Prescription Drug Addiction Information

Prescription drug addiction is on the rise within Colorado and around the United States, but unfortunately many people do not have a full understanding of what addiction looks like - not to mention what drug rehab and recovery options are available. With that in mind, you can consider this your brief guide to both understanding and overcoming prescription drug addiction.

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Prescription Drugs and Addiction

Opioids are most commonly used as painkillers; sedatives slow normal brain activity to decrease anxiety and sleep problems; stimulants work by increasing concentration and energy in order to treat disorders like ADHD and depression.

Regardless of the purpose, all of these categories of prescription drugs contain specific medications that can be addictive. To get you started in understanding prescription drug addiction, you can find the most common names of prescription opioids, sedatives and stimulants here. Some you will recognize as brand names, while others are generic.

Not all prescription drugs are addictive. Those that are considered addictive can be categorized into three groups:

  • Prescription Opioids
  • Prescription Sedatives
  • Prescription Stimulants

All of these drugs serve an important purpose for those that they are prescribed to; however, they are also very addictive. It is beyond important to understand why prescription opioids, sedatives and stimulants are addictive, what addiction to prescription drugs looks like, and what can be done about it.

If you believe that either yourself or someone you know and love is abusing prescription drugs, you can find the information you need here - if you are in Colorado, we are here to help.

The differences among these prescription medications is primarily in their purpose.

Prescription Opioids

  • OxyContin
  • Percodan
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Demerol
  • Methadone
  • Lortab
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl

Prescription Sedatives

  • Amytal
  • Butisol
  • Luminal
  • Penothal
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Prosom
  • Klonopin
  • Ambien

Prescription Stimulants

  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Biphetamine
  • Dexedrine
  • Adderall
  • Focalin
  • Vyvanse
  • Daytrana

Understanding Addiction to Prescription Opioids

Opioids are a type of drug that include both heroin (an illegal drug) and prescription pain medication, such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.

Because these drugs are legally prescribed by doctors, they are much more readily available around the United States - and therefore much more likely to be a source of addiction. Prescription drug addiction begins because of the effect that opioids have on the brain. While the medication is primarily designed to relieve pain, prescription opioids also work to create pleasurable effects in the brain. This increased pleasure is what makes prescription drug addiction - particularly to opioids - so common.

Addiction to prescription opioids, and prescription drug addiction as a whole, is a rising issue in the United States for a variety of reasons. From drastic increases in the number of prescriptions to marketing measures from pharmaceutical companies, several factors have worked together to create a society in which prescription opioids are readily available.

In fact, the number of prescriptions for opioid pain relievers has risen to over 200 million per year. The result is that as of 2013, the United States accounts for the vast majority of the consumption of prescription opioids - both hydrocodone and oxycodone.

While using prescription opioids does not automatically lead to addiction, the truth is that this type of prescription medication is highly addictive.

It is important to understand that when the medication is combined with other social and psychological factors, addiction to prescription opioids is a reality for many people all around the United States. Thankfully, prescription drug addiction can be overcome - knowing the signs of addiction and withdrawal, as well as where to get help, can help you understand addiction to prescription opioids.

Prescription opioid addiction does not typically occur in a vacuum. Instead, there are usually other factors that lead a person from the valid use of prescription medication to prescription drug addiction. For instance, it is generally agreed that addiction is genetic - this means that someone whose relatives have struggled with addiction in the past is more likely to develop the same disorder. Facing a stressful situation or life circumstances is another underlying cause of prescription drug addiction, since opioids can be used as a means of coping with the situation. There is no single cause of prescription opioid addiction; however, some contributing factors include:

  • Genetic influences
  • A family with a history of addiction
  • A lack of healthy coping methods
  • Other mental disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  • A lack of modeling for how to appropriately deal with stress or trauma
  • A traumatic experience
  • Stressful life circumstances
  • Sustained use of prescription opioids, for months rather than weeks

If you recognize any of these factors in your own life, you should be wary of the possibility of addiction. This is not to say that addiction is inevitable if you face any of these precursors; however, the circumstances described above can be substantially more detrimental when combined with sustained prescription opioid use.

In addition to being aware of the underlying factors that interplay with prescription drug addiction, it is also important to understand the specific signs and symptoms of opioid abuse - and more specifically prescription opioid addiction. These signs of addiction include psychological symptoms, behavioral symptoms, and physiological symptoms. First and foremost, the psychological and physiological symptoms of prescription opioid abuse include:

  • Anxiety or increased stress
  • Confusion and poor judgment
  • The inability to make concrete plans or decisions
  • Lowered levels of concentration
  • A shorter attention span
  • Problems with memory
  • Physical cravings for opioids
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Building up a tolerance to the effects of opioids
  • Needing increased amounts of prescription opioids to reach the same effect
  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching and rashes
  • Slurred speech
  • Being unable to feel pain in some parts of the body
  • Taking opioids to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms

While the psychological or physiological symptoms of prescription opioid addiction may be the most apparent, it is also important to look for behavioral signs of opioid addiction. These can be observed over multiple days and even weeks, and show that an individual has gone beyond opioid use as it is prescribed. Behavioral signs of opioid addiction include:

  • Taking opioids for longer or with higher doses
  • The use of opioids keeps the individual from meeting their daily responsibilities at work, at school, or in the family
  • The individual tries to reduce the level of opioids used, but is unsuccessful
  • Social activities and opportunities are missed because of the opioid use
  • The individual continues to use the prescription opioid, even after realizing that it is causing social, personal, and health issues

These are all signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction, and more specifically abuse of prescription opioids. Someone who is addicted to opioids is unlikely to experience all of these symptoms - however, if you see several of these signs either in yourself or someone you know, it is most likely time to get the help that you need.

Once your body becomes addicted to prescription opioids and accustomed to the effects of the drug, it will have to go through withdrawal in order to rid itself of the unwanted effects of opioids. As mentioned above, experiencing withdrawal symptoms in the first place is a major sign that prescription drug use has moved into prescription drug addiction. This is one of the primary things that sets drug dependence apart from drug addiction.

Withdrawal from prescription opioids can look very different depending on the individual, the type of prescription opioid that was being used, and how long they had been taken. The most common withdrawal symptoms for those who have used prescription opioids include:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Sharply increased cravings for the opioid
  • Experiencing feelings of depression
  • Tremors in the hands
  • A loss of appetite
  • Soreness, or pain the muscles and joints
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Either a runny nose or stuffiness
  • Abdominal cramping

These withdrawal symptoms become more intense the longer the individual has been addicted to opioids, particularly if they have a co-occurring disorder. In order to make sure that you go through these withdrawal symptoms and get well on your way to recovery, it is crucial to reach out for help from detoxification onward. Detox and rehab programs in Colorado can help you overcome prescription drug addiction. To learn more, you can find resources under the 'Next Steps' section below.

Understanding Addiction to Prescription Sedatives

While not as common as opioids, prescription sedatives have nevertheless been on the rise in recent decades.

Today, sedatives are prescribed for a variety of mental and behavioral disorders, ranging from insomnia to anxiety. The two most common types of prescription sedatives are benzodiazepines and barbiturates - the former is primarily used for anxiety disorders, while the latter is primarily used as a form of sleeping pill. All types of prescription sedatives work by essentially depressing the functions of the central nervous system.

Because sedatives are usually prescribed to treat some form of anxiety in the patient, they are often abused as individuals try to self-medicate. Misuse, in this way, consists of trying to treat the psychological symptoms in ways unauthorized by the prescriber. Usually this means slowly increasing the dose, as patients try to achieve the same effects as before. This, in turn, creates a dangerous spiral since prescription sedatives are also highly addictive. One of the earliest signs of addiction to prescription sedatives is the request for early refills on the prescription. This means that the individual has been using more than they should have been, which in turn means that their body and brain are becoming increasingly dependent on the drug. This is the foundation of prescription drug addiction and abuse.

Addiction to prescription sedatives does not look the same for everyone. Instead, the signs of addiction will vary depending on the individual, the type of drug they are taking, and whether or not they have co-occurring disorders. A co-occurring disorder is much more likely in the case of prescription sedatives since they are usually used to treat anxiety and sleeping disorders. Regardless of this variety, abuse of and addiction to prescription sedatives is nearly always associated with unwanted side effects and obvious symptoms of addiction. Some of the more common physiological and social signs of sedative abuse and addiction include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • A distinct lack of coordination
  • Fatigue, sleepiness, sluggishness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability and even sometimes paranoia
  • Feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Losing prescriptions or requesting early refills
  • Inconsistent answers when asked about prescription drug use
  • Stealing prescription drugs from family or friends
  • A change in sleeping patterns
  • Increased mood swings
  • Increased alcohol consumption or use of illicit drugs
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit
  • Appearing intoxicated
  • Tics in the hands or eyes

It is important to note here that there is a difference between prescription drug dependence and addiction. Many people who use prescription sedatives need the medication in order to function normally - either to reduce anxiety or to sleep properly. However, the symptoms outlined above show that the individual has gone beyond how the prescription sedative is meant to be used, and it is possible that they have become addicted. This is particularly true when the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms that go beyond the anxiety or sleeping issues that they had faced before.

Prescription sedatives come in many different shapes, sizes and forms - similarly, the withdrawal symptoms can vary from individual to individual. Withdrawal from sedatives is associated with many of the physiological symptoms as other prescription drugs, but also usually results in more intense psychological effects, particularly in regards to increased anxiety. Some common withdrawal symptoms for prescription sedatives include:

  • Increased tension
  • Changed and disturbed sleep patterns
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • An irregular heart rate and even heart palpitations
  • Sweating and nausea
  • Decreased concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Increased irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Soreness and stiffness

Longer use of prescription sedatives, such as benzos, can result in more serious withdrawal effects - including everything from seizures to hallucinations. With this in mind, it is crucial to get help in the withdrawal and detox stage. If prescription sedatives have been used for a long period of time, it can take weeks to slowly lower the doses of the medication before coming off of them altogether. Recovering from any kind of prescription drug addiction requires help; prescription sedative addiction goes a step beyond that, requiring individuals to work closely with medically trained staff in the early stages of addiction recovery.

Understanding Addiction to Prescription Stimulants

Although stimulants are often prescribed to children and adolescents, they are not excluded from the possibility of prescription drug addiction.

Stimulants are designed to increase alertness, concentration, attention and energy as a whole by increasing the dopamine levels in your brain - that is, the neurotransmitter that is most closely connected to movement, attention and pleasure. Rather than creating a high, stimulants usually work to slowly and steadily increase dopamine levels.

Even with this slow and steady approach, addiction to prescription stimulants is not impossible. While stimulants are relatively safe when directed by a doctor for a specific condition, people often misuse this category of prescription drugs, either to try to get high or attempt increased concentration even without an ADHD diagnosis. Sustained use, and more particularly misuse, of stimulant drugs can lead to many different addictive effects. It is worth knowing these effects if you, your child, or someone you know and love are using prescription stimulants.

It is the misuse of prescription stimulants that can lead to addiction, just as with any form of prescription drug addiction. Some people may have difficulty distinguishing between normal use of the prescription drug and addictive behaviors. One of the primary indicators of addiction is when an individual continues to use the drug even though they know that it has proven detrimental to their physical health, social relationships, and personal wellbeing; the same applies to addiction to prescription stimulants. Outside of this guideline, the signs of addiction to prescription stimulants include:

  • Reduced feelings of pleasure
  • Depression or thoughts of suicide
  • A marked increase in irritability and anxiety
  • A lack of energy and drastic changes in sleep patterns
  • Intensified cravings for the stimulant drug
  • Building up a tolerance to the effects of the stimulant drug
  • Starting to crush and either snort or dissolve the medication
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleep problems or insomnia (sometimes for days on end)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased body temperature
  • Paranoia
  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Experiencing Withdrawal symptoms

Like other forms of addiction, being addicted for an extended period of time can result in more extreme stimulant abuse symptoms, such as seizures and cardiovascular problems. This becomes more likely when medical staff does not monitor withdrawal from prescription stimulants - it is therefore crucial to understand what withdrawal from stimulants looks like.

The longer an individual has been using prescription stimulants, the more difficult the withdrawal phase will be. After using stimulants for a substantial amount of time, the body adapts to the medication's effects, translating this into a physical and psychological need. This is where withdrawal symptoms for all types of prescription drug addiction stem from. The symptoms of withdrawal for prescription stimulants can include some of the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Slowed movements and a slowed heart rate
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Intensified drug cravings
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities and social events
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of depression
  • Fatigue
  • A shifting sleeping pattern
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and body aches

Going through drug detox and withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, but you do not have to go through it alone. You can get the help that you need to take the first step toward recovery from prescription drug addiction - and you can find out what those next steps are by reading on below.

What Are the Next Steps for Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction?

So far, we have discussed what prescription drug addiction looks like: the reasons for addiction, the signs of addiction, and the withdrawal symptoms for each class of prescription drug. We'll be honest - it may sound a little scary. However, the most important thing to know is that help is not out of reach.

Detoxification from drugs is the first step toward recovery, as it essentially rids your body and brain of all of the unwanted effects of the prescription medication. More specifically, medical detox allows individuals to safely and slowly come off of prescription drugs. This helps to both mitigate the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and provides medical supervision during the process in order to avoid any danger.

Of course, drug detox is the initial stage of drug rehab. Drug rehab is a larger and longer program designed to help individuals build coping skills, receive counseling and engage in group support systems - all of which are needed for a lasting recovery. Both outpatient and inpatient care models provide a safe and supportive environment for starting drug rehab and addiction recovery. Each addiction treatment program looks different depending on the facility and model - however, they are all able to address the issues associated with becoming dependent on and addicted to prescription drugs. Whether you have struggled with opioids, stimulants or sedatives, there are drug rehab programs to help.

If you are struggling with prescription drug addiction, we cannot tell you exactly what to do. You have to make the decision to take the first step.

What we can tell you is that drug rehab specialists are here to help. Once you make your decision about prescription drug addiction treatment, feel free to contact us today.