A young man enters the Emergency Department of a hospital, limping and crying in pain. He says he fell off a ladder and is complaining of severe back pain. Examination shows no dirt, grass stains or debris on his clothes. There are no bruises or abrasions. A gentle touch to the back elicits screams. X-rays are normal. The doctor now faces a dilemma: to write a prescription for narcotic painkillers or to refuse to give narcotics because the physician believes the patient is a drug seeker.
This scenario is not unusual and there is now an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in America. People think that drugs prescribed by a doctor are somehow safer than those that aren’t, but the dangers are the same. In fact, the number of deaths by overdosing with prescription pain medications is now four times what it was in 1999 and exceeds those due to heroin and cocaine put together.
What is prescription drug abuse?
- Using someone else’s medicine, even for an appropriate reason.
- Taking a dosage higher than prescribed or more often than prescribed.
- Taking the medication to get high.
Most people take their medications as the doctor prescribed, but according to a 2010 survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2.4 million Americans abused their prescription medications. While adult men are the largest group of abusers, the numbers of women and teenagers are increasing more rapidly.
What drugs are being abused?
- Opioids, such as Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, Opana (morphine), codeine and Fentanyl, are the commonest drugs of abuse. These medications have the same derivations as heroin. They cause the person to feel euphoric, giving the medications the same danger of addiction.
- Tranquilizers, sedatives and sleep medications, such as Valium, Xanax, Ambien, Lunesta and barbiturates, are usually prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. They should never be used long term. People usually develop a tolerance for these depressants, requiring higher doses for the same effect and causing a high potential for addiction.
- Stimulants, such as Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta, increase alertness, heart rate, blood pressure and energy levels in the people who take them. They are used primarily for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. College students, in particular, use them for all night studying for exams.
What are the dangers of misusing prescription drugs?
- The number of ED visits as a result of side effects and overdoses of these drugs has increased along with the increase in abuse
- The number of deaths from overdosing continues to increase
- Studies have shown that especially in teenagers and young adults, prescription medicine addiction is frequently associated with alcohol abuse, heavy cigaretteuse and addiction to illicit drugs
What treatments can help?
- Behavioral therapy through professional counseling, group therapy, and family interventions can assist the addicted person in changing harmful habits and developing a new healthier lifestyle
- Medications can aid in some cases, especially with opioid addiction, easing withdrawal and the cravings, when combined with behavioral therapies. Both treatments need to be administered by professionals
- There are no medications that can aid in treating depressant or stimulant addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy is appropriate for all three addictions. The counseling helps to change the way the person thinks and acts, making lifestyle changes and altered future expectations possible. The behavioral therapist works on improving coping skills with the patient and with the family, enabling the transformation of their lives
What can you do to help?
If you have a loved one who has a prescription medicine addiction, you can start him or her on the road to recovery by contacting a reputable psychiatric group. The Psychiatry Group provides excellent quality treatment incorporating both medications and counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy.
Call The Psychiatry Group today to set up an appointment. Get your loved one – or yourself – on the path to a new life.