Individuals struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs may not realize how these substances affect them and their bodies. Understanding substances' effects on the body often motivates individuals to seek treatment.
Prescription drug addiction has been a growing concern for decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe it as a significant public health concern. Deaths involving prescription pain-relieving drugs have tripled since 1999, including 16,000 deaths in 2013 alone.
Spreading awareness about the dangers of prescription drug use is vital. Unfortunately, people do not always question their use of prescription drugs. Most individuals assume they are safe and not addictive because they require a prescription from a doctor. However, this is far from true. Prescription medications can have risks, one significant risk being dependence and addiction.
Individuals who think they may be struggling with a prescription drug addiction should speak with their doctors immediately. Learning how prescription drugs can affect them may encourage people to seek treatment.
What Are Prescription Drugs?
Many drugs fall under the "prescription drug" umbrella. Even though there are dangers, prescription medications can effectively treat many illnesses. For example, stimulants help individuals manage attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while depressants can aid with anxiety or sleep disorders. Unfortunately, prescription drugs are easily misused, a prime example being opioids prescribed for pain management. Misuse can lead to abuse and eventually dependence and addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD)
Xanax, OxyContin, and Adderall are common prescription drugs that can be highly addictive. Yet, even something as simple as cough syrup can lead to addiction. Types of prescription drugs that people may become dependent on include:
When most people think of addiction, they typically think of alcohol addiction or illegal drug use. Stereotypes like these are dangerous because it makes it easier for prescription drug addiction to sneak up on people.
If prescribed medication, individuals should diligently follow instructions from their doctor and carefully monitor their usage. Identifying the signs of prescription drug addiction may prevent you from becoming dependent. If you do recognize any signs, discuss them with your doctor.
Recognizing the Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
Addiction can impair your ability to function daily on a basic level. That includes your ability to perform in your personal and professional life. For this reason, identifying the signs of prescription drug addiction is vital, especially if you hope to prevent further health concerns.
To be diagnosed with SUD, individuals must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms within one year:
- Taking prescription drugs for longer than needed or in higher doses
- Unable to stop, reduce, or control prescription drug use and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop
- Spending time trying to obtain prescription drugs or recovering from them
- Inability to complete primary responsibilities at work, school, or home because of prescription drug use
- Continuing to use prescription drugs despite negative consequences
- Using prescription drugs in dangerous situations or making risky decisions as a result of drug use, such as driving under the influence of prescription drugs
- Building up a high tolerance for prescription drugs
These symptoms will also help you determine if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction.
Effects of Prescription Drugs
Recognizing the signs is crucial, but understanding the effects of prescription drugs is also vital. There are many to be on the lookout for, including short-term effects such as:
- Pain relief
- Slowed breathing
Of course, some of these are the reason one is prescribed a drug in the first place. These may be helpful when used correctly, but misuse has more serious adverse effects.
Long-term prescription drug use can lead to many other issues. Prescription drugs affect all major organ systems and may cause them to fail. Such effects lead to chronic conditions like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases or damage the digestive and reproductive systems.
Dependency on prescription drugs increases your chances of developing severe chronic disorders. This happens because your body becomes more used to these drugs and requires more to experience the same effects. This is called tolerance.
Other long-term effects of addiction to prescription drugs include experiencing withdrawal symptoms—like nausea, vomiting, seizures, or delirium—the development of other mental disorders—including hallucinations, depression, and paranoia—and a general decrease in cognitive function.
Depending on your unique needs and circumstances, prescription drug addiction treatment will look different. However, you can expect treatment to last anywhere from three to 12 months. The first step in treatment is detoxification. Detox can be dangerous, so it is always best to seek professional detox services.
Once detox is complete, there are several options to consider. Treatment can consist of various levels of care, each of which may include some combination of individual counseling, group therapy, holistic practices, and in some cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Again, your combination of treatments will look different depending on your individual needs. Seek treatment immediately if you fear you are struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs.
Prescription drugs affect hundreds, if not millions, of people every day. Unfortunately, some do not take the dangers of prescription drug use seriously. If left untreated, prescription drugs can lead to addiction, further substance use, and several chronic health conditions. Recognizing the signs of prescription drug addiction is vital, and so is understanding how it affects you and your body. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, discuss it with your doctor and seek treatment immediately. Treatment methods vary depending on your needs, but they can lead you to recovery and ultimately save your life. To learn more, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.