PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADDICTION
There is no argument that prescription drugs have saved countless lives, and bettered most others in some way. Most prescription drugs, while treating the condition for which they are indicated, have some side-effects. Patients and prescribers “tolerate” the side-effects to benefit from the intended action of the medication.
For example, someone with bronchitis may take a penicillin-based antibiotic and become nauseous. But the sufferer continues to take the medication so that the bronchitis will resolve. Other medications may have more serious side-effects, and to be effective, the benefits must outweigh the risks. Certain highly-effective medications to treat various medical and psychiatric disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders, anxiety, pain, malaise, anorexia, and nausea, can create a drug dependence or even a florid addiction. Ironically, many of the prescription drugs that can cause an addiction are also used in the treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism.
Certainly, medical marijuana and Marinol (THC, the active compound in marijuana), have a place in the treatment of certain disorders such as glaucoma, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, pain, and even depression. However, even while effective for some, others become addicted. Marijuana use and addiction is becoming ever more prevalent in adults and teenagers as a greater number of jurisdictions are passing laws to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana. Marijuana is now available in forms such as candy and ice cream, which is attractive young children and teenagers. It is also used in vaporizers, which has led to an increased use by teenagers.
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The same can be said for the stimulants that are used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity, and for anesthesia, among other conditions. Common stimulants that can lead to a prescription drug addiction include Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta, Ritalin, Dexedrine, phentermine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate. Since cocaine is only approved for use in anesthesia, it is not prescribed to outpatients. They are very effective for the treatment of their respective indicated disorders, but also can lead to a severe prescription drug addiction. Since ADHD primarily affects children and teenagers, these drugs are sometimes diverted by parents and other adults. Additionally, stimulant addiction is prevalent in the teenage and college-age population because they are used to maintain alertness while studying.
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Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, Sedatives
Prescription drugs that are part of the benzodiazepine/sedative class include Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Restoril, Luminal, Seconal, tramadol, Fiorinal, and Fioricet. These medications are used in the treatment of anxiety, sleep disorders, pain, seizures and for alcohol and sedative withdrawal. They are very efficacious for the indicated disorders, and when used a prescribed. However, a severe prescription drug addiction can occur in some individuals that includes a severe withdrawal syndrome. Since these medications function much like alcohol, the signs and symptoms of addiction are similar, but the withdrawal syndrome is much more dangerous and prolonged. Medications in this class are often combined with substances from other classes when one becomes addicted to drugs.
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Opiates and Opioids
Opiates and opioids can cause a pain pill addiction or pain killer addiction. This addiction can ultimately lead to a heroin or other street drug addiction. Opiates are used to treat pain and in general anesthesia. They are also used to treat cough and in some other respiratory conditions. There is currently a worldwide opiate addiction crisis, according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2015 there was an average of 94 deaths a day in the U.S. that were attributed to opiate overdose, and this number continues to rise. Common opiates that can cause a prescription drug addiction are morphine, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), oxycodone, and meperidine (Demerol).
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A pain pill addiction can lead to a heroin addiction, which can commence when pain pills are no longer available.
Both are serious and deadly conditions. Efforts are underway for improved prescribing guidelines, increased patient monitoring by the prescriber, and increased controls for the distribution and availability of prescription opiates.
Now more than ever, prescription drugs are being used to treat disease and general discomfort. Because of the vast number of medications that are on the market, it is commonplace for one’s medicine cabinet to have at least a few medications. Most people who take medications that list dependence as a side-effect do not develop a dependence. However, others will go on to develop a profound drug addiction.
Caution should be used when taking an additive medication, especially in those who have previously struggled with a drug addiction or alcoholism. Further, every effort should be taken to safely store all medication, paying special attention to those with severe side-effects, such as addiction. Visitors, children, and other household members should not have access to any of the medications that can cause a prescription drug addiction.
Regardless of how an addiction develops, whether it be from street drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol, the progression and consequences of the disease is the same. Help is available. If you or a loved one is suffering from a prescription drug addiction, NAI can assist you in locating an appropriate drug and alcohol rehab to fit your specific needs.