Author: Justin Mckibben
With drug abuse being a major issue facing the nation, education is extremely important. Any hope of winning the fight against rising overdose rates and the spread of drug-related illness and death starts with making sure we have as much information as possible to make a difference. On that note, explaining prescription drug abuse is critical because prescription drug abuse is a key contributor to the state of the country today.
If we want to help people avoid prescription drug abuse, or recognize the signs and know there is help, it is important to explain the reality and the risks.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Simply put- prescription drug abuse is one of two things.
- When someone takes a medication that is not their prescription
- If someone takes their own prescription in a way not intended by a doctor or for a different reason
When you take prescription drugs properly they are usually safe. It requires a trained health care clinician, such as a doctor or nurse, to determine if the benefits of taking the medication outweigh any risks for side effects. But when abused and taken in different amounts or for different purposes than as prescribed, they affect the brain and body in ways very similar to illicit drugs.
These drugs have a close relation to morphine, or the street drug heroin. Opioids are typically for pain management. Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest problems facing the country today. Drugs such as:
These drugs are also known as “downers”. You can divide the category can be up into:
Drugs such as Zyprexa, Seroquel and Haldol are meant to reduce symptoms of mental illness.
- Benzodiazepines (Benzos)
Prescription drugs like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Librium.
Amytal, Numbutal and Seconal are included in a class of depressants intended as sedatives or sleeping pills.
These kinds of prescription drugs are also called “uppers” or “smart drugs” because of the increase alertness, attention and energy. They also increase heart rate and respiration. Many of these medications are used to combat conditions such as ADHD, including:
Prescription drug abuse has become a big health issue because of the various health hazards. This risk is particularly true of abusing prescription pain medications.
Who abuses prescription drugs?
When asking who are most likely to abuse prescription drugs, the answer may vary depending on the substance. Some people end up participating in prescription drug abuse due to an injury or legitimate health reason, but the “high” they can experience may lead to more frequent use and ultimately a physical dependence.
Recent studies have indicated that prescription drug abuse impacts young adults most; specifically age 18 to 25. In regards to teens, after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most common substances of abuse by Americans age 14 and older.
Prescription drug abuse is present across all demographics, relevant to every social and economic class. Many believe this rise has largely contributed to the heroin addiction epidemic and the overdose outbreak in the past few years.
Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment
The Palm Partners Treatment Program has a design for prescription drug abuse intended to address people of all walks of life who are suffering. Personalized recovery programs are meant to work with each individual’s circumstances and symptoms to create a blueprint for the future.
Some of the signs of addiction range in severity and can affect each people differently, especially depending on the specific prescription drug. Increased tolerance is a clear cut sign of progressive physical dependence. Some indicators of prescription drug addiction may be:
- Excessive sweating
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Chronic constipation
- Respiratory distress
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
Treatment for prescription drug addiction includes a detox period to help combat the uncomfortable symptoms of prescription drug addiction, as well as withdrawal.
For all those who are struggling with prescription drug abuse, or even abusing other drugs or medications, there is a massive community of recovery all over the country to help you get the care you need. Treatment for prescription drug abuse can be the first and most important step, so be sure to step up.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
45-year-old Robert Stewart rushed into the Pinelake Health and Rehab Nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina and opened fire on March 29th 2009. Eight people were killed and two were injured; his target for the shooting was his ex-wife who worked in the nursing home. She was hiding in the bathroom during the shooting and was unharmed. Robert Stewart was charged with eight counts of 1st degree murder and even though the actions were premeditated, his defense team effectively debated that since he was under the influence of Ambien during the shooting, he wasn’t in control of his activities. Stewart ended up being convicted of eight counts of 2nd degree murder and receive 142-179 years in prison.
Ambien (also known as zolpidem) is a sedative, also titled a hypnotic. It affects chemicals in your brain that may become uneven and cause sleep complications. Ambien is most commonly used to treat insomnia. The instant release pill is used to help you fall asleep when you first go to bed. The extended release pill (Ambien CR) which has a first coating that dissolves quickly to help you fall asleep, and a second layer that dissolves gradually to help you stay asleep. Ambien was approved by the FDA in 1992 and was designed for short term use to battle insomnia and was a welcome change from the prevailing sleep aid at the time, Halcion, which had been associated in psychosis, suicide, and addiction and had been banned in half a dozen countries.
Ambien rapidly rose to domination in the sleep assistance market after it was approved. Sanofi, Ambien’s French manufacturer, made $2 billion in sales at its peak. In 2007 the generic version of Ambien was out, Zolpidem, and at less than $2 per pill, it still continues to be one of the most prescribed drugs in America, beating popular painkillers like Percocet and prescription strength ibuprofen.
Although the Ambien prescribing info cautioned (in small print) that drugs in the hypnotic class had chance side effects including bizarre behavior, sleep walking and unusual thinking, these behaviors were listed as exceptionally uncommon, and any circumstantial evidence of sleep driving, sleep eating or sleep shopping (all behaviors now related with Ambien blackout) were characterized as unusual flukes, or credited to mixing the medication with alcohol. It wasn’t until Patrick Kennedy’s 2006 late night car accident and following description to arriving officers that he was running late for a vote that the strange side effects of Ambien began to receive nationwide attention. Kennedy claimed that he had taken the sleep aid and had no memory of the happenings that evening.
Soon after the Kennedy occurrence, Sanofi was sued for unusual sleep-eating behaviors while on the drugs. Due to the lawsuit and growing reports coming in about cases of sleep driving, the FDA directed all hypnotics to issue stronger warnings on their labels. The new warning labels not only gave consumers extra info so they could use the medication more carefully but also gave legitimate reasoning to the Ambien (or Zombie) defense.
Ambien has also been implicated in a number of sexual assault cases. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Ambien is quickly overtaking illegal sedatives as the most common date-rape drug. Perpetrators of sexual assault have used zolpidem on unsuspecting victims.
I know that I personally have experience with taking Ambien with other drugs and alcohol and if I could remember the high it gave me I would tell you about it; but that’s just it – I can’t remember it! It was said and I have to agree that if people just took Ambien how it was prescribed and went to sleep a lot of the incidents that went on due to the drug could have been avoided. New sleep medications are being tested every day and hopefully they come up with one that can top Ambien on the market and is safer for consumers. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.
image credit: wifflegif.com
If you’re ‘one of us’ – a recovering alcoholic/addict – then you know this fun little game: Guess the DOC. Often times, there are ‘tells’ – traits, characteristics, or signs that can be a dead give-away as to what someone’s main drug of abuse was while they were in active addiction. Here is a fun little blog about what your drug of choice says about you.
image credit: wifflegif.com
Usually, people who are strictly alcoholic tend to fall into one of two categories: the party animal or the socially awkward. Those who fall into the first category might have started out as the typical college drinker, tailgating on weekends and attending all the Greek parties on campus. Their occasions (read: excuses) to drink then started blurring together where they were drinking more often than not. For those with social anxiety, alcohol is also a favorite: they find it to be the ultimate social lubricant – allowing them to lower their inhibitions and feel comfortable around others and at social gatherings.
image credit: wifflegif.com
Potheads often are hyper people, by nature. It is quite common for people who prefer marijuana to also have certain medical diagnoses such as ADD and ADHD. These folks tend to smoke a lot of pot as a way to self-medicate and chill out because they are either high-strung or find that their thoughts are firing at rapid fire speed. Pot smokers like that it slows down their thoughts and allows them to relax.
DOC: Benzos (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ambien, Ativan)
image credit: wifflegif.com
People who struggle with anxiety, PTSD and/or who have experienced some sort of traumatic event tend to abuse benzos – anxiolytic (anti-anxiety meds) – because they are designed to reduce anxious feelings. The problem with these meds is that they are highly addictive and, in fact, often cause someone’s anxiety disorder to become worse. Therapy and coping mechanisms are a much better way of handling past trauma and anxiety.
DOC: Opiates (heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Roxys, Fentanyl, methadone)
image credit: wifflegif.com
Being a former heroin addict, I can say that I liked opiates because they energized me and made it easy to escape reality (for a time). So, I’d say, people who are avoiding painful memories and/or dealing with depression tend to go for the opiate class of drugs. In other words, people like opiates as a way to numb themselves.
- image credit: wifflegif.com
Another type of person that gets caught up in heroin and other opiate drugs is the person who was prescribed painkillers for a legitimate reason, such as major surgery. The addicts in this category began taking painkillers as prescribed but then found themselves wanting to achieve the initial ‘high’ they felt, rather than merely taking the edge off of their pain. They would have begun to take their prescription more often and at higher doses. Sometimes, they turn to heroin when they can no longer get pills.
DOC:Amphetamines (cocaine, crack, Adderall, Ritalin)and Methamphetamine (crystal meth)
image credit: wifflegif.com
These addicts are either seeking a way to increase their energy and productivity level – such as college students pulling all-nighters – or are ‘the quiet type’ looking for a way to be the life of the party. Of course, as with any other class of drugs, any of these may have a different effect on the user depending on their particular body and brain chemistry. But, people who abuse amphetamines and/or methamphetamine generally like the speedy effect they get from taking this kind of drug.
Don’t see your particular DOC on this list? No worries, stay tuned for another installment of What Your Drug of Choice Says About You.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Many people (in and outside of recovery) believe that an addict has to “hit their bottom” before they are ready to get clean. I don’t think that is the case for everyone, though. Don’t get me wrong, things had gotten pretty bad for me, especially in my last 100 days as an addict in active addiction. But, I am certain that I was headed for way worse had I not gotten help when I did.
My last 100 days of active addiction…
It is hard to write about this but, not because of any emotions I may have been feeling; in fact I was quite numb by the end of my run. I say it’s hard to write about because my memory is a little hazy. Go figure…years (about ten) of substance abuse really takes its toll on your brain and, especially memory, or at least in my case it has. The good news, I have learned, is that the damage is not permanent; drugs don’t actually “fry” your brain like many believe.
The last 100 days of my addiction would put us somewhere around May-ish of last year. Let’s see, what was I doing? I was holding down a pretty decent job as back-up head teller in one of the top five largest banks in the country. That means I had control over large sums of money on a daily basis. And I never stole any. Yet. I was living with my mom because I couldn’t afford my drug habit. I mean, my own apartment.
When I wasn’t working, I was constantly on the hunt for my next drug. The thought of being dope sick terrified me. Years ago, I had sought help in the form of a methadone program without really researching what it was that I was getting into. And just as ignorantly, after about 8 months on the junk, I up and decided to quit. Cold turkey. Yes, you read that right. Two months of being dope sick was a big enough lesson, I thought, to keep me from ever going back out. It wasn’t. I didn’t have recovery in my life then and it was just a matter of time before I started using again.
But I digress…last 100 days…OK.
Working at the bank, living with moms, spending all of my money, time, and energy on getting drugs. I started buying Suboxone off the street to keep me from getting sick. That was holding the opiate withdrawals at bay but, like a good addict, I sought out other ways of getting high. I started shooting cocaine and crack. I would abuse my Ambien prescription, taking sleeping pills when I couldn’t get my hands on the other stuff. I was desperate to not be stone cold sober – to keep from being aware of myself and my feelings.
Several key events had occurred leading up to and during my last 100 days of being an addict that eventually led me to the front door of a treatment center. One profound experience was my birthday weekend, in early March. It involved me “celebrating” with a number of different substances which then resulted in a trip to the emergency room via ambulance. The hospital staff didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was forthcoming with everything that I had taken but my blood tests indicated a different and more alarming problem. Nurses evaluated me for signs of stroke. At 32, I thought, I’m way too young have had a stroke. I was kept in the hospital overnight for observation. I found out that my tox screen indicated that I had almost every drug in my system. As an active addict, my motto was always “Go Big or Go Home.” At first, I thought it was funny that I had managed to hit virtually every panel of the drug screen. But in the following days, intense feelings of guilt and shame began to eat away at me. I didn’t want anyone to know what happened. If anyone casually asked me how my birthday was, I was hit with yet another pang of shame.
Around this time, my father mentioned the idea of treatment to me. This pissed me off. He was hardly in my life, who was he to say what I needed? I didn’t speak to him for 2 months. During that time, though, it was if a seed had been planted in my mind. I started to realize that banging dope in the bathroom at work and smoking crack in gas station bathrooms wasn’t “partying.” It was problematic, to say the least.
I toiled over the decision to get help. At one point I decided: either go to treatment or kill myself. It had really become that black-and-white for me. In what many people call a “God moment,” I had a moment of clarity: I would go to treatment. Once I had made the decision to get help, I felt a sense of relief and calm wash over me. I was weightless. It was a knowing, a certainty, that I was going to be alright.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Prescription pill addiction has become so common in the United States that it has been labeled an epidemic. Thousands of Americans rely on prescription painkillers for the relief of pain, discomfort from ailments such as headaches, menstrual cramps, surgery recovery, or lingering pain from an injury. Unfortunately for many people, reliance on prescription pills can easily and unknowingly turn into a physical dependence.
The most commonly abused prescription pills are:
- Opioids, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin), used to treat pain.
- Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and hypnotics, such as zolpidem (Ambien), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
- Stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), used to treat ADHD and certain sleep disorders
The scary fact about prescription pills is that the most commonly prescribed drugs including OxyContin, Vicodin, Methadone, Darvocet, Lortab and Percocet, Adderall, Ritalin, and Valium, while they do offer relief from pain and other ailments, can also cause individuals to become physically dependent on the drugs to feel normal. Eventually this physical dependence on prescription pills can lead them down a dark road into prescription pill addiction. On a side note, there are some people who begin taking prescription pills recreationally and find themselves in the same boat.
Here are 5 signs of prescription pill addiction:
Usage Increase – Over time, it is common for individuals taking prescription medications to grow tolerant to the effects of their prescribed dose. If someone you know seems to be increasing his/her dose over time, this is an indication that the amount they were taking is no longer providing them relief.
Change in Daily Habits and Appearance – Personal hygiene may diminish as a result of a drug addiction. Sleeping and eating habits change, and a person may have a constant cough, runny nose and red, glazed eyes.
Blackouts and Forgetfulness – Another clear indication of dependence is when the person regularly forgets events that have taken place and appears to be suffering blackouts.
Defensiveness – When attempting to hide a drug dependency, abusers can become very defensive if they feel their secret is being discovered. They might even react to simple requests or questions by lashing out.
Time Spent on Obtaining Prescriptions – A dependent person will spend large amounts of time driving great distances and visiting multiple doctors to obtain the drugs. Watch for signs that he or she seems preoccupied with a quest for medication, demonstrating that the drug has become their top priority.
Other signs of prescription pill addiction are:
- Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Excessive mood swings or hostility
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Poor decision making
- Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
- Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor (Doctor shopping)
Luckily anyone who has prescription pill addiction can get help and doesn’t have to continue on in the vicious cycle that is prescription pill dependence. There are many inpatient treatment centers and detoxes as well as outpatient ones to treat any kind of prescription pill addiction.
If your loved one is in need of treatment prescription pill addiction, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.