Prescription drug addiction is now the leading source of addiction in Scottsdale and throughout the United States. If you’re addicted to prescription drugs, it’s easy to lull yourself into a false sense of complacency and security. After all, if a doctor prescribes the drug, how bad can it really be? Prescription drugs require a prescription precisely because they are potentially dangerous, so if you’re struggling with an addiction, it’s time to stop telling yourself prescription drugs are any safer than street drugs.
Prescription Drug Addiction: The Basics
Prescription drug addiction is now a national epidemic, with 15 million people addicted to prescription drugs in any given year. These drugs are now the leading cause of drug-related death, with opioids, prescription sleep aids, and anti-anxiety medications leading the pack.
Most users become addicted to prescription drugs in one of two ways. Some users borrow or buy a friend’s prescription either to get high or to self-medicate physical or mental health symptoms. This use of drugs without the assistance of a doctor makes addiction infinitely more likely. Other users get their prescription drugs from a doctor. In some cases, the addiction accidentally develops over time, as a user with a valid medical prescription becomes chemically dependent on prescription drugs. In others, prescription drug users begin taking more of the drug than necessary, and may doctor-shop or fake symptoms to get more of the drug.
In either case, the result is the same. Prescription drug abuse is a verified medical condition that fundamentally alters brain and body chemistry. Once you become chemically dependent on these drugs, stopping on your own becomes nearly impossible and potentially dangerous.
How Prescription Drugs Affect the Body
There are hundreds of potentially addictive prescription drugs, and each affects the body in different ways. Generally speaking, prescription drugs can be divvied up into five classes. Narcotics induce feelings of sleepiness and a foggy mind. Opioids slow down activity in your central nervous system and yield feelings of euphoria, while depressants and sleep aids slow down brain activity. Stimulants speed up activity in your brain, leading to feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and hyperactivity.
If you use these drugs at high doses for extended periods of time, you expose yourself to a number of dangerous and potentially deadly side effects. The most common result of long-term use is addiction, but addiction carries with it a number of other risks, including:
- Brain damage and mental illness
- Memory problems
- Infections and the transmission of communicable illnesses such as HIV/AIDS
- Sudden death
- Organ failure
- Cardiovascular health problems
- Relationship problems
- Incarceration, lawsuits, and other legal problems
- Financial difficulties
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Premature death
Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drug addiction causes dramatic changes in your brain and body. The hallmark of addiction is chemical dependency. If you experience anxiety, depression, shaking, headaches, cold sweats, nightmares, or similar symptoms when you try to quit or go too long without using, you are an addict. Other symptoms of addiction include:
- Being arrested due to prescription drug use.
- Doctor shopping or lying about your symptoms to get more drugs.
- Using prescription drugs without a valid medical prescription.
- Experiencing health problems due to prescription drug use.
- Lying to yourself or to loved ones about your drug use.
- Spending all or most of your time high.
- Structuring your day according to when you will next be able to use prescription drugs.
- Treating others poorly when you are high.
- Not remembering what happened when you were high.
- Endangering people you love while high.
- Driving, operating heavy machinery, or supervising children while you are high.
- Prioritizing drug use above all other pursuits.
- “Needing” prescription drugs to feel normal.
- Being unable to enjoy life when you’re not high.
Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
If you want to maximize your chances of getting sober, then prescription drug rehab is your best bet. Rehab offers you a break from the stresses of everyday life by removing you from your usual environment and offering you a safe, supportive, drug and alcohol-free place to focus on getting clean. If you’re not ready to commit to rehab, though, you can also pursue the services offered in rehab on your own. Those include:
- Group support programs that offer you the chance to benefit from the hard-won wisdom of other recovering addicts. 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are the world’s most popular and successful recovery programs. Meetings are free and available at virtually every time of day, and you’ll have the chance to select a sponsor if you’d like to cultivate a relationship with someone further along in their recovery.
- Therapy can help you identify the root causes of your addiction, gain a better understanding of how addiction affects your life, and implement specific strategies for coping with cravings and withdrawal. If you suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, therapy can teach you the skills you need to manage both disorders.
- Medical care is a must for addicts. Your doctor can help prepare you for the challenges of detox and offer you medical support to ensure you don’t develop life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may also be able to prescribe medications to reduce the severity of detox. A physician is the only person who can prescribe medications for mental and physical health conditions, and your doctor is also a key resource for selecting less addictive options for treating each of your health conditions.