People who abuse prescription drugs—that is, taking them in a manner or a dose other than prescribed or taking medications prescribed for another person—risk addiction and other serious health effects. Such drugs include opioid pain relievers, stimulants used to treat ADHD, and benzodiazepines to treat anxiety or sleep disorders. Indeed, in 2010, an estimated 2.4 million people 12 or older met the criteria for abuse of or dependence on prescription drugs, the second most common illicit drug use after marijuana. To minimize these risks, a physician (or another prescribing health provider) should screen patients for prior or current substance abuse problems, assess their family history of substance abuse or addiction before prescribing a psychoactive medication, and monitor patients prescribed such drugs.
Also ; Psychotherapeutic medication can be one of the most effective ways to treat the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Some of the drugs used to relieve anxiety, panic attacks, behavioral disorders, and other conditions can cause physical or psychological dependence. But if you take the medication as part of a professional treatment program, the chances of becoming addicted are minimal compared to the potential benefits.
It's natural to be concerned about any psychiatric medication's side effects, including its addictive potential. But these concerns shouldn't stop you from exploring the possibility of pharmacological therapy as part of your treatment plan. If you are already taking a psychotherapeutic medication, talk with your therapist or doctor about your concerns. Never stop taking a medication or reduce the dose without talking to your doctor first.
How Do I Know if I'm Addicted to My Medications
Not all psychiatric drugs are addictive; in fact, most medications used to treat mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or psychotic conditions do not have high abuse potential. If you take a psychotherapeutic drug for a certain period, you may experience unpleasant or dangerous side effects if you stop taking the medication suddenly. Over time, you may need higher doses of the drug to manage your symptoms. However, this does not necessarily mean that you're “addicted.”
Addiction is characterized by a compulsive, obsessive need to seek and use a drug, even though it's hurting you or your loved ones. Indiana University identifies the following behaviors as hallmarks of addiction:
-Increased usage. As dependency develops, it is not uncommon for individuals to begin taking more prescription painkillers over time as they grow tolerant to the effects of their prescribed medications. If you are someone you know is increasing their dosage, this is a red flag for possible medication addiction.
-Social withdrawal. Individuals dependent on prescription painkillers or who abuse these medications are more likely to withdraw from friends, family, and other social interactions. Individuals may be inexplicably absent from experiences and events that once brought fulfillment and happiness to the individuals in the past.
-Change in personality. Individuals abusing prescription painkillers will also undergo a profound change in nature. “Normal behavior” is replaced with a single-minded focus on obtaining and using prescription painkillers. This can lead to erratic and irrational behavior, shifts in energy and concentration, unexplained mood swings, depression and anxiety, and anger outbursts.
-Change in daily habits and appearance. Individuals dependent on prescription painkillers spend less time grooming or caring for their physical appearance; in fact, personal hygiene may fall apart entirely. Changes in sleeping and eating habits are common. Individuals dependent on prescription painkillers are likely to have a constant runny nose and cough, as well as red, glazed eyes.
-Blackouts and forgetfulness. Forgetting about important events, such as a birthday or family gathering, as well as forgetting about day-to-day commitments, like office meetings or picking the kids up from school, are common. The individual may also forget details about events that recently took place and suffer from blackouts.
-Increased sensitivity. Prescription drug abuse intensifies an individual's reaction to everyday sights and sounds. Ordinary visual and auditory experiences can be overstimulating and intense. Depending on the number of prescription drugs being abuse, hallucinations may also occur.
-Defensiveness. Individuals who abuse prescription drugs may become defensive and angry when others question their drug use. These individuals may lash out if they feel like their secret is being discovered – even if they are asked a simple, straightforward question.
-Constantly making excuses. Individuals who abuse prescription painkillers are constantly making excuses to justify their behavior. They may ask you or another loved one to make up excuses to their boss regarding poor work performance.
-Frequent doctor visits. Individuals who abuse prescription painkillers may obtain their prescriptions by visiting multiple doctors to get multiple medications – and then go to different pharmacies to have these prescriptions filled.
-An insistence that it is possible to “stop” at any time. Individuals who abuse prescription drugs typically insist that they can stop using drugs at any time. In reality, they may have tried to quit but could not do so.
If you have a history of substance abuse, you may be justifiably concerned about whether a new psychiatric medication will trigger addictive behaviors. When you seek treatment at a facility specializing in Dual Diagnosis rehab, your therapists will be able to help you select drugs that will allow you to recover safely.
Which Medications Are Addictive?
Some of the medications used to treat psychiatric disorders have a high abuse potential and should be used cautiously to avoid chemical dependence and addiction. These medications include tranquilizing medications in the benzodiazepine family (lorazepam/Ativan, alprazolam/Xanax, clonazepam/Klonopin, diazepam/Valium), which are sometimes prescribed to relieve the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder.
When benzodiazepines are taken for short periods or used strictly on an as-needed basis according to a doctor's orders, they can be a practical part of your treatment program. However, when you take more than the recommended dose or take these drugs too often, you can become addicted to your medication. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that for people with a history of substance abuse, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, anti-hypertensive drugs, and neuroleptic drugs may be safer alternatives benzodiazepines.
Amphetamine-based drugs used to treat ADHD have the potential to be abused. When used appropriately, medications like Ritalin and Adderall can focus on people with this behavioral disorder. But according to The Clinical Advisor, these medications are often misused recreationally for their stimulatory effects.
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This produces a euphoric effect. They're often prescribed for pain. Signs and symptoms of opioid misuse may include:
• Changes In a vision
• changes in behavior etc
Oxycodone is commonly sold under the brand name OxyContin. It's also sold in combination with acetaminophen as Percocet. It changes how your central nervous system (CNS) responds to pain.
Like heroin, it creates a euphoric, sedative effect. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 58.8 million prescriptions for oxycodone were dispensed in the United States in 2013.
Codeine is typically prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain. It's also combined with other medications to treat cold and flu symptoms. For example, it's commonly found in prescription-strength cough syrup.
When consumed in high quantities, codeine-based cough syrup has a soothing effect. It can also cause altered levels of consciousness. It provides the base for an illicit drug concoction known as “purple drank,” “sizzurp,” or “lean.” This concoction also contains soda and sometimes candy.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It's prescribed for acute and chronic pain, typically in people with cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Trusted Source says it's 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It creates feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Fentanyl is also illegally manufactured and sold as an illicit recreational drug. It's mixed with heroin, cocaine, or both in many cases. In October 2017, the CDC sources reported that fentanyl is involved in over half of opioid-related overdose deaths across ten states.
In addition to the common signs and symptoms associated with opioid misuse, fentanyl misuse may also lead to hallucinations and bad dreams.
Meperidine is a synthetic opioid. It's often sold under the brand name Demerol. It's typically used to treat moderate to severe pain. Like other opioids, it produces feelings of euphoria.
According to the CDC Sources
2,666 Americans died in 2011 from drug poisoning that involved opioid painkillers other than methadone, such as meperidine or fentanyl.
If you're addicted to opioids, you'll likely develop withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
• drug cravings
• Agitation and irritation
• Trouble sleeping
• digestive problems
What if I'm Already Addicted?
Prescription drug addiction can negatively affect your health. It can also put you at risk of a fatal overdose. Drug addiction can also set a strain on your finances and relationships.
Addiction itself is a chronic condition that requires intensive professional treatment. If you have a psychiatric disorder combined with substance abuse — or a Dual Diagnosis — you need support from professionals who can help you recover from both conditions.
Possible Steps To Take:
• Look for credible information about prescription drug addiction. Learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options.
• Tell your loved one that you're concerned about their drug use. Let them know that you want to help them find professional support.
• Encourage your loved one to make an appointment with their doctor, a mental health specialist, or an addiction treatment center.
• Consider joining a support group for friends and family members of people with drug addictions. Your fellow group members can offer social support as you strive to cope with your loved one's addiction.
Meanwhile, at the Foundations Recovery Network, we offer integrated treatment for individuals with a Dual Diagnosis at our exclusive rehab facilities in Tennessee and California. We understand your concerns about addiction, and we're uniquely equipped to help you develop a safe, effective treatment plan. Call us to start the process of recovery today.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.