Prescription drug addiction has increased massively in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Agency reported in 2017 that more people had misused controlled prescription drugs than having used cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined. That statistic puts prescription drugs right behind marijuana, when it comes to illegal drug use. For this reason, more prescription drugs addiction treatment programs are becoming available to those in need.
People now obtain prescriptions from their doctors for many different health problems, like anxiety, insomnia, or chronic pain, that were not treated as commonly with prescription drugs in the past. This reality, in itself, is not necessarily a problem, but it does mean that many new medications are in homes or schools and available to be misused. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, benzodiazepines (depressants), sleeping pills, and stimulants.
As with marijuana (in Washington and selected other states where it is legalized), prescription drugs can often be obtained legally, and this ease of access can encourage people to assume that taking them is harmless. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Prescription drugs can be highly addictive and very difficult to stop taking on your own.
Prescription drug addiction can include taking pills that are prescribed to you, if you take them in a way that is not consistent with the directions your healthcare provider gives you, or if you have tried to stop taking them but cannot. It can also include taking prescription medication that is prescribed to someone else or buying prescription drugs from someone who is not a doctor or pharmacist.
Signs of Misuse and Addiction to Prescription Drugs
Ask yourself the following questions as you think about your prescription drug use.
- If you’re not able to take your prescription on time, or when you’re trying to decrease or stop using it, do you feel anxious, agitated, or physically ill?
- Have you taken pills prescribed to you more frequently than prescribed, or used them in other ways that did not follow the label directions?
- Have you ever been in legal trouble, or trouble at your job, related to your use of prescription drugs?
- Have you ever taken prescription pills that were prescribed to someone else?
- Have you misled or lied to a medical provider to obtain a prescription? Did you go to a different doctor so you could get another prescription?
- Are friends or family expressing concern about your use of prescription drugs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is an indication you are starting to experience negative effects and make unhealthy choices about your use of prescription drugs.
Xanax and Benzodiazepines (Benzos)
Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and other benzodiazepines are all prescription drugs that are central nervous system depressants. They slow brain activity, which means they are often prescribed to treat anxiety or sleep problems. If benzos are taken in combination with alcohol, the alcohol further slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, which can lead to death.
Withdrawing from Xanax, Valium, or other benzodiazepines can be difficult, causing physical symptoms like irritability, dizziness, sweating, restlessness and difficulty concentrating. Withdrawal can also cause a sharp rebound in the symptoms the medication was originally taken to treat, symptoms like anxiety or insomnia.
If you started using prescription drugs for a mental health concern, like anxiety or panic attacks, and are now experiencing problems with the prescription drug, you are not alone. It is extremely common for mental health issues and substance use disorders to go together. Read more about co-occurring disorders.
Ambien and Sleeping Pills (Hypnotics)
Prescription sleeping pills like Lunesta, Sonata, or Ambien are called hypnotics, because they are designed to promote or extend sleep. People take them to help with insomnia, but taking them over long periods of time can have serious health effects, like mental and behavioral problems and memory loss, and can easily lead to addiction.
As with benzodiazepines, prescription sleeping pills are extremely dangerous when taken in combination with alcohol. Together, they slow a person’s breathing and heart rate, and can lead to death. It is easy to overdose on prescription sleeping pills.
Adderall and Stimulants
Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are prescribed to treat ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy, but they have become popular as street drugs. They increase alertness, attention, energy, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate, and this feeling of alertness and energy can feel like a very positive high. Prescription stimulants are often used off-label as “smart drugs,” taken by students who use them to stay awake, so they can stay up all night and study for school.
Adderall is an amphetamine and, like other amphetamines (such as meth), it is very easy to build a physical tolerance to it. This means that, as time goes by, a greater and greater amount of the substance is needed for a person to feel the same effects. Prescription stimulants are highly physically addictive, and withdrawal symptoms can include heart problems, psychosis, anger, depression, fatigue, and paranoia.
Because of their prescription use for ADHD, Adderall and other stimulants are part of the landscape of co-occurring disorders, where mental illnesses and substance use disorders occur together.
Seeking Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
There are some painful and confusing realities of prescription drug addiction. Many find the possibility of withdrawal, cravings, and other signs of dependence as a reason to avoid treatment. However, our team is ready to help you through prescription drugs addiction treatment.
Addiction is a complex topic, and many people need to take prescription drugs a part of their life to manage ongoing health concerns. But if you feel that using a prescription drug is interfering with your life, now may be the right time to consider treatment and to contact Spokane Falls Recovery Center. Call now at 844.962.2775 to begin prescription drugs addiction treatment.