Most people are aware that drugs such as cocaine and heroin are addictive and can cause devastating consequences for those who abuse them. However, what most do not know is that there are many other substances that can also be highly addictive as well, despite being legal. These substances are known as prescription medications, and there is a growing number of individuals in the UK who are finding themselves struggling with crippling addictions to these pills. To understand why drug addiction occurs in people using prescription medication, it is important to look at the reasons these medications are prescribed, and what is actually classed as prescription drug abuse.
What Are Prescription Drugs Used For?
Prescription drugs include medications such as opiates and sedatives and are generally used by doctors to treat conditions that cause severe or chronic pain as well as sleep disorders, anxiety, panic disorders, and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).
These medications can only be prescribed by medical professionals because of the dangers associated with potential abuse. They are designed to be used over a short period as patients can quickly build up a tolerance to them. That being said, some of these pills are often prescribed for long-term use if the benefits are perceived to outweigh the risks.
Unfortunately, many of those prescribed medications such as those mentioned above can go on to develop crippling addictions.
What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Most people are unaware of what constitutes prescription drug abuse. For example, taking prescription medication that was prescribed for another person is common here in the UK. Patients often offer their prescription pills to loved ones if they believe these will help. This can include antibiotics that they did not use, or even strong painkillers that they feel would be beneficial to family members or friends who are suffering.
Doing this is highly dangerous as these medications should only ever be prescribed by those who have spent years studying to be doctors. While a specific medication may be suitable for one person, it might be completely inappropriate for the next because they could be taking other medication that could react, or they might have a specific condition that would cause problems if they were to take a certain drug.
Another type of prescription drug abuse is taking more of the medication than advised by a doctor; this is another common type of abuse that most are oblivious to. Many patients will increase their dosage without first checking with their doctor if it is safe to do so. They may also shorten the intervals between doses and end up taking more of the drug in a specific period than their prescription states.
Why Does Drug Addiction Affect Prescription Medication Users?
Abuse of prescription medication can lead to addiction in many individuals. To understand why drug addiction occurs in people who have never abused illegal drugs, it is important to consider the way in which prescription medication works.
These pills are designed to offer temporary relief for a range of medical conditions. However, while they may provide relief in the early days, patients can quickly build up a tolerance to the pills. This means that their body has adapted to the presence of the drugs and, in response, produces fewer dopamine chemicals, which are those responsible for pleasure and reward signals in the brain.
After a while, the individual may feel that he or she is not getting the same relief from the pills that they once did. Some believe that their pills are not working anymore, with some even convincing themselves that they were given a dud batch. The affected person then might start to increase their dosage to get the desired effects, or may begin to source alternative, more powerful substances in a bid to achieve the feelings they desire.
Before too long, the individual will find that he or she has developed a physical dependence on the drugs. They may start to feel agitated or irritable when getting close to the end of their prescription, and could start to worry that their doctor will not prescribe any more. Some will prepare for this eventuality by visiting other doctors. This practice is known as ‘doctor shopping’ and addicts often do this to get more than one prescription of their medication. They can then take double the dose to get the feelings they want.
If this route is cut off, they may begin sourcing their pills online, which can have devastating consequences. Those who buy prescription drugs online do not know what they are getting and may end up in a situation where they are taking fake pills that have been manufactured using dangerous chemicals. Some have suffered fatal consequences after taking pills bought online. Others will turn to street drugs to feed their habit, ending up with destructive addictions that can only be overcome with professional help.
The Signs to Look Out For
It is very difficult for prescription drug addicts to consider the possibility that they could have an addiction. This is because these individuals associate the illness of addiction with illegal drug takers. They do not believe that a pill prescribed by a doctor could be anything other than safe.
If you believe that your loved one may have developed an addiction to his or her prescription medication, there are several signs to look out for. For starters, he or she may be displaying signs of poor memory or confusion. You might also notice slurred speech and dilated pupils. If he or she is showing these signs and is complaining of headaches or feeling dizzy, you should be on alert.
You may also notice that your loved one is becoming paranoid, aggressive, agitated or excessively tired. In some cases, the individual will be depressed and may even express suicidal thoughts.
The above symptoms are common among addicts, but other signs to look out for include behavioural changes. If you know your loved one has been prescribed medication by a doctor to treat a specific condition, you should start to worry if he or she begins skipping work or neglecting other responsibilities at home. If he/she loses interest in personal hygiene or appearance or has a sudden loss of appetite, you should be on alert.
Getting Help for Addiction
The good news is that there is a lot of help available for those struggling with prescription drug addictions. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, you should do something about it as soon as possible. Addiction is an illness that will not go away if left untreated. In fact, it will progress quickly and the individual can end up on a slippery downward slope to devastation.
For most people, it will be necessary to complete a detox if a physical dependence has occurred. If you have noticed physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, or shaking when in need of a pill, it is likely that you have a physical addiction. In this situation, you will need to detox for a period of up to two weeks while your body flushes all remaining chemicals out.
A detox programme is designed to tackle the physical element of addiction, but on completion, the addict’s work is not done. It is easy to assume that being clean and free of drugs for two weeks means you are better, but this is not the case. The temptation to use mood-altering substances again in the future will still exist unless it is tackled by psychotherapeutic treatments administered by professional counsellors or therapists. This is a process that takes place in a rehab clinic and should always follow a detox programme.
Rehab programmes are either inpatient or outpatient based. The type of treatment that a person chooses should depend on his or her personal situation and their treatment needs. Those with a severe addiction will often be better recovering in an inpatient clinic where they have no access to temptations and where there is nothing to distract them from the task at hand.
On the other hand, there are some individuals who have realised quite early that they are in trouble with prescription drugs and who have not yet developed a physical dependence. These people will usually find that an outpatient programme is sufficient for their needs.
Whatever your requirements in terms of treatment for prescription drug addiction, Oasis Bradford can help. Call us today for information about our excellent clinics and the treatment programmes we provide. We have helped many people to overcome their addictions to a variety of substances, and we want to help you too. If you are calling about yourself or are concerned about a loved one, we want to hear from you.
Our dedicated helpline is staffed by helpful and friendly professionals who can provide you with information and advice or answer any queries you may have about your own addiction or how to help someone with addiction. They can even help explain why drug addiction occurs in people using prescription medication. Call today for more information on how we can help you.