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What are the Symptoms and Treatment for Prescription Opioid Abuse?

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What are the Symptoms and Treatment for Prescription Opioid Abuse?

Prescription opioid abuse is a rising problem in society today. It is affects people of all walks of life, and because of this it is important to know and understand the symptoms of this type of drug abuse so they can get help when necessary. Opioid (prescription painkiller) abuse is so widespread today partly because more and more doctors are prescribing certain medications, and also because people often have a false impression that these medications are somehow safe or legal to use other than as directed. While many believe they would never ever try illegal drugs, in their mind they justify abusing prescription drugs.

Prescription drug abuse is be defined as taking a prescribed medicine:

  • That is not prescribed for you
  • In larger dosages than prescribed
  • For reasons other than the condition it is prescribed for
  • In ways other than prescribed (for example, crushed and snorted or injected rather than swallowed)

Prescription drug addiction is serious and can lead to long term complications, addiction, and even overdose death. Prescription drug addiction can be treated, and people should be aware that help is available.

Most Abused Prescription Drugs

The most common prescription drugs abused today are prescription opiates. However, there are a variety of prescription medications that are also abused, each with their own intended medical benefits, side effects, reason for abuse, and dangers. Here are some facts about the most abused prescription drugs.

Opioids

A doctor prescribes opiates also known as prescription narcotics to relive pain. Opioids are usually swallowed, but users often snort or inject crushed pills for a faster, more intense high. Using opioids this way can easily cause an overdose. Opiate abuse can lead to drowsiness, confusion, constipation, low blood pressure and depressed breathing.

Some of the most commonly abused prescription painkillers include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Percodan, Percocet and OxyContin)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
When trying to quit prescription painkillers, addicts often experience painful withdrawal symptoms such as muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, restlessness and involuntary kicking movements.

Central Nervous System Depressants

Depressants, also known as tranquilizers and sedatives, typically prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders are divided into two main categories, Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines. Barbiturates treat tension, anxiety and sleep disorders. Examples include mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal). Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines to treat panic attacks, acute stress, convulsions and short-term sleep problems. Examples include diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide HCl (Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom).

When an individual stops using depressants, the brain activity speeds back up again, sometimes to a dangerous level which can cause seizures. A medical professional or physician should supervise the detox process since withdrawal from certain depressants can be life-threatening.

Stimulants

A doctor prescribes stimulant medications to treat ADHD, narcolepsy and severe depression. The effects of stimulants include increased attention, energy and alertness. They also elevate heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, as well as dopamine levels, resulting in a sense of euphoria.

Stimulant abuse can cause agitation, high blood pressure, paranoia, irregular heartbeat, high body temperatures, anxiety and seizures particularly when combined with antidepressants and certain over-the-counter cold medications.

Some of the most commonly abused stimulants include, Dextroamphetamine (Adderall and Dexedrine), Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).

If an individual abruptly stops using stimulants, they may experience depression, sleep problems and fatigue.

Addicted to Prescription Painkillers

Opioid and prescription drug dependence is characterized by tolerance (needing more of the drug to experience the same effects) and withdrawal (physical symptoms when trying to quit using prescription drugs).

People who are physically addicted to prescription painkillers also become psychologically dependent, experiencing drug cravings and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. They continue to abuse prescription medications despite negative effects on their health, career, relationships and finances.

Prescription drug addicts may find themselves stealing drugs from other people’s medicine cabinets, forging prescriptions or visiting multiple doctors to obtain more drugs. Prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illegal drugs when not taken as prescribed.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Experienced and Licensed professionals can effectively treat prescription painkiller addiction. Opioid addiction affects every area of an individual’s life, including work, relationships, finances and self-esteem. Treatment must provide a variety of therapies for mind, body, and spirit and be tailored to suit the addict’s needs.

Detox

The first step in treating opioid addiction is often prescription drug detox. Supervised medical detox is the safest, most comfortable way to stop using certain prescription drugs. Individuals may be prescribed methadone, Suboxone or other medications to minimize withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings under the supervision of a physician or medical team.

Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab

After completing detox, the emotional, psychological, and spiritual work of addiction recovery can begin. In drug rehab for prescription drug addiction, patients address the issues underlying their addiction and learn how to handle drug cravings and relapse triggers. Prescription drug addiction may be treated using the following interventions:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Medication
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Interpersonal Therapy
  • Individual, Group & Family Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Educational Lectures
  • 12-Step Support Groups

After Care

Research shows that the longer an individual stays in treatment for addiction, the better equipped they are to maintain lifelong addiction recovery. A good rehab program will include options for after care, during which time the individual eases back into the normal responsibilities of life while remaining connected to the recovery community. A person in an after care program will participate in regular support group meetings and counseling sessions as needed, and will sometimes live in sober living homes.

Prescription painkiller abuse encompasses the entire body, mind and spirit. With the right kind of help, the individual can soon return to work or school and reinvest in the people and activities that matter most to them. Early intervention is the most effective way to reach a person, but keep in mind it is never too late to find help.