There are few people who understand that prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and as highly addictive as many illicit drugs are. They truly believe that a highly qualified medical professional would never recommend or prescribe something that could cause harmful effects, and assume that the warning labels on prescription medications are only there because law requires them to be. The unfortunate truth is that many individuals who may not otherwise have succumbed to drug use find themselves battling for their lives against an addiction to prescription drugs.
What is Prescription Addiction
Whether the individual is taking an illicit or prescription drug, the mechanics of addiction are quite similar. The individual begins their drug use to try and suppress or numb an unwanted sensation. Chemicals in the drug work to block, interrupt or alter the normal functions of the body, primarily in the brain and nervous system. Prescription drugs designed to alleviate anxiety and stress or numb physical pain can also cause changes in the individual’s mood or behavior. Like many illicit drugs, many prescription drugs can stimulate the brain’s feeling of reward or pleasure, causing the body to demand more of the drug. Over time, a physical tolerance and dependence for these foreign chemicals develops, and the individual feels that they simply must continue to take the drug in order to make it through their daily life. When the individual is no longer choosing to take the drug but rather feels that he must have the drug despite any and all ill effects caused, they are addicted.
Prescription drug abuse over a long period of time affects the individual’s entire body. Because the individual’s body has grown dependent on these chemicals, stopping prescription drug use suddenly can cause serious withdrawal symptoms, including a craving for more drugs, diarrhea, abdominal pain, chills, nausea, vomiting, body aches, agitation, severe negative moods and much more. Prescription drug withdrawal symptoms can last from hours to weeks, depending on the type of drug in use, how high the dosage is, and how long it has been in use. After the intense withdrawal symptoms have subsided, physical discomfort may persist for several more weeks. The agony of withdrawal is so intensely unpleasant that most individuals are willing to do anything to avoid it, including continuing to feed their addiction.
Treating Prescription Drug Addiction
Drug treatment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. In order to be effective, treatment must be designed to address the exact type of drug in use and the user’s specific needs. Successful treatment programs usually have multiple phases of treatment, including physical detoxification, counseling, life skills courses and more. Length of treatment may also vary from person to person – where one individual may successfully address and resolve their prescription drug addiction in sixty days, another may need six months to fully recover. The only truly important fact is that the individual is fully rehabilitated by the end of his program – healthy and able to produce normally in his life.
Successful prescription drug addiction treatment must address and resolve both the mental and physical causes and effects of drug use. Mental treatment can help the individual learn and practice life skills that allow them to function normally and resolve problems without using drugs. It can also help the individual discover what caused him to turn to drugs in the first place, and how they can avoid making a similar choice in the future. It can help them rebuild broken or damaged relationships and learn how to build healthy relationships in the future. Physical treatment can help the individual rebuild a healthy body and rid themselves of residual drug toxins that can lead to cravings and relapse.
An individual who is seeking to resolve prescription drug addiction should not try to do so on their own. Withdrawal symptoms from many prescription drugs can be very uncomfortable and in some cases highly dangerous or even life-threatening. While withdrawal and detoxification need to occur in order for the individual to fully be rehabilitated, it is important that they are medically supervised to ensure that the strain and stress on the individual’s body is not too great. Nutrition and vitamin supplements can also help.
Substitute Medications to Treat Addiction
Some prescription drug treatment programs include the use of substitute medications. The programs operate within the theory that certain controlled medications can help ease the symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal, and therefore give the individual a better chance at recovery. Some of the most common medications include:
Methadone – an opioid drug that activates the same opioid receptors as narcotic drugs and therefore helps eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Under the right supervision, an appropriate dosage of methadone is said to prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms and ease drug craving without causing a euphoric high. The idea behind methadone treatment is that the dose can be slowly lowered, easing the person off drugs with minimal discomfort.
Suboxone – a newer medication, also an opioid drug that activates opioid receptors to prevent withdrawal symptoms and lessen cravings. Like methadone, the idea with suboxone is to gradually lessen the dosage and thereby ease the individual completely off drug use.
Clonidine – a blood pressure medication that works to counter the effects of opioid drugs in the brain. It does not reduce cravings.
While there have been some reports of success in using the above medications for the treatment of drug addiction, it is important to realize that these too are prescription drugs, and they too carry risks of dependence and unwanted side effects. Individuals who are seeking prescription drug treatment do not always feel that switching to new prescription drugs are the way to fully address and resolve their problems.
Mental Therapy For Prescription Abuse
Once the individual has withdrawn and detoxed from the prescription drugs, they can begin their mental therapy. This is again not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and the type of counseling and mental therapy available varies from program to program and facility to facility. Some individuals enjoy and benefit from group counseling, they feel it helps them to confront and overcome their addiction when they discover that others are going through the same struggles they are. Other individuals feel that they cannot truly open up and discuss their past problems and concerns while in the company of “strangers”, and prefer individual therapy sessions. Either way, the individual who is able to take responsibility for their past actions and drug use is more able to free himself from the guilt, shame or embarrassment of prescription drug abuse.
As a final blow to the problem of prescription drug abuse, the individual can benefit from learning some basic life skills that can aid them in the future and further protect them from the possibility of relapse. Whether they began to use prescription drugs because of physical pain, emotional stress or anxiety or other situation in their life, there are many possible drug-free solutions that can serve them well in reducing or eliminating these problems. Such life skills can also help the individual rebuild a strong self-confidence and certainty that they can effectively face and handle their life, no matter what may come up.
The Benefit of Prescription Drug Treatment
In the case of prescription drug addiction it can be quite disheartening for an individual to learn that even while a medical professional recommended a course of treatment, it still adversely affected them. When they realize that the grip of cravings and the threat of agonizing withdrawal symptoms have them trapped in addiction, they may feel helpless to do anything about it. The good news is that there are proven treatment methods that can successfully help an individual overcome their addiction to prescription drugs and move forward into a drug-free future.
And if you’re not convinced take another look at the growing problem: