Prescription Drug Addiction

What is drug addiction? What exactly does it look like? Some think of it as the rock star who is constantly causing trouble with radical behaviors. Some might see it as the homeless heroin addict. There is a new kind of addict in the US and it can’t be ignored. While some prescription drugs are not addictive, there are plenty that are. It doesn’t take much for the average Joe to end up addicted to a drug given to them which is meant to be helpful for an injury or mental illness.

Developing a prescription drug addiction is easier than you might think. Statistics show that more than 15 million Americans are currently abusing their medications. This statistic doesn’t account for the number of users who get their drugs illegally, either. Prescription drugs can morph into a street drug problem. For example, it’s cheaper and easier to get heroin than it is for someone to get another prescription of oxycodone, codeine, or morphine.

Unlike other addictions, such as heroin or cocaine, a prescription drug addiction can be difficult to recognize. The addict’s family might not be able to see the detrimental effects that the drug is having on their life. They might assume the addict is fine because the medication was prescribed. Even the addict themselves might not recognize that they have a problem until it’s too late.

It’s important, therefore, to know the symptoms of prescription drug abuse. Whether it’s yourself or a family member that’s taking medication, you want to be able to spot the signs of a bad habit as they appear. If you can identify the problem early on, it will be much easier to treat.

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What is Drug Addiction Exactly?

Some people may be confused by what drug addiction is. It can be a dependency to everything from illicit street drugs to a prescription your doctor gives you for a medical problem. The classification is the same. It is a chronic disease with drug seeking behaviors and is defined by chronic use. It is compulsive and challenging to manage how much is used. The addict will use despite consequences in their life. This includes their health, career, and personal relationships. 

The act of taking drugs will often be voluntary at first for most. This is certainly the case if you need medications to help you with a health issue. When you start repeating the drug use and abuse, it can lead to changes in the brain. This causes a person to have less self-control with the drug and it becomes hard to resist the urge to use the drug. The changes in the brain are persistent as the reward system portion of your mind is misused. This is why drug addiction is known as a relapse disease. 

Even after being in recovery for a long time, the person can’t take the drug again. This would be relapse and it could cause a tailspin of addiction once again. Relapse is common but it doesn’t mean treatment hasn’t worked. In the case of Demi Lovato, she has successfully stopped using drugs in the past but has relapsed. She hasn’t given up and continues to get treatment so she can stay clean.

The Brain and Prescription Drug Addiction

Some prescription drugs will affect the brain and it’s “reward circuit” function. Prescription drugs flood the brain with dopamine creating a sense of euphoria. The reward system in the brain is supposed to cause positive repeat behaviors so we can thrive in life. This includes being with people you love and eating. When you abuse prescription drugs, you create a surge of dopamine which is going to reinforce the pleasure and promote unhealthy behaviors. The more you do, the more the brain demands it. 

The brain will adapt to the usage as well. It will reduce the high which builds up a tolerance. It also reduces the amount of dopamine being released naturally. This means, without the drug, you can feel depressed and low in energy. The use of drugs may also cause the user to like other things less. This includes social activities, sex, and food. This is something to watch out for in the event you think someone you love has a drug addiction. 

There are long-term use symptoms that affect the brain. There may be problems with functions such as: 

  • The ability to make good decisions.
  • The ability to learn.
  • They are more adapt to stress.
  • They may have problems with memory cognition.
  • Behavior is more negative.
Prescription Drug Addict Profile

Who Abuses Prescription Drugs?

It’s easy to think of addicts as we see them on TV. We imagine them as homeless people, troubled teens and shady characters. We picture them robbing convenience stores to get their fix and shooting up in alleyways.

This isn’t actually the case.

Plenty of normal, working people, abuse drugs every day. Addicts often have well-paying jobs, beautiful homes, and families who love them. Addiction doesn’t care what your economic status is. It doesn’t care what color you are, how old you are or what you believe in. 

With the amount of prescription medications being given out, there are more and more people abusing prescription drugs. In rural areas around the US, there is limited access to holistic medical assistance. It’s far easier for a doctor to give a patient pain killers than getting them into a physical therapy for their injuries.

There are two overarching categories of drug addicts: 

People who received a drug prescription and become dependent on it over time.

People who never receive a prescription but use it for fun and become addicted over time. 

Just for the record, stars can get just about any drug they want. There is a long list of musicians and actors who can get whatever kind of drug they desire at any given time. They may use stimulants to stay awake because they burn the candle at both ends. They may need to use antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications because of their fast paced, stressful careers. Stories like Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy are all too common. They had a variety of different prescription drugs, mixed them, and as a result, died by overdose.

It can be easy for people who receive their drug from a doctor to justify misusing their drug. Some people think that, because they received their dose from a doctor, they need the drug and are therefore justified in misusing it. Other people see the prescription as a timeline, thinking to themselves, “I’ll stop using it when my dose runs out.” 

However, all drug users are at risk. No matter if you buy your drugs on the street or pick them up at the pharmacy, you can become addicted to them and they can cause negative consequences in your life. This is why the prescription medications that put patients at risk of addiction are supposed to be monitored. They are also supposed to be used only for a certain amount of time to prevent a high risk addiction situation.

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Factors that Impact the Likelihood of Addiction

Not everyone that uses prescription medication will become addicted to them. Most of the time, these medications are safe if they’re used appropriately. However, there a few factors that can increase the chance of someone abusing their medicine.

These include: 

  • Having a personal history of addiction.
  • Having a family history of addiction. An example of this is Drew Barrymore, who started drinking at an early age. She has since gone through rehabilitation and successfully become a sober adult actor. She had her first drink at 9, started smoking marijuana at 10 and dabbled in cocaine by 12 years old. Her grandfather, who was also an actor, was a heavy drinker and died at 60. Her dad was an actor and poet with a history of alcoholism and criminal charges relating to drugs. Her half-sister was found dead in what was suspected as an accidental drug overdose. 
  • Being diagnosed with a mental illness (this is known as a co-occurring disorder). A good example of this is the famous Carrie Fisher, well-known as Princess Lea in the original Star Wars. Fisher was highly depressed and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Mixing this with drugs and alcohol creates a perfect storm of self-destruction. She was quoted in her book, “Wishful Drinking.” 

“I mean, that's at least in part why I ingested chemical waste - it was a kind of desire to abbreviate myself. To present the CliffNotes of the emotional me, as opposed to the twelve-column read.

I used to refer to my drug use as putting the monster in the box. I wanted to be less, so I took more - simple as that. Anyway, I eventually decided that the reason Dr. Stone had told me I was hypomanic was that he wanted to put me on medication instead of actually treating me. So I did the only rational thing I could do in the face of such as insult - I stopped talking to Stone, flew back to New York, and married Paul Simon a week later.” 

Fisher would die of a heart attack at 60. She wrote many memoirs and novels relating to addiction which included her own battle with it. She was a major advocate within the mental health community and talked openly about her mental disorder and addiction. 

  • Spending time with others who use prescription drugs. The environmental circumstance.
  • Experiencing ongoing stress in their lives.
  • Experiencing ongoing physical pain. 

Of course, these factors don’t mean that someone is guaranteed to abuse their medications. They are factors that suggest you may want to keep an eye on your habit if a doctor gives you drugs. These would simply be cases where someone would be considered at risk. 

Again, reverting back to Hollywood actors and rock stars, they are under extreme pressure. Everyone wants to see them at their best so they have to keep on moving. They may use drugs to help them get through their days more so than others. They also have greater accessibility to anything they want, legal or illegal. Famous people will usually not cancel important obligations which means they have to get help. Prescription drugs include stimulants that help a person wake up. These can quickly become something the person needs to maintain their energetic levels. It’s a slippery scale for anyone.

Here are the Most Commonly Abused Medications

Certain meds are more addictive than others. Drugs like Oxycodone, Xanax, and Adderall, for example, tap into a part of the brain where pleasure is generated. This makes them somewhat enjoyable for a short time. 

If you or a family member is taking a drug that falls into one of the following categories, make sure to keep an eye out for any addictive behaviors. While all of these drugs can have positive effects if used responsibly, they are also easy to abuse. 

Opioids: It’s likely that you’ve already heard about the dangers of these prescription painkillers. They are responsible for so many overdoses that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has deemed the problem to be an American epidemic. In 2016 alone, more than 40,000 people died from opioid-related deaths. 

The world lost Prince to opioids. He was just 57 when he died from an accidental overdose of the deadly drug Fentanyl. Prince was prescribed opioid painkillers after hurting his knee when he was jumping on stage. He quickly became addicted to the opioids and it morphed into him taking any kind of opioid available. Heroin offers the same effects as prescription opioids, affecting the brain in the same way. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is often being put in street drugs. It has caused a dramatic increase of deadly overdoses.

Oxycodone: Found in OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan among other drugs, this painkiller is considered to be one of the most addictive opioids on the market. It’s commonly prescribed to patients suffering from terminal illness like cancer, but may also be prescribed as a post-surgery recovery aid. 

Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone has the same pain-killing properties that OxyContin does. It’s most commonly found in Vicodin and Lorcet as well as some less popular drugs. Both hydrocodone and oxycodone have similar effects to heroin and are often viewed as gateway drugs. In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that more than 80% of all heroin addicts had transitioned from using prescription opioids. 

Morphine: This prescription opioid is most commonly associated with surgery. It’s the drug that patients receive as an anesthetic before they undergo an operation and is oftentimes prescribed afterward, as well. Morphine is usually administered via pills to patients outside of the hospital. Under certain circumstances, however, patients are administered an IV drip of the drug. This is particularly dangerous because the chemical is sent directly into the bloodstream. It makes the drug’s effects much more powerful and increases the risk of addiction. 

Fentanyl: In the early 2000’s, heavy restrictions were placed on oxycodone due to its risk of abuse. In response, doctors began prescribing Fentanyl more often. Since then, we’ve seen the number of Fentanyl-related overdoses skyrocket. Although the drug is administered via a time-release patch that is supposed to limit the risk of overdose, many recreational users mix it with other drugs. Unfortunately, many of these opioid cocktails are deadly.   

Fentanyl has taken the lives of popular 26 year old rapper Mac Miller, Prince, and Tom Petty. Fentanyl had been abused in the 1970’s and it phased out for some time. Now it’s back on the streets under names like: 

  • Apache.
  • China Girl.
  • Dance Fever.
  • Goodfella.
  • Tango and Cash.

Codeine: This prescription opioid may seem like less of a threat than those above due to the fact that it’s considered a cough suppressant. However, it’s actually quite dangerous. When used in large quantities or mixed with alcohol, it causes the user to feel disoriented and euphoric. The codeine cocktail, which goes by the names “lean” and “sizzurp” in recreational drug circles, is known to cause heavy brain damage and seizures. 

Other commonly abused opioids include hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone), meperidine (Demerol), propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet), Butorphanol (Stadol), oxymorphone (Opana, Numorphan) and tramadol (Tramal, Ultram, Ultracet). 

Benzos: This class of meds is responsible for a large number of drug addictions. They’re intended to be used in the treatment of psychological disorders like anxiety, depression, panic disorder and insomnia but are often abused for their sedative qualities. They can be extremely dangerous when misused.

Alprazolam: This chemical, commonly sold under the brand name Xanax, is helpful for those who struggle with anxiety. It’s the fifth-most prescribed drug in the U.S. At the same time, however, it’s also highly addictive and highly dangerous. These rectangular white pills sometimes called “xanny bars”, are responsible for nearly 60,000 hospital visits every year.

Lil Xan, the 22 year old rapper who was recently in rehab for addiction has a lot to say about Xanax. He says he feels lucky to have kicked the habit because he was heavily into abusing the prescription drug for 2 years. Xanax and rap artists seem to go hand in hand lately. The Chicago rapper LUCKI nearly died from his Xanax addiction. Fredo Santana, a rapper out of Chicago had to check into a hospital because he suffered liver and kidney failure. It was related to drugs. Lil Xan says that he was also abusing Norco, opiates, and benzos. He would often end up in the hospital. He realized that it wasn’t fun anymore and kicked it. He recently did go to rehab to get completely sober and clear after one of his friends died from an accidental Fentanyl overdose.

Diazepam: Also known as Valium, this benzo is prescribed to help calm the patient’s nerves during stressful situations. You might receive it for a dental surgery (if you’re afraid of the dentist), a plane trip (when you’re terrified of flying) or just general anxiety. Valium has some seriously negative side effects, though, and is very easy to become dependent on. If a doctor or loved one has given you this one, make sure to use it responsibly.

Lorazepam: Found in Ativan, this drug is used to reduce panic attacks. It functions by depressing the user’s nervous system, essentially calming them down a bit. The problem with this depressant (and other benzos that have the same effect) is that can cause the individual to become too depressed. Once the user sinks into depression, they are far more likely to become addicted to their prescription.

Zolpidem: Perhaps the most commonly prescribed drug on this list, this chemical is found in the sleep-aid Ambien. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, your doctor may give you a bottle of Ambien pills to help you get some rest. Taking too much of this drug, however, can cause psychedelic side effects such as hallucinations and shifts in perception. Because of this, many people take too much on purpose.

Additional benzos include bentazepam (Tiadipona), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), oxazepam (Seresta) and temazepam (Restoril).

Stimulants: As you might imagine, prescription stimulants can be highly addictive. They are intended for use by people with ADHD as they have amphetamine-like effects. This enables them to concentrate and focus at a greater rate. It is challenging for someone with ADHD to focus on things which creates a myriad of problems in their daily lives. Someone who has been diagnosed properly will not become addicted to the drugs they are prescribed. This is due to the way their minds work. It’s extremely addictive for those who abuse it recreationally. Many college students and people in jobs that require focus take them in order to work long hours or stay up all night. Taking them without an authorized prescription or missing them is very dangerous.

Methylphenidate: This chemical, sold under the brand name Ritalin, is only supposed to be used by people with hyperactivity disorders. It’s very effective in helping individuals to pay attention at work and school. Ritalin pills are only safe to take when prescribed by a doctor who has assessed the patient on an individual level and made an informed decision about the dose. Those who use it outside of these circumstances are at risk of taking too much.

Dextroamphetamine: Similar to Ritalin, Adderall is another prescription stimulant. The drug’s effects are considered similar to those of cocaine, which makes it popular among young people who can’t afford coke. Oftentimes, kids use this drug by crushing it up and snorting it, a behavior that can easily lead to chemical dependency.

Antidepressants: Generally, antidepressants are considered to be the least addictive of all prescription drugs. Most of them won’t get you high if you misuse them (they’re more likely to just make you feel sick) so they aren’t very popular with recreational drug users. Both SSRIs (Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, etc) and SNRIs (Effexor, Cymbalta, Savella, etc) are actually used to treat depression and anxiety in recovering drug addicts*.

Bupropion: This chemical, found in Wellbutrin, is also known as “poor man’s cocaine”. When it's crushed up and snorted, it has effects similar to those of coke. This makes it very popular among teenagers, inmates and other people who have limited access to harder drugs.

*Just because it’s uncommon for these drugs to be abused, however, doesn’t mean that anyone should misuse it. These drugs can still have negative side effects when taken in large quantities or mixed with alcohol. If your doctor prescribes you an SSRI or SNRI, make sure to use it responsibly.

The Third Reich and Addiction

One of Hitler’s secret weapons was giving speed to the Third Reich soldiers. Their attack on France was a methamphetamine powered affair. The Marshal of the air force was a morphine addict and Adolf Hitler himself was a junkie. When he died, his arms were covered in track marks. He was going through withdrawals as he begged for a shot full of vitamins, hormones, methamphetamine, oxycodone and sometimes morphine.

This is what kept him functioning throughout the war. These drugs kept the soldiers going. There was a serious addiction problem surrounding the nazis and the Third Reich. Many of the drugs they were addicted to are in prescription drugs today. The doses might be smaller today but when abused, they can cause a similar effect.

How to Identify Prescription Drugs

Finding strange pills around your house? Are your children using drugs? The pill identifier at Drugs.com is a fantastic resource that will help you to figure out what exactly you have in your hand. Simply enter the color, shape, and imprint of the pill and the search engine will tell you what it is.

The story of Kelly Osbourne tells about a time she was so high, she tripped and 500 prescription pills fell out of the bottle and onto the floor. At this point, her parents couldn’t ignore the problem and she agreed to go to a treatment center.

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What Does Prescription Drug Abuse Look Like?

The line between responsible drug use and misuse can be a thin one. If you’ve just had surgery and you take an extra pill to fight off the pain, for example, it’s not going to kill you. However, if you continue to take more than the prescribed dose, you could be on the fast track to a dangerous habit. It may also be hard to determine whether you should keep using medication. The body can produce pain even when the injury has improved substantially. With pain killers like opioids, the brain wants more so it will cause pain in the body.

If you’re worried that you or a family member might be abusing meds, there are a few behaviors you should keep an eye out for. These are all signs that a drug user has crossed over the line between responsible and irresponsible use:

Taking more than prescribed: As we’ve pointed out, taking an extra pill here and there isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, when someone does this constantly, they run the risk of becoming chemically dependent on it. If you or a loved one is gradually increasing the amount that they use, it’s a sign that you’ve developed a tolerance for your prescribed dose. You’ll only need more and more to satisfy your cravings as time goes on, so you should start thinking about detoxing from it.

It doesn’t help that half of patients who were prescribed opioid painkillers were given more than they needed. What happens to the pills that people don’t use? They are not usually even thought about anymore. If you can stop taking them early, that’s great. Keep in mind that someone in your home may just try them out. They are susceptible to addiction or of harming themselves. Have you heard of teenagers in America who go to parties and throw prescription drugs in a bucket? These drugs are found in the family medicine cabinet. The bucket goes around the room and kids take a few and down them. It’s pretty obvious to see that this is extremely risky.

Getting prescribed painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin are what is giving addicts access to these drugs. It is a major contribution to the opioid epidemic, overdose deaths, and addiction. It’s important to remember that the manufacturers and distributors aren’t on your side. Ultimately the more drugs that are sold, the better it is for them. Within the study, 60% of the 1,000 participants held on to their pills in case they needed them in the future.

Using alternative methods of ingestion: All prescription drugs are intended to be taken in a specific way. Hydrocodone, for example comes in a time-release pill form because you’re not supposed to have too much all at once. This is the same with Fentanyl. The problem is that many people crush these pills up to snort or inject so that they can achieve heightened effects. It should go without saying that this is a very dangerous thing to do. It not only gets a person higher but it also puts a user at greater risk of addiction and accidental overdose.

Mixing it with other drugs: Pain medications don’t mix well with other drugs. If you’re drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or taking anything else while you have meds in your system, you’re putting yourself in some serious danger. Alcohol, for example, can exacerbate the effects of other depressants. If you mix a drug like Xanax or Oxycodone with alcohol, you can bring your heart rate to a screeching halt.

Obsessing about the drug: If someone talks about their meds all the time, it’s a sign that they’re probably addicted to it. When someone enjoys using a drug, it can take over their brain to the point that it’s all they think about. One of the signs of addiction is that someone spends their time using the substance, coming down from the substance, or trying to figure out how they’ll get to use again. These will come with some behaviors which the person will usually try to hide from you. So, if you find yourself preoccupied with your medication which includes thinking about it and looking forward to the next time you can experience it. If this occurs, you may want to start a tapering plan.

Neglecting responsibilities: In the grips of a drug habit, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that truly matter to you. If you spend all of your time taking a drug, recovering from its effects or trying to obtain it, you usually don’t have time for much else. Prescription drug addicts can usually maintain their responsibilities for a few months before their habit starts to affect their schoolwork, career and family life.

Risking safety: There’s a reason why most pill bottles are labeled DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THIS DRUG. Driving a car, using power tools or handling any other dangerous machine with meds in your system simply isn’t safe. Oftentimes, however, addicts will neglect the warning and put themselves as well as those around them at risk. If you can’t wait until you’re home to take your dosage, it could be a sign that you’re an addict.

Seeing multiple doctors: With the rise of the opioid crisis, doctors are being placed under intense scrutiny for their prescription practices. As a result, many drug addicts aren’t able to get the large quantities that they seek. These addicts have taken to “doctor shopping” or visiting multiple doctors and lying to them about their condition. This enables the addict to take much more of their drug of choice than they would otherwise be able to.

It’s important to note that when an addict of prescription opioids gets desperate, they’re willing to try heroin. This has caused heroin to become a popular drug among average citizens. Heroin was always a street junkie drug but it is now more widely used by people who became addicted to prescription painkillers.

Trying (and failing) to quit: Addicts usually realize they have a problem when they decide to quit but find themselves unable to. If this happens, it’s a sign that your brain has become dependent on the drug. If you’ve been using a medication long enough or in large enough quantities, you’re likely to get anxious, irritated or even physically nauseous once you try to quit. This is a definitive sign that you should consider detox and rehab.

Are You Addicted? Take One of Our Online Assessments

Our website has several different online assessments designed to help you determine the status of your habit. Identifying the problem now could help you to prevent more severe problems in the future. The longer you wait to get help, the more the substance will have a hold on you. The process of recovery is more effective if you can ‘nip it in the bud.’

Eva Mendes went to rehab because she felt like her alcohol consumption had gone a bit far. She didn’t let herself go too far down the rabbit hole. She has been clean and sober ever since and is thriving in her life.

Each of these online quizzes is completely free and will only take 2 minutes. We’ll reach out shortly afterward with our assessment of your situation.

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The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

Every drug has its own unique side effects. The exact risks involved in abusing your meds will depend on what the drug is and whether or not you’re mixing it with other things. The mixing of substances is extremely dangerous and is also very common. Some will feed off of each other, making the sensations and bodily harm more intense. Each substance can lead to different health consequences and can increase the risk of different diseases.

There is one risk, however, that all of these drugs (even antidepressants) have in common which is overdose. In one way or another, the body and mind becomes overwhelmed with too much of the substance. You can have a heart attack, an extreme rise in body temperature, or the heart can become so depressed, you lose oxygen to the brain.

Overdosing: The Biggest Risk in Abusing Your Meds

Prescription opioids, benzos, stimulants, and antidepressants are all designed to target a different part of your brain. Opioids like OxyContin, for example, allow an excess of dopamine into the brain by blocking off the mechanisms designed to prevent too much dopamine from flooding in.

Stimulants, on the other hand, target the part of the brain where our fight-or-flight mechanism exists, causing us to be more alert.

The problem with taking too much of any of these drugs is that our brain is responsible for regulating our basic functions. Our heartbeat, bloodstream and respiratory system are all tied directly to the brain. When you start messing with your brain, you also mess with the signals that it sends out to those other systems in your body.

If you ingest too much of a prescription drug, your brain can send out the wrong signals to your heart and lungs, causing them to slow down to an unhealthy rate. If your heart stops beating or your lungs stop breathing, you’re going to experience an overdose.

When someone overdoses, they might experience any number of symptoms before eventually passing out. Common signs that someone has overdosed are:

  • Rapid onset of depression, confusion or aggression
  • Rapid shift in body temperature (colder or hotter)
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Immediate sleepiness
  • Severe chest pains
  • Rapid pulse
  • Inability to breath
  • Unresponsiveness (appears to be awake but won’t respond)
  • Seizures

There are countless stories of people who have overdosed. There are plenty of stories that involve famed entertainers. All the way back to Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, they had access to drugs that caused them to end their own lives during moments of strife.

Demi Lovato was lucky to have had friends on the scene with Naloxone when she overdosed. She had been clean for quite some time but had started using again so her friends had an opioid overdose lifesaving kit. This is probably what saved her life. When the ambulance attendants arrived, they gave her another dose of Naloxone as it does wear off. Her past addictions include alcohol, cocaine, and OxyContin. She also has a history of mental illness.

Some of the people who have died from overdose include:

Prince - Accidental Fentanyl overdose.

Michael Jackson - Benzodiazepine overdose

Art Bell - Accidental overdose from prescription drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, and carisoprodol.

Lil Peep - Overdose of fentanyl and Xanax

Tom Petty - Accidental overdose of prescription drugs including fentanyl and oxycodone.

Chyna, Female Wrestler - Accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription drugs including diazepam, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and temazepam.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Acute mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine.

Andy Irons (surfer) - Cardiac arrest complicated by mixed drug ingestion (cocaine, methamphetamine, alprazolam, methadone).

If you or someone else is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention. If left untreated, the individual is at risk of falling into a coma or dying. Do not wait until it’s too late to get them help.

Professional Detox: The First Step Toward Overcoming an Addiction

Have you decided it’s time to stop using? Are you tired of letting your prescription drug addiction run your life? Detox is the first stepping stone on the road to recovery.

In order to get clean, you’ll need to detox from your medication. Detoxification is the process where you stop using and allow all of the chemicals to exit your body. If you’ve been abusing drugs for a long time, it’s not going to be the most fun experience you’ve ever had (we’d be lying if we said it was like a trip to the amusement park). It will, however, be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Detox is pretty much step number one to getting clean. It is the first part to recovery before you start dealing with the emotional and mental issues of your addiction. There are stars that have checked themselves in rehab which began with a 5-7 day detox. In 2015, John Stamos voluntarily checked himself in to a clinic for substance abuse. He had been in trouble with the police a month earlier, being arrested on suspicion of a DUI. He was also hospitalized for a mysterious medical condition. Whatever substances he was on, it was getting in the way of his responsibilities for life.

Liza Minnelli has had many problems with a variety of substances throughout her life. For every different addiction, she would have to go back to rehabilitation and get the necessary medical detox. Her mother, Judy Garland, was given stimulants at a young age to help her perform. She eventually became addicted to substances. Liza likely inherited the trait. She started going to rehab, which would have included detox, in 1984 due to a Valium addiction. Valium is a benzodiazepine which is a risk to detox from. It may involve tapering to avoid seizures as this drug can change the brain's chemistry in radical ways.

The Benefits of Professional Detox

It’s entirely possible to go through detoxification on your own. You can stop using drugs whenever you’d like and let the withdrawal process start running its course. It’s not recommended but if you feel confident that you’re just touching upon the potential for addiction, see how it feels when you stop using the medication.

Detoxing from an addiction to prescription medication, however, isn’t always the easiest process to go through. You’re likely to experience a number of painful side effects that can be better managed by a professional.

Sure, it is possible to go through the pain and suffering on your own. If you’ve ever watched ‘Trainspotting,’ you witnessed  Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) detoxing himself from heroin. He laid in bed, sweating and vomiting. He was completely alone in his parents house because they didn’t have the tools or knowledge to help him. Most of you won’t go through the intense withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict. At the same time, don’t discount how dependent the body becomes on a prescription you’ve been taking for weeks or months.

Things look a little bit different in a professional drug detox facility. You’ll  go through the process surrounded by doctors an addiction specialists. This will ease your mind and help you feel more confident that you can get through the discomfort. The staff will do all they can to reduce the discomfort you’re experiencing from the symptoms. They’ll make sure that you’re well-hydrated, monitor your vitals and administer any medications that might make the process easier.

Going through withdrawals in a specialized facility is also helpful in that your access to your drug of choice will be limited. Relapsing won’t be an option while you’re in detox. When you detoxify at home, however, you’re much more likely to succumb to your cravings. It’s easy to walk out the door and find what you need on the streets or head to your medicine cabinet. In detox, you simply don’t have the accessibility to turn to your substance any longer.

Common Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

No matter which prescription drug you’re addicted to, it’s likely that you’ll experience several of these withdrawal symptoms:

  • Severe headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, etc)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Intense cravings
  • Bouts of insomnia

The physical symptoms (cramps, pains, vomiting) can last anywhere from a few days to more than a week. The psychological symptoms, however, can last for several months. It’s important to seek additional support if you want to avoid a relapse in the future. This is why rehab is so important and should be done immediately after detox. A good addiction recovery program will offer a smooth transition from detox to rehab. Once your body is clean from the substance, it’s time to go deeper into the emotional and mental reasons you continued using the drug.

Rehabbing from Prescription Drugs

Drug addiction rehab is the best way to seek treatment for the emotional and psychological symptoms of your condition. Even after you’ve finished detoxing, there are things you need to take care of if you want to stay off drugs.

There are reasons why you have addictive tendencies. When you’re in rehab, you’ll learn what these tendencies are. That prepares you to deal with the any emotional triggers that prompt you to use. If you want to fight off the urge to use drugs again in the future, you’ll want to identify what these triggers are and to develop methods for fighting off cravings. Rehab is the place where you can go to do this.

In a professional treatment program, you’ll meet with doctors, therapists and other addicts who can offer the support you need during your earliest days of sobriety. These individuals will help you to understand why you’re prone to addiction and will share advice on how to stay sober as you move forward with your life.

You will also get to take part in group therapy where you speak with others. This is important because you feel like you belong to a community. You’re not alone or isolated from others. When you’re able to listen to others who have similar problems to you, you can learn something about your own disease. You can also share things that you’ve been holding in. These things might be what causes triggers in you. Group therapy is really helpful and in a rehab setting, you’ll be going to them daily.

Inpatient drug rehab: Inpatient rehab treatment is a type of program where you check into a treatment facility for several weeks. Once you’re there, you’ll spend time attending a variety of different forms of therapy and support sessions. You’ll meet with counselors who will work with you to address the psychological roots of your condition. You’ll also gather with other groups of recovering addicts to discuss your experience and lend support to one another as you all fight to get clean. You’re immersing in your recovery and you stay within the grounds of the rehab facility. This helps you to keep any distractions out which means you’re not exposed to triggers. Many believe it’s the best option to create the foundation for a full recovery. NIDA has a list of treatment options that explain the process and their efficacy.

Outpatient drug rehab: Outpatient rehab offers the same benefits as an inpatient program except that you aren’t required to live on-site at the facility. Instead, you’ll show up to the facility on a daily basis for scheduled meetings and counseling sessions. You’ll have check-ups with doctors who will monitor your health and one-on-one consultations with therapists who will monitor the status of your recovery. An outpatient rehab program is a good alternative for those who want to maintain their life. You might have to continue working or your family needs you. It is also a cheaper alternative to inpatient rehab. While your insurance may cover your inpatient needs, it is certain that there is coverage for an outpatient rehab. Do keep in mind that there are risks to the outpatient rehab. You are susceptible to triggers and you also have substance at your disposal in the event that you do get a craving you can’t handle.

The intensive outpatient program (IOP): This is more intense than your normal outpatient rehab. The meetings are longer and more intense. There is very little space in your life to do other things other than your responsibilities and IOP. This is believed to be more effective than traditional outpatient rehab. The outpatient drug rehab is good for those who have been through rehab before and don’t have a long-term, heavy use addiction to any substances.

Both of these rehab options can be helpful. It’s important that you take into consideration your own personal circumstances and responsibilities before choosing one or the other. The point is, there is a suitable option for you no matter what your needs are.

Do I Need Professional Rehab to Get Clean?

A lot of prescription drug addicts are hesitant to go to rehab. Some think that because they are essentially addicted to medicine, there is no reason for them to attend a treatment program with meth heads and heroin addicts. Others are simply reluctant because they think it’s going to cost them a lot of money.

Neither of these things is true. Rehab is a fantastic and crucial resource for any addict, no matter what their drug of choice is. It’s also very affordable (even free if your insurance provider covers it). Thanks to the new health care laws in the US, your insurance must provide you with an option for getting addiction recovery assistance.

Many famous people have had to go to rehab to get their lives back on track. The “Eight is Enough” star Adam Rich nearly died from a Valium overdose. He went to rehab for drug abuse.

Way back in the day, Bela Lugosi was the first celebrity who publicly admitted to going to rehab. In 1955, he completed a detox program and then rehab for a morphine habit. In many ways, the opioid prescription drugs of today have merely replaced morphine. There has always been opioids playing a part in prescription drugs. Each one has proven to be a problem for addiction.

Corey Feldman was a child star, you may know his role in the movie, ‘Goonies.’ He was arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin in 1990 and decided it was time to get his life back. He spent 10 months in rehab in 1991. It took some time to build back his career but he did it and he remained sober.

Alternatively, his friend and co-star in many movies, Corrie Haim died from an overdose. They found Valium, Vicodin, Soma, and and antipsychotic in his possession. Haim had been using aliases to get over 500 prescription pills in the month before his death. He doctor-shopped which included going to seven different doctors, using seven pharmacies. They failed to practice due-diligence which is supposed to protect people from these situations.

Recovery is an acceptance that your life is in shambles and you have to change. - Jamie Lee Curtis-

Structured treatment: Sure, you can walk out of detox, get in your car and drive away to a life of self-rehabilitation. But where do you start? What happens when you have that first stressful day at work and you’re dying to use? How do you manage those cravings?

The great thing about professional treatment is that you’ll have access to experts who understand the ins and outs of addiction. They’ll use a systematic approach to treating your addiction that will help you to equip you with the mental tools you need to fight off cravings in your everyday life.

Emotional support: We understand, living with a bunch of other adults isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. You might be surprised, however, at how important it is to have other people around you as you work through the early stages of recovery.

In rehab programs, you’ll have a network of people with you who have all gone through (or are still going through) the same process you are. Everyone in the facility will be empathetic to your situation and will be available to lend some emotional support whenever you need it. Group therapy is a powerful way of healing.

Time and space: One of the biggest challenges in overcoming an addiction is breaking familiar patterns. When you’re used to taking your favorite prescription drug every morning at 6 AM, you’re going to crave that drug at that time every day for a while.

Checking in to a treatment center can help you break that pattern. You’ll be in a new location, with new people, far away from the triggers of your life as an addict. Spending a few weeks away from your regular environment will give you time to focus on the recovery process.

Nutritious meals: It may be surprising, but a good diet can be of great benefit during the earliest stages of recovery. Certain foods can elevate your energy levels, help you to detox, and help raise your levels of happiness. You’re going to get the nutrients back into your body that you lost when you were abusing your body.

When you detox, after all, you lose huge quantities of essential nutrients. Your body flushes them all out with the drugs. In order to properly recover, you need to spend some time getting healthy again. It’s important to note that a proper diet and some good exercise can produce natural dopamine in your brain. This will help you to fight off those cravings a little bit. It also helps you feel happier again. Dopamine is the happy chemical and when it’s deteriorated, you will feel depressed. This is not a great feeling when you’re trying to manage getting over substance addiction. Food helps bring the brain back into balance. Aerobic exercise for more than 30 minutes also raises your endorphin levels. You need the food to fuel the body however.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders: If you suffer from a mental illness like anxiety disorder or clinical depression, treating your addiction can be a bit tricky. The two will be closely intertwined. You may require an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. The thing is, these drugs are usually somewhat addictive. Certain mood disorders come with symptoms of a higher chance of abusing substances. It’s a complex issue that will need professional treatment.

At Northpoint, we have doctors on staff who will carefully assess your mental state and determine the best course of action for treating your conditions. This is crucial for people with co-occurring disorders as simply cutting yourself off from medication can be severely dangerous.

Does Your Loved One Need an Intervention?

It’s difficult to watch a friend or family member struggle with a prescription drug addiction, knowing that they’re hurting themselves but not being able to do anything. Life can become extremely hard for both you and the addict. There is such a thing as enabling an addict to continue their self destructive behavior. Co-Dependency is an illness in itself. While it’s not always the case, you have to care more about the addict than the outcome of them being exposed. You may lose everything you have if your partner doesn’t get the help they need. You will also lose them to the drug eventually.

If you find yourself in this situation, it may be time for you to consider holding an intervention. During this meeting, you and a group of loved will gather to address the addict in a non-confrontational way. Many people choose to have a professional intervention counselor present to facilitate the meeting. Remember too that if you don’t act, they may end up dealing with a legal intervention. Often, addicts will drive or commit illegal acts because they have lost all sense and control. They may be charged, fined, and given a sentence of going to rehab or alternatively, to jail. Isn’t it better if you intervene with love and honesty?

In an intervention, the group will discuss how the addict’s condition is impacting their life. Each member of the group will share how they feel about the situation. The goal is for the group to convince the addict to seek treatment.

Prescription Drug Addiction is a Curable Disease

If you’re struggling with a drug abuse habit, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Millions of people just like you have battled against a drug problem and won. Northpoint Recovery wants to join you in your fight. We’ve been lucky enough to witness hundreds of our patients come in with a severe addiction and leave as happier, healthier individuals.

It’s crucial, though, that you seek treatment before the problem progresses. By getting into detox as soon as possible, you can stop harming your body and start getting the drugs out of your system. You may have a long, intense road ahead of you, but we want to be there to help you along the way.

Addiction specialist, Dr. Gabor Mate says it well. He speaks about addiction in a different way believing that it all derives from emotional pain.

“Not all traumatized people become addicted, but all addicted people, including those addiction to opioids, were traumatized in some way. That is the reality of our culture, where addiction, like trauma, is so commonplace that most people also don’t recognize its presence. Yet it surrounds us, engulfs so many of us, that our near-exclusive focus on the troubles of drug addiction is itself but another escape from reality.”

It’s important to talk about this because it does present the issue of getting help for addiction. We’re not just talking detox either. The rehabilitation program with all the therapy is essential so the addict has a chance to deal with the pain that exists. Whether you agree with Dr. Gabor Mate or not, it has been shown that there is a 60% greater success rate of recovery if you do attend a rehabilitation program. If you want to know what your options are as an addict or for helping an addict, please call us at Northpoint Recovery. We can answer any questions you have about addiction and the process of recovery.

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