When a Prescription Turns into an Addiction

Addiction to opioids and other drugs has reached an all-time high in the U.S. The opioid epidemic is something that most of us hear about daily. Overdose rates are climbing, and many people are looking for a better way to fight the problem.

The overprescribing and abuse of prescription drugs has been named as one of the primary factors contributing to the opioid epidemic. Many people begin their addiction taking medication that was prescribed by a trusted doctor.

When a doctor prescribes a narcotic painkiller, they are supposed to adhere to a strict set of prescribing guidelines. They are also responsible for making sure that the patient isn’t likely to abuse or sell the medication. Unfortunately, doctors and their patients don’t always follow these guidelines.

Many patients start out taking their medications like they’re supposed to. Prescription narcotics are most commonly prescribed for acute injuries or for a short time after surgery. They are typically used for fighting pain and are extremely effective in this area.

Most doctors won’t prescribe these types of medications unless they are absolutely necessary. They also don’t normally give them for a period of longer than a few days;this usually isn’t enough time to form a habit of taking the medication on a daily basis.

Addiction most commonly occurs for those who have to take these medications on a long-term basis. They may have suffered from a severe injury, or are experiencing some sort of chronic condition that causes pain.

For some of these people, they feel the need to continue taking these medications even after they’ve recovered and no longer need them. This urge can be the product of a physical or psychological addiction.

Types of Prescription Drugs Abused

Almost any type of prescription drug can be abused, but only certain types can result in physical addiction. Prescription opioids are the most commonly abused and most addictive type of medication available.

Prescription opioids are largely used for treating pain, and many patients experience extreme euphoria as a byproduct of the medication’s effects on the brain. These medications are created from the same base as heroin and other illegal opioids.

The biggest difference is the control of dosage, the way that the medication is delivered, and the overall strength of the drug. For most patients, taking prescription painkillers as prescribed is relatively safe.Unfortunately, this safety often lulls people into a false sense of security. They may believe medication prescribed by a doctor won’t be as dangerous as using street drugs. This relaxed attitude surrounding prescription opioids often leads to a rapidly developing addictionandaccidental overdoses.

There’s also a serious misconception that the only difference between painkillers is the strength of the medication and the dosage. The truth is that different painkillers can impact the body in very different ways.There is a distinct difference between OxyContin and oxycodone, and not understanding this can have deadly consequences.

Oxycodone is an active ingredient in OxyContin and a number of other drugs. It’s usually prescribed in an immediate release pill that introduces the drug into the bloodstream as it’s dissolved in the digestive tract.

OxyContin may contain oxycodone, but it is significantly stronger. This is due to its time release design that staggers the amount of medication being delivered to the body over a longer period of time. A lower dose of OxyContin may have the same amount in total as a higher dose of oxycodone.This results in overdose when a person tries to take the same dosage of OxyContin as they would oxycodone.

These types of mistakes illustrate some of the dangers that often accompany the abuse of prescription painkillers. Other prescription narcotics that are frequently abused include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Demerol
  • Dilaudid

Why Are They Prescribed?

Prescription opioids are most commonly prescribed after an accident or an invasive surgical procedure to alleviate pain. In some cases, doctors may also prescribe them on a long-term basis for those who suffer from chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or inoperable and progressive diseases.

Stronger medications, such as Fentanyl and morphine, are usually reserved for the terminally ill—people who are suffering from a terminal illness and who require end-of-life care. These medications can make them comfortable as they near death.

Over the last two decades we’ve discovered just how dangerous overprescribing prescription opioids can be. Pharmaceutical companies that once told the public that these medications were perfectly safe for long-term use are now facing lawsuits and ridicule from both patients and medical professionals.

How Does Prescription Addiction Occur?

As a person continues to take the prescription medication, their brain becomes accustomed to the chemical reactions that the medication stimulates. Opioids cause extreme feelings of euphoria by promoting the release of certain chemicals within the brain.

The body perceives this as a reward, and the person will begin to crave these drugs in an effort to repeat that reward over and over again. After prolonged use, the chemical levels within the brain become unbalanced.As soon as levels of the drug start to fall in the body, the brain starts sending out distress signals, causing the person to depend on larger quantities in order to get the same effect.

These distress signals are what most of us know as withdrawals. Withdrawals are physical symptoms experienced by people who are going through the detox process. These can become extremely dangerous and can require inpatient care to get through safely.

Treating Addiction to Prescription Drugs

The first step to treating addiction to prescription drugs is to understand that you have a problem and to be completely honest with your doctor. This allows them to take steps to wean you off the medication and to start treatment as quickly as possible.

It’s imperative that you find a treatment program that teaches you how to face your addiction head-on, and to return your focus to your life. With the right help and the right level of determination, you can overcome prescription drug addiction.