the age of 18 are as much as seven more times more likely to develop the condition than adults.
It is possible to become psychologically addicted to medical marijuana. However, it has not been shown to have any physically addictive characteristics. Those who use it regularly may come to believe that they need it. What is very interesting is that the drug will cause both mental and physical withdrawal symptoms in those who are addicted.
Marijuana has been shown to have many short and long-term effects. Like with other drugs, the short-term effects are often ones that people look for when they use it.
Some of the common short-term effects of marijuana include:
For those who use medical marijuana long-term, they may experience all of the above, as well as:
There is still so much research that needs to be done on medical marijuana. Anyone who decides to go this route to treat any of the above conditions needs to be extremely cautious. It is important for them to do their own research and weigh the pros and the cons.
It is very easy to tell when someone has been using marijuana. They will have all of the classic signs of use, including:
It may be a bit harder to tell when someone is addicted. It is best to look for any of the typical signs of addiction, which include:
A professional treatment program is best for anyone who is addicted to prescription drugs. These medications are dangerous, and the addiction should be treated by people who have a lot of experience.
It may be tempting to attempt to stop taking any of these drugs cold turkey, but that is not recommended under any circumstances. Some of them may need certain withdrawal treatments to eliminate the risk of complications during the detox period.
The need to go through a drug detox program is entirely dependent upon the type of drug the individual has been using. Opioid drugs need detox, as do prescription stimulants and benzodiazepines.
Detoxing is considered one of the most important steps in the recovery process. It addresses the physical side of the addiction, and can help to reduce the severity of withdrawal. Many people note that there are a lot of common symptoms they never experience because they went through detox.
Also, a prescription drug detox can often help people avoid complications. Many drugs can cause seizures, heart problems or other issues once they are stopped. Detoxing increases the chance that those issues will not happen.
There are several different types of drug detox programs. Most experts agree that it is best to go through the detoxification process on an inpatient basis. This allows medical staff to attend to the individual at all times and keep them under constant supervision.
During detox, there are a few types of treatments that are generally prescribed. Every patient is different, and doctors should choose the ones that will work best for each person.
Medical detox has become increasingly common when someone stops using drugs. It allows patients to take medications to help with their withdrawal symptoms. While this method is good, great care should be taken to ensure that the patient does not form a secondary addiction.
Medication assisted treatment is a method that is frequently used for those who are addicted to opioids. By giving the individual different types of opioid drugs, withdrawal symptoms can be greatly minimized.
Vivitrol is a medication that has recently been approved for use in treating opioid withdrawal. It is not an opioid itself, and it is non-addictive. Many people have taken it with great success.
In most cases, patients will undergo holistic detox treatments as well as medical treatments. This will involve taking a look at their diets and making the necessary changes to improve their overall health. The human body is very capable of detoxing itself when it is healthy. The right foods will improve the health of the liver and kidneys, essentially speeding up the detox process.
Additional treatments may be prescribed as well, such as physical exercise, meditation and supplements. All of these work together to create a well-rounded detox program.
After the patient has gone through detox, they will transition into prescription drug rehab. This is where they begin working on the mental part of the addiction. They will work closely with a therapist to determine the cause of it. Once they know what caused it, they can take steps to treat it.
This is a part of treatment that many people are eager to skip. Once they get here, their withdrawal is usually almost gone so they feel a lot better. Rehab should not be taken lightly. It is a very important part of the recovery process, and people who go to it have a much better chance of long-term success.
There are several different forms of rehab and they include both inpatient and outpatient programs. Every patient must decide which type would be right for them.
In many cases, inpatient programs are highly recommended. This is because they remove the patient from their normal surroundings. This allows them to completely focus on recovering from their addictions. They also provide them with constant sources of support from both other patients and staff members.
However, outpatient rehabs can be very good as well; particularly intensive outpatient programs. Research has shown that they can be just as effective as inpatient treatment.
If you are addicted to one of the addictive prescription drugs we have listed above, please know that you are not alone. So many people are facing the same situation. Also, there are a lot of people who have overcome their addictions. You can take the same steps to reach that goal as well.
At Northpoint Washington, we understand that it is hard to stop using prescription drugs. Your addiction is very powerful, but with the right treatment it can be done.