Chronic pain can affect people of all ages. It’s estimated that over one-third of Americans suffer with chronic pain on a daily basis. Pain medication that’s designed to lessen painful symptoms and allow you to function normally, can also create a feeling of euphoria. This alone, is the leading cause of prescription drug addiction.
What is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is when medications that were prescribed by your physician or another medical professional are taken in a way they weren’t intended. Unfortunately, prescription drug addiction usually follows the abuse of prescription painkiller medications. For example, you may have been prescribed painkillers for a dental infection. After the prescription ran out, you borrowed a few from a friend because you had a migraine. You then felt like you needed this same painkiller to lighten your mood. Prescription medication abuse can quickly transform into ongoing drug-seeking behavior.
Phases of Prescription Drug Addiction
If you or your loved ones are addicted to prescription medication, knowing the stages of addiction can help determine whether addiction therapy is warranted. Although not include of all warning signs, below are several red flags that can determine whether intervention is needed, below are the four stages of prescription medication addiction.
Non-Medical Use of Medication
Taking prescription medication without a real need is the first sign that you or someone you know may be going down the wrong path. Some people who may find that taking prescription painkillers is a way to cope with life stressors and feel better. Some may experiment with prescription drugs and love the way they feel. However, for some, taking prescription medication without a true need becomes a problem and quickly transitions into the second stage of drug addiction.
Misuse of Prescription Medication
Misuse of prescription drugs mirrors non-medical use, however, it’s done at higher frequency and dosage. For instance, the user may take more than actual prescription calls for, or they take it more frequently. At this stage, users develop a tolerance to the drug and need to take more to reach the desired effect. Tolerance to prescription medication is pivotal point. Opiates, like Valium, OxyContin, Fentanyl and many others, are highly addicting and are often misused.
Prescription drug dependence can rapidly transform into psychological dependence, which means the user is entering the final stage of prescription drug addiction. Physical dependence on prescription medication refers to any withdrawal symptoms some experiences when they do not take the medication. Psychological dependence is defined by the compulsive need to take the drug, despite knowing the negative ramifications in your personal and professional life. Other signs of psychological dependence on prescription drugs include cravings, obsessing over finding the drug and making sure you take it so you never crash and withdraw. Everything revolves around feeling the way you or they did the first time they took the medication.
When you think of a drug addict, what vision comes to mind? Some people conjure up images of someone who is homeless with a needle sticking out of their arm. Sadly, that is not the reality of all drug addiction. Most times, prescription drug addicts were hardworking people who injured themselves or maybe needed dental work. For some reason, the psychological and physical dependence users develop leads to a compulsive need to have the drug. They might go from doctor to doctor, lying about why they need pain relief. When this fails, many resort to street drugs. They might steal from family members or friends who have leftover medication, just to feel normal again. Unfortunately, when users get to this point, their addiction is full-blown, and as such, they may do or say things they never would have before they started using.
Seven Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
Knowing the signs of prescription drug abuse and addiction is critical for quick intervention. Below are seven of the most significant signs that you or a loved one needs help.
- Ongoing use of the medication, even though the pain or injury has resolved
- Complaining of nondescript symptoms to obtain another prescription
- Moodiness or behavior changes like anxiety, agitation or hostility
- Secretive behavior in an attempt to obtain the medication, such as stealing or “losing” your previous prescription
- Obsessing of the finding the drug
- Physical withdraw symptoms, ranging from flu-like symptoms, muscle pain, sweats and insomnia
- Taking someone else’s prescription in an attempt to feel better
- Lack of interest in other treatment modalities
Although prescription drug addiction is something medical professionals see frequently, many users are ashamed. They are afraid of what those closest to them will think. They worry that they will lose their family, friends and job. If you or your loved ones are battling prescription drug addiction, know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If given the choice, would you have started abusing drug? Mostly likely, your answer is no. The first step is reaching out for help. Albeit your physician, family or even a drug-addiction hotline, there are ways to beat addiction. Never let embarrassment prevent you from taking control of your life again. It is possible to overcome prescription drug addiction.
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