Most people have an idea of what addiction is and the type of individuals affected by it. Many believe that those who suffer from a drug addiction are from deprived areas and have left school early. They may also think that these people are connected to the criminal underworld or are known to the police. This stereotyping of addiction can be very damaging as it often prevents those in most need of help from actually getting it. The reality is that most addicts are just like everyone else; in fact, those with drug addictions do not always use illegal drugs. There are many individuals here in the UK and in other parts of the world who are severely dependent on prescription medication. They are struggling with a crippling addiction to their pills and are finding it hard to break free. But what causes prescription drug addiction, and can it be treated?
Why Do People Take Prescription Drugs?
Prescription medication such as strong painkillers or sedatives are typically prescribed by medical professionals for the treatment of conditions that are not responding to over-the-counter medications. This would include those with chronic or severe pain, sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, and anxiety disorders.
It is recommended that prescription drugs be taken for a short time only because of how quickly the body gets used to them as well as the fact that they can be highly addictive. In some cases, doctors will prescribe these drugs on an ongoing basis if they deem the benefits outweigh the risks associated with them.
Can Prescription Drugs Be Dangerous?
It is very difficult for most people to associate harm with prescription drugs. The reason for this is that they believe that anything prescribed by a doctor could not possibly be dangerous or harmful. However, these pills can be just that; particularly if abused, which they often are.
Many individuals do not even know what constitutes prescription drug abuse or have any idea that they could possibly be guilty of it. The truth is that taking prescription medication that was prescribed for another person is abuse, although most would not give a moment’s thought to doing this.
Giving pills to a family member or friend who appears to be suffering similar symptoms to themselves is not uncommon for many here in Britain. Those who have found a particular pill relieving the pain associated with a bad back, for example, would probably not think twice about telling their friend to take the same pills if they were to suffer with the same sort of problem. And the friend would probably not think twice about taking them.
Nevertheless, doing this can be extremely dangerous. The reason these drugs are available on prescription only is because they do carry certain risks. Doctors study for many years to learn which medications to prescribe for various conditions, and they have many things to consider before prescribing these pills. They must think about any other medication the patient is taking as well as any underlying health conditions or allergies. Taking pills that were prescribed for another person can be extremely dangerous for health. In addition, prescription drug abuse can, in some circumstances, lead to addiction.
The Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction
There is no single cause of prescription drug addiction, just as there is no single cause of any other type of addiction. There are risk factors that make it more likely for a particular person to develop an addiction, but even having every single risk factor does not guarantee that addiction will occur. What scientists do know though is that when it comes to prescription drug addiction, it usually begins with an increased tolerance to the effects of the drugs.
When a person is prescribed certain medication by a doctor, it should provide relief from the symptoms of the specific medical condition that the affected person is suffering from. Nonetheless, most will quickly build up a tolerance to these pills, which means as time goes by, the individual will be getting less relief than before. Many of those taking prescription drugs get to a point where they feel their medication is no longer working for them. They will then be tempted to take more of the drug to achieve the effects they desire. However, in doing so, they are risking a physical dependence.
As they up their dosage, their body comes to expect more and more of the drugs and will start to crave them whenever the effects wear off. This can quickly lead to a physical addiction. There is also the problem of a psychological addiction, where the individual believes him or herself unable to cope or function without the pills. The person may become irritable or anxious at the thought of the prescription running out and could then take drastic measures to prevent this from happening.
The Negative Consequences of a Prescription Drug Addiction
It is often the case that those with a prescription drug addiction will go to extreme measures to get their pills. If they believe that their doctor is not going to renew their prescription, or if their doctor confirms this, they may visit other doctors in the hopes of convincing them to prescribe the drugs. This is known as doctor shopping. Many individuals register with more than one doctor and get more than one prescription at a time so that they can take more of the drug than advised to.
Others will look elsewhere for their pills if they cannot get a prescription from a doctor. This may lead them to the internet in the first instance. Here, they may find the pills they are after and might then place an order. Nevertheless, the danger with this is that there is just no way to know if the pills that will be delivered are genuine.
There are many sellers of fake prescription medication online. Taking these drugs could have disastrous consequences for the individual. Some of these pills could contain dangerous chemicals that cause serious health problems or even death when ingested.
Some individuals will look for alternatives to their prescription medication if they become desperate enough. They might even look for street drugs such as heroin to get the relief needed. This can lead to another, even more deadly addiction.
How Prescription Drug Addiction Affects Individuals and Their Families?
Like all other addictions, a prescription drug addiction can be devastating for the individual and those closest to him or her. The biggest consequence for the affected person is poor health. The longer he or she is taking prescription drugs, the worse the effects will be on their health.
Poor health will be an even bigger concern for those who have started buying prescription drugs online or those who have moved on to street drugs. The risk of accidental overdose is massive.
Nonetheless, it is not just the health of the individual that will be affected. Addiction is an illness of the brain that can lead those affected to act in an entirely different manner to how they used to. The structural changes to the brain can cause the individual to become selfish or even uncaring, which can deeply affect their relationships with others. As their illness progresses, they will have less and less time for their loved ones and will even neglect relationships and responsibilities in favour of their drug.
The financial situation for the addict and his or her family can be worrying too. The more he or she becomes dependent on prescription medication, the less likely he or she is to be in a position to perform well at work. This reduction in performance levels, coupled with potential poor attendance, might result in a decrease in income, which could leave the family in dire financial straits.
Could You Have a Prescription Drug Addiction?
It is difficult for anyone to admit to having an addiction, no matter what substance he or she is abusing. It is often harder for those with a prescription drug addiction to accept because they cannot comprehend that such an illness even exists. After all, why would a doctor prescribe medication if it could be dangerous or addictive?
It is important to remember that doctors prescribe such medication only when it is absolutely necessary. If prescribed over a short period and taken directly as prescribed, this medication should be safe. However, most people are just not aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse or what it even is.
Have you been taking prescription medication that was prescribed for another person? Or are you taking your own prescription medication more than you were advised to? If so, then you may have a problem. You also need to ask yourself if you are taking this medication to change the way you feel?
If you have been visiting multiple doctors to get your prescription, or if you have been buying prescription drugs online or on the streets, it may be time to get help. If you feel anxious when nearing the end of your prescription or if you are neglecting other areas of your life because you are constantly under the influence of these pills, you need to reach out for help as soon as possible.
A prescription drug addiction is like any other addiction, in that it will not go away if you ignore it. What will actually happen is that it will get worse. You may end up looking for stronger drugs to achieve the feelings you desire and your life will be in danger of completely spiralling out of control. Thankfully help is available.
How Is Prescription Drug Addiction Treated?
For those with a physical dependence on prescription drugs, a detox is usually the first step in the recovery process. It is during a detox that the physical bond between the user and the substance is broken.
A detox begins when the individual stops taking the drug to which he or she is addicted. After a number of hours, the body will realise that no more of this substance is arriving and will automatically begin the healing process. A part of this process will be to eliminate any remaining chemicals or toxins. This can lead to various withdrawal symptoms, which can be mild to severe in their intensity. In a dedicated detox facility, withdrawal symptoms can be eased with medication if appropriate, and many of the worst symptoms can be prevented too.
After a detox, the patient will usually start a programme of rehabilitation in either an inpatient or an outpatient facility. Outpatient programmes require the patient to attend regular counselling sessions before returning home afterwards. The fact that the patient must deal with recovery while also getting on with his or her daily life means that he or she will require plenty of support at home.
Inpatient programmes are the alternative, and in this scenario, the patient would be removed from everyday life and would spend around six to eight weeks living in a distraction-free facility with other recovering addicts. This type of programme is ideally suited to those with a severe addiction as well as to those who want a time-consuming and intensive approach to recovery.
If you would like more information on what causes prescription drug addiction or the various programmes available for treating prescription drug addiction, please contact us here at Recovery Lighthouse today. We can provide advice for those directly affected by all types of addiction and to those who have a family member or friend with an addiction.
Our fully trained advisors are ready to take your call and provide helpful information as well as answer any queries you may have. If you are interested in a programme of treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us now and we will endeavour to get you started on the road to recovery as soon as possible.