About Prescription Drug Addiction

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Sobriety.ca Foundation remains one of the best drug addiction treatment facilities in Canada. We offer individuals struggling with prescription drug abuse various evidence-based addiction services and addiction treatment options. At Sobriety.ca Foundation, individuals living with prescription drug addiction have access to individualized recovery programs with a comprehensive rehabilitation plan. It is our goal to provide our patients with individualized evidence-based addiction treatments to move towards living a life with managed prescription drug use. Patients at Sobriety.ca Foundation can look forward to the following:

  • Detoxification from prescription drugs
  • Treatment for prescription drug addiction in a residential setting
  • Prescription drug intervention
  • Rehabilitation from prescription drugs
  • SMART Recovery
  • Vivitrol

Prescription Drugs – What are they?

Prescription drugs are controlled psychoactive drugs administered by physicians. Within the context of addiction and substance abuse, they most often include opioids, sedative-hypnotics, and stimulants. Typically, individuals take prescription drugs to manage acute and chronic pain or to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. During the 80s, prescription opioids were prescribed by physicians to treat acute pain. Today, they are only prescribed in patients with chronic conditions such as pain, arthritis, or cancer. Sedative-hypnotics, known as barbiturates, were first introduced in the late 1800s. Years later, benzodiazepines were introduced in the early 70s as a safer alternative. They were most commonly used to treat insomnia, depression, and some anxiety disorders. Now, physicians caution about the potential for addiction when using these drugs, even in a medical context.

Prescription Drug Addiction – What does it look like?

Taking any prescription drug that has not be prescribed to you for the purpose of getting high or altering your mood constitutes as abuse of prescription drugs. Further, addiction and abuse can arise when prescribed drugs are taken at higher doses or used with alcohol and other drugs. In Canada, prescription drugs were the third most commonly used drug among teenagers. According to experts, this is partly because there is a perception among youth that they are more accessible than other illegal drugs. Further, because prescription drugs are indeed prescribed, some youth may be under the illusion that they are safer than illegal drugs. Between 23 – 45% of street entrenched adult drug users in Toronto reported using prescription opioids in the past year, depending on the type of opioid. The most commonly used prescription drug was oxycodone at 45%. Overall, 0.3% of the total Canadian population reported using prescription opioids for non-medical purposes in the last year. This rate has neither increased nor decreased since 2013.

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Prescription Drug Use

Because “prescription drugs” is an umbrella term for any previously prescribed drug taken by an individual, both the long and short-term effects of abuse vary. However, individuals abusing prescription drugs can typically be identified as abuse can result in negative effects on interpersonal relationships, employment difficulties and/or job loss, financial struggles, legal trouble, and psychological problems. Perhaps most importantly, prescription drug misuse can lead to overdose and potentially death.

Intoxication and Overdose

Once again, symptoms of intoxication and overdose vary on the drug of abuse. However, there are some universal symptoms among users that may help an individual identify whether someone has overdosed on prescribed medication. An individual who has overdosed may exhibit mental changes such as confusion, fogginess, rapid speech or hyperactivity. Further, they may experience dramatic emotional changes. Some individuals have reported hallucinations and delusions of grandeur. Physiological manifestations of overdose can include severe changes in body temperature, nausea and vomiting, extreme fatigue, diarrhea or abdominal pain, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, dramatic changings in breathing, and convulsions.

Prescription Drug Addiction: Who Becomes Addicted and Why

Prescription drug use is on the rise and with it comes prescription drug abuse. Celebrity deaths, from Michael Jackson to Whitney Houston attested to the increasing problems and fatal results from the excessive use of and dependency upon narcotics that are legally obtained and prescribed by professionals in a field usually associated with “trust” and “security”. What is happening here? Admittedly, the scenarios involving celebrities and sports stars are extreme examples of the duel culpability between “patient” and doctor – it would appear that doctors are more apt to prescribe “unnecessary’ narcotics to people of “power” based upon their celebrity status – but the problem reaches well beyond the “ivory towers” of the rich and famous. More and more, doctors are quick to encourage drug use in a variety of situations. The intent can be related to a “temporary” fix, to an immediate issue such as the reduction of pain during a healing process, or a long-term “treatment” plan for psychological problems or chronic pain issues. The point is that once these narcotics are introduced, patients are finding it difficult to end the usage once the diagnosed problem has been dealt with. Obviously, in certain circumstances, the prolonged use of many pharmaceuticals has greatly benefited medical treatment and health care concerns. But often these treatments are turning people into addicts, with the same results that afflict illicit drug addicts from heroin users to alcoholics. One of the biggest differences here, however, is that prescription drugs are both legal and easily obtainable. Users are often convinced that the taking of these drugs is “beneficial” and necessary – and often they are. The problem rests in the possible consequences should the prolonged use of these drugs continue in an unsupervised environment. By the time the patient comes to realize his or her dependency on the drug, they may already be addicted. Initial intent may be good, but end results can be disastrous.

A number of years ago I had two of my wisdom teeth pulled. My dentist warned me that there would be some pain after the Novocain wore off but assured me that Advil would be sufficient to deal with it. Two hours later I was on the phone with the dentist, in extreme pain, demanding that he call the pharmacy and arrange for me to have a substantially greater painkiller. I was very persuasive and a few hours later I was not only no longer in pain, I was feeling “very” good. I forget the name of the narcotic that was prescribed, but I had a ten-day supply allowing me to ingest three tablets a day. For three days I awoke each morning in a certain amount of pain and took a pill before even brushing my teeth. By breakfast I was feeling “great”. On the fourth day I noticed that the morning pain was quite minimal. Regardless, I took my “medication” with the rational that there was still a twinge of pain – and my dentist did give me a ten-day supply, which I took to mean that I had to continue taking the pills. On the sixth day there was no pain in the morning. I knew that there was no more reason to continue with the narcotics, but … as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, the prospect of NOT taking the pill made me anxious and concerned. I actually started smacking my jaw in the area of the extracted teeth in the hope of feeling some pain in order to justify another day of pill popping. Suddenly I recognized what was going on and found the strength to flush the remaining pills down the toilet. But for the next two or three days I yearned to have those pills back – even though I was experiencing NO pain whatsoever in my mouth.

The point of this brief story is to demonstrate the power of these legal and prescribed narcotics. Had I continued to take the medication I would have, perhaps, become so accustomed and dependent upon the “narcotic” effects that the period of discomfort could have persisted and, ultimately led to a perusal of more narcotic-like substances (prescribed or not) in order to attain that same “feeling” that I had experienced over those six days. This is often the path to addiction. Studies have shown that more people die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin or cocaine abuse. We tend not to dismiss or ignore the “addictions” to prescribed drugs because there is a sense of legitimacy involved since there is a doctor’s approval. The growing phenomenon of prescription drug addiction rarely garnishes the same amount of attention as those addictions we are more familiar with such as heroin, cocaine and alcohol. There seems to be much hesitation in applying the term “addiction” to a legal and doctor-approved drug. But should there be a distinction here? By making such a distinction there is the risk that many who suffer from prescription drug addiction will be more hesitant to seek assistance or even acknowledge that they may be in need of an addiction recovery plan. The continued rational based upon the initial “my doctor said it’s OK” can easily blind the “patient” to the growing addiction that is as severe and dangerous as any other narcotic addiction. If society refuses to fully appreciate this dangerous situation, little will be done to regulate the flow of prescription drugs and many lives could be destroyed as a result.

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