Knowing how prescription drugs are abused can make it easier to identify a loved one’s addiction and get them the help they need.
The statistics surrounding prescription drug abuse and relapse rates can certainly be frightening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, there were 33,000 deaths related to heroin or opioid overdoses, and over half of these were prescription opioid overdoses. If you or a loved one might be facing an addiction to prescription drugs, it always helps to first learn more about them, how they are abused, and when a situation warrants prescription drug rehab.
The risks of long term drug abuse include a litany of negative psychological and physical side effects, as well as the possibility of a fatal overdose. Mixing drugs and taking medications can have unpredictable and dangerous results. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of overdose deaths from prescription and other illegal drugs in the US has been rising steadily, increasing from over 17,000 per year in 2000, to over 54,000 in 2015.
There are two common ways most people find themselves addicted to prescription drugs. Many begin as a patient with a legitimate prescription for an ailment, but gradually start to abuse and eventually become addicted to that medication. Others start using prescription drugs obtained illegally in a recreational manner. In either situation, long term use and abuse leads to increasing dependency and eventually addiction.
There is a wide variety of very different prescription drugs commonly abused. Because of the range of various complications, anyone entering addiction treatment for prescription drugs requires individualized care. Depending on which drugs a client has been taking, physician and clinical professionals can tailor their drug abuse treatment to be more effective than a generalized addiction program.
Types of Prescription Drugs Commonly Abused
This is a class of drugs which originated with morphine that was synthesized from opium extracted from poppy plants and are now often manufactured/synthetic. These drugs are primarily used to treat pain, and can be very effective at therapeutic doses. However, when abused in large amounts, the depressant and psychoactive properties can give users a strong high. Because of the way in which they overload the pleasure signals in the brain, opioids are extremely addictive, and many users quickly find themselves needing larger doses more often to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Commonly abused opioids include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
Also called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, this class refers to any prescription drug which suppresses central nervous system activity, producing a variety of sedative effects. Many of these medicines are used to treat pain, insomnia, anxiety, seizures, and more. These medicines slow down a user’s heart rate, blood pressure, and other bodily functions.
Commonly abused depressants include:
- Muscle relaxants
- Benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Klonopin
- Dissociatives including ketamine and dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant)
Also called “uppers” (as opposed to depressants being “downers”), stimulants are a class of drugs that increase various activities in the body. Stimulant effects include increased heart rate, sociability, increased libido, improved focus and mental acuity. Many performance-enhancing drugs tend to be some form of stimulant.
Commonly abused stimulants include:
- Amphetamines, such as Adderall
- MDMA, known as ecstasy or molly
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
When someone begins to abuse prescription drugs, there are inevitably signs of addiction that manifest in the user, although these signs and symptoms may be hard to recognize. If you suspect someone close to you is struggling with prescription drug abuse, paying attention to anything out of the norm can reveal telltale signs of addiction. If someone demonstrates some of the following symptoms, it may be time to confront them about the possibility that they may be addicted to a prescription drug:
- Dramatic or unexplained mood swings, or the worsening of any existing mood disorder
- Increasing dosages or use more frequently
- Using multiple pharmacies or online pharmacies
- Using falsified or forged prescriptions
- Changing doctors or insurance providers frequently and irregularly (also known as “doctor shopping”)
Prescription Drug Treatment
Though each treatment center may have unique programs or strategies, there are always the same general steps for someone entering treatment for an active addiction. These stages of treatment are as follows:
Often called “detox”, this is the process of weaning a person off of an addictive substance, which triggers withdrawal symptoms. This process ranges from physically unpleasant to possibly life-threatening, and should always be supervised by a medical professional. Withdrawal symptoms can include various pains, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety and depression, vomiting, migraines, weight loss/gain, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, and insomnia.
Detox will be a different experience for each client, but is always the first step in prescription drug rehab. Progress in recovery begins after the initial purging of the addictive drugs and after the worst of the withdrawal symptoms have abated. Because the brain and body have become dependent on a drug, it can be a miserable physical endurance as a person is starved off a drug. Thankfully, there are treatments that a clinical care team can use to alleviate some of the negative symptoms and help their clients through detox and on to the next phase of recovery as smoothly as possible.
Mental health care is an increasingly large part of addiction treatment, as the relationship between mental illness and addiction has become better understood. A psychiatric evaluation is a typical part of treatment intake procedures, and many clients find engaging in group or individual therapy beneficial to their overall recovery process. Clients who have both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health condition are referred to as having co-occurring disorders, also know as a dual diagnosis.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 7.9 million adults in the United States qualified as having co-occurring disorders in 2014. These clients need a treatment program prepared to address both the addiction symptoms and mental health symptoms concurrently for treatment to be effective. Because of how the disorders feed off of one another, addiction has a way of exacerbating a latent mental illness, and vice versa.
Programs that involve 24-hour care are known as inpatient, or residential, programs. Inpatient treatment programs should not be confused with hospitalization. Rather, inpatient treatment occurs at a specialized residential addiction treatment center, where clients received supervised care around the clock, in a safe, drug-free environment that is most conducive for a full recovery.
Inpatient treatment is different opposed to outpatient treatment, where part-time care is given and a client remains in their normal home environment. The benefit to inpatient care is that a clinical team can address any road bumps in treatment as they occur, without any valuable time lapsing. The structured environment of inpatient care provides much-needed support for clients who have found drug abuse has taken control of their lives.
Addiction treatment is ultimately a lifelong journey, and clients are taught that recovery doesn’t end when they walk out through the door after inpatient treatment. After leaving an inpatient prescription drug rehab program, there are many ways a person can find themselves tempted to use again and relapse. Many people attend individual or group therapy on a regular basis as a form of long-term self maintenance, in order to maintain a straight path in recovery.
Aftercare is set up before a recovery program ends, and includes a relapse prevention plan. By avoiding certain triggers and setting up a cohesive support system, the temptation for relapse can be reduced. This relapse plan will also help by allowing family and friends to recognize the signs, and put into action the steps necessary to help avoid a relapse or mitigate the damage of a relapse and help return their loved one to recovery treatment.
Despite the difficult task ahead, recovery centers across the United States are working to create programs better suited to the individual needs of those struggling with a drug addiction, prescription or recreational. Through research and evidence-based care, clients today receive a level of care unimaginable in previous years.
Because of the wide variety of symptoms between different substances, there are treatment programs that cater to the specific needs of each individual client. It is crucial to find a treatment center equipped to deal with the specific needs of an individual’s particular addiction.
The risk of relapse among recovering addicts is always present, which is why a strong aftercare plan as well as a relapse prevention action plan is necessary, and the more people involved the better. Having friends, family, co workers and others all contributing support makes it easier to maintain through the worst temptations. If you suspect someone you know of abuse or relapse, start by keeping track of any and all prescription medicines in the house, as well as the doses and frequency they should be taken. If any irregularities are evident, it can help to figure out if one family member may be developing a serious addiction.
If in need of resources to help someone with their drug abuse, call Futures of Palm Beach today for more information. Understanding addiction treatment can seem confusing, but there are care consultants available who can make sure each client receives the best type of treatment for their needs.
Contact Futures of Palm Beach and let us help determine whether there is a problem. If there is, we can help to figure out the best way to address it before bigger issues get in the way of recovery and peace of mind.