Prescription drug abuse is a severe problem in the United States. As reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017, approximately 18 million people have misused prescription drugs at least once.
Prescription Drugs vs. Over-the-Counter Medicines
To understand prescription drugs, you need to first differentiate them from over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. A prescription drug is prescribed legally only by a doctor and intended to be used only by the patient. Typically, these drugs are put together by pharmacists and picked up by patients at pharmacies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates them.
OTCs do not require a doctor’s prescription. Therefore, you can go into a pharmacy or a retail store and purchase them right off the shelf. The FDA also regulates these drugs; however, if you buy a product considered “natural” or “alternative,” it is not regulated by the FDA.
Prescription drugs come in a variety of forms. However, the most common types that result in substance use disorder are opioids, depressants, and stimulants.
When you experience minor pain, you may take aspirin or over-the-counter acetaminophen. However, many individuals who experience significant pain often take pain pills known as opioids.
An opioid is a powerful painkiller used to treat pain after a surgery or a dental procedure. It can come in the form of a tablet, capsule, syrup, or patch. Opioids bind to receptors in the brain that block pain. Often when individuals take pain pills or opioids, the pain completely disappears for a period of time.
The two types of pain treated by opioids are:
- Chronic or short-term pain – Let’s say you are having a foot surgery or a major dental procedure. Chances are that your podiatrist or dentist will prescribe a prescription opioid to relieve the severe pain you’re experiencing. This is relief for chronic or short-term pain.
- Acute or long-term pain – Let’s say you’re an athlete who experiences consistent back pain for over three months. This is considered acute or long-term pain. This is pain that lasts for three months or longer. Your doctor may prescribe a prescription opioid for this pain.
It is the long-term use of pain pills that can cause pain pill abuse, addiction, overdose, and even death.
Some opioid pain relievers that a person can receive from a medical doctor by prescription are:
- Hydrocodone/paracetamol, also known by the brand name Vicodin
- Oxycodone, also known by the brand names OxyContin and Percocet
- Codeine, also known by the brand names Tylenol 2, 3, and 4
- Hydromorphone, also known by the brand name Dilaudid
- Meperidine, also known by the brand name Demerol
Depressants for the central nervous system (CNS) include tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics. They increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows brain activity. The slowed brain movement helps with stress, panic attacks, anxiety, sleep disorders, and more.
Some depressants that a person can receive from a medical doctor by prescription are:
- Diazepam, also known by the brand name Valium
- Alprazolam, also known by the brand name Xanax
- Zolpidem, also known by the brand name Ambien
- Eszopiclone, as known by the brand name Lunesta
- Phenobarbital, also known by the brand name Luminal
Stimulants are psychoactive drugs that give temporary improvement to physical or mental functioning. They improve one’s mood and make a person alert and full of energy. Drugs like this are also called “uppers.” They are used to treat ADHD, depression, narcolepsy, and more.
Some stimulants that a person can receive from a medical doctor by prescription are:
- Dextroamphetamine, also known by the brand name Dexedrine
- Methylphenidate, also known by the brand name Ritalin
- The combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, also known by the brand name Adderall
What Are the Addiction Signs of Prescription Drugs?
When individuals are not taking prescription drugs as directed, they may have a substance use disorder or a prescription drug use disorder. The chemicals in these medicines have psychoactive effects that affect the brain’s function, so the individual who is not using them correctly is using them to “get high.”
Signs of Opioid Addiction
There have been irresponsible doctors who have prescribed pain pills with no regard for potential harm. However, most doctors are responsible and ethical with prescription pain pills, and their patients need to follow the provided instructions to avoid dependency and overdose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1999 to 2018, approximately 450,000 individuals died from opioid overdoses, including prescription and illegal.
Those who misuse opioids and become physically dependent on them will experience various symptoms. These symptoms may not appear right away, but they likely will over time if the behavior continues.
As Johns Hopkins medicine explains, some of the common signs of opioid dependency include:
- A change in sleep habits – A person may sleep more or less. Similar to this sign is the sign of drowsiness. An individual may nod off in the middle of a conversation, for example.
- Weight loss – A change in a person’s metabolism without planning it can occur, causing weight loss.
- Diminished libido – An individual’s testosterone and estrogen levels may change, which negatively affects a person’s sex drive.
- Change in spending habits – A person who is addicted to pain pills may be spending erratically, negatively affecting finances.
- Change in work habits – A person who is addicted to pain pills may start showing up to work late or not at all.
- Relationships change – A person who is dependent on pain pills may spend less time with friends and family.
- Personal hygiene changes – A person’s hygiene, such as how often he or she washes or shaves, may change when addicted to pain pills.
Signs of Depressants Addiction
Some individuals have a substance use disorder involving depressants. If a person takes these medications long term, even when a doctor prescribes them, that individual can develop a tolerance that requires taking more and more to achieve the same results. This ongoing drug use can also lead to problems at work, school, or in relationships. If the person tries to stop their prescription drug abuse without help, he or she may face life-threatening symptoms.
Common signs of depressant dependency includes:
- A decreased attention span – An ordinarily attentive person can become easily distracted.
- Memory problems and impaired judgment – Dependence on depressants can lead to difficulty remembering even minor details and making even little decisions.
- Slurred speech and lack of coordination – When you have a substance abuse disorder involving depressants, you may suffer from slurred speech after taking a dose, and your coordination, such as walking correctly, may be impaired.
Signs of Addiction to Stimulants
Individuals who become addicted to stimulants have cravings for the drugs and have problems reducing their consumption. Eventually, even with issues such as family relationship problems due to substance use disorder, these people continue to use the drugs.
Common signs of stimulant dependency include:
- Severe dental problems – A person with a substance use disorder characterized by dependency on stimulants can develop severe gum diseases.
- Anorexia – A dependence on stimulants can lead to the absence of eating, which can lead to anorexia.
- Aggression – An individual addicted to stimulants may develop anger issues.
- Paranoia – Overuse of stimulants can lead to being unreasonably afraid of various factors in life.
- Inability to concentrate – The overuse of stimulants can lead to problems thinking.
Detoxing (removing drugs from your system) is not easy. Typical physical manifestations that occur during detox are headaches, insomnia, nausea, irritability, chills, aches and pains, sweating, inability to concentrate, and vomiting.
Removing prescription drugs from your system when you have a substance use disorder needs to be done properly to keep you safe and should never be done alone. The best way is to receive help from a professional and a dedicated center that will make detoxing as manageable as possible.
When you check into a treatment center, such as Granite Recovery Centers, a detox program can take anywhere from a few days to a week. It all depends on how long a person has been engaged in prescription drug abuse. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. Granite Recovery Centers follows The American Society of Addiction (ASAM) protocol that follows Level 0.5 sub-acute care, which represents no withdrawal risks, to Level 4 acute care, which involves extensive hospital services.
During the process, the individual receives around-the-clock care as needed. Once the detoxing process is over, the individual can begin to participate in group activities, ensuring that he or she remains drug-free and nourished.
Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse
One of the best aspects of a professional drug rehab program are the options after detox, which can be 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days; a 12-step process; and a gender-specific or gender-separate program. There is no one-size-fits-all for professional prescription drug abuse treatment.
Inpatient Drug Rehab/Residential Care
This is 24-hour care for individuals. It means an individual will remain at the facility for a specific time, such as 30, 60, or 90 days. Inpatient drug rehab includes focused recovery programs, group and individual therapy, clinical psychotherapy, exercise, and holistic therapy.
Outpatient Drug Rehab
With this form of rehab, the individual typically lives at home, at an extended care facility, or in a sober living situation. At a separate outpatient facility, the patient receives therapy and additional care. Typically, outpatient drug rehab is designed for those who have completed an inpatient drug program. Outpatient therapy typically includes group therapy, 12-step meetings, holistic classes such as yoga or meditation, career and educational help, psychotherapy, and more.
In addition, extended care and sober living are offered to further assist individuals returning to an everyday, drug-free life. Family therapy, gender-specific therapy, and other services are also provided. The bottom line is that prospective clients need to know that they are never alone at a professional drug recovery center.
Granite Recovery Centers offers professional drug rehab across various facilities. The center provides a low client-to-clinician ratio to promote individualized treatment rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. A person never has to feel overwhelmed by the many choices that are available for substance use treatment. On our staff, we have employees whose job it is to help each individual choose the right path that will lead to a better life without prescription drug abuse.
Whether it is medically supervised detox, inpatient and outpatient rehab, sober living alternatives, or another form of treatment, our goal at Granite Recovery Centers is to help individuals return to drug-free and productive lives. If you or a loved one needs help, contact us today!