Opioid Painkillers and Other Drugs
The nonmedical use or abuse of prescription drugs is a serious and growing public health problem in the U.S. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 48 million people (ages 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in their lifetimes. This represents approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population. Whereas Americans make up 4.6 percent of the world’s population, they use 80 percent of the global supply of opioids (narcotics) and 99 percent of the global supply of the prescription painkiller, hydrocodone. According to an estimate by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2008, 1.85 million people in the United States were dependent on or abusing prescription opioids. Notably, deaths from prescription drug overdoses have become the second-leading cause of accidental deaths nationwide, behind car accidents, and in some states overdose on prescription drugs has become the number one cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. When used properly under physician guidance, prescription medications such as opioids (narcotics), sedatives, and stimulants can be highly effective for a variety of health conditions. However, prolonged and/or excessive use may lead to addiction, mood disturbances, and even death. The three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly abused are:
- Opioids, which are most often prescribed to treat pain
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
- Stimulants, which are prescribed to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Substance Abuse Treatment for Prescription Opioid Addiction
Opioids (narcotics) are analgesic, or pain-relieving, medications. They include: hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., Percocet, OxyContin), tramadol (Ultram), morphine, fentanyl, codeine, and related medications. Other opioid painkillers include propoxyphene (Darvon); hydromorphone (Dilaudid); and meperidine (Demerol). Taking opioids on a regular or daily basis for a prolonged period of time leads to the development of tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms that appear with abrupt discontinued use. Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements. Opioid withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, but is rarely life-threatening.
Substance Abuse Treatment for Prescription Tranquilizer & Sedative Addiction
Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and clonazepam (Klonopin) are the most widely prescribed sedatives (tranquilizers) used to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, convulsions, and sleep disorders. These medications are usually prescribed only for short-term relief of sleep and anxiety problems to avoid the development of tolerance and physical dependence. Newer sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), and eszopiclone (Lunesta), are now more commonly prescribed to treat sleep disorders. These medications are not technically benzodiazepines, but very similar in their effects, and are associated with a lower risk of abuse and dependence. Abruptly discontinuing regular use of high doses of sedatives can be very dangerous, leading to serious withdrawal symptoms, including seizures and even death. Detoxification from these drugs requires close medical supervision and sometimes hospitalization.
Substance Abuse Treatment for Prescription Stimulant Addiction
Amphetamines are the most common prescription stimulants. These include Adderall, Dexedrine, Concerta, and Ritalin, all of which increase alertness, attention, and energy. Historically, stimulants were prescribed to treat asthma, other respiratory problems, obesity, and a variety of other ailments. As their potential for abuse became more widely recognized, the prescribing of stimulants dropped significantly. Now, stimulants are prescribed for treating only a few health conditions, most notably ADHD, narcolepsy, and, in some instances, depression that has not responded to other treatments. Taking high doses of a stimulant can result in an irregular heartbeat, dangerously high body temperatures, and/or the potential for heart failure or brain seizures, as well as feelings of paranoia and aggressive behavior in some people. Abruptly stopping stimulant drug use does not produce a definitive withdrawal syndrome requiring medical management, but may cause temporary depression, low energy, and sleep disturbances.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction
The most common signs of prescription drug abuse and dependence are similar to other drugs, and may include:
- Escalating and increasingly out of control use
- Intense cravings and urges to use the drug
- Continued drug use despite life-damaging consequences
Additional signs more specific to prescription drug abuse include the following:
- Asking others for their leftover medication supplies
- Taking prescription drugs from family members and/or others
- Using multiple physicians and pharmacies to conceal the amount and frequency of prescription medication use
Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction
At Recovery Options, we provide individualized treatment for all types of prescription drug abuse. Clients addicted to painkillers can be referred to one of our collaborating physicians to be safely and comfortably detoxified on an outpatient basis using Suboxone (buprenorphine) and/or other medications. Patients dependent on prescription stimulant drugs generally do not require medical detoxification and may be ready to participate immediately in group and/or individual therapy.
For Additional Information on Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction