Everything You Need to Know About: Prescription Drug Recovery
Prescription drugs are everywhere. It seems as if almost everyone you know takes something for anxiety, chronic pain, or a host of other conditions. Unfortunately, many people become addicted to those prescriptions.
Often times, excessive use of prescription drugs isn't thought of as addiction because the medication is prescribed by doctors. The truth is, taking the medicine without following the prescription orders is abuse. Recovery is possible at 12 Keys. Our counselors can help you reclaim your life and free you from the addiction of prescription medications.
Recognizing the Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drug addiction presents some of the same signs and symptoms of a street drug addiction. Sometimes the signs are more subtle, or at least it’s easier to fool yourself into thinking you don’t have a problem. See if you recognize some of your own symptoms in the following list.
Symptoms of a prescription drug addiction:
- Taking more of a prescription than your doctor has instructed
- Going to different doctors or “doctor shopping” to find someone willing to prescribe for you
- Lying to your doctor about your symptoms so you can keep refilling your prescriptions
- Sharing prescriptions with friends
- Stealing prescription medicines from family or friends
- Paying with cash for prescriptions at the pharmacy so that your insurance company doesn’t know how much you’re actually taking (and your doctor doesn’t, either)
- Going to different pharmacies to hide how much you’re taking
- Stashing “extra” prescriptions around the house or hiding them to have extras “just in case” you need them
- Taking increasing amounts or more frequent doses of a medicine because it’s wearing off too quickly
- Experimenting with mixing medicines to feel the same high or rush
- Lying about your prescription medicines to family, friends, and healthcare professionals
- Being unable to relax or sleep if you’re out of your prescription
- Being unable to stop taking it without experiencing unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, or extreme cravings
- Trying street drugs to get a better high because your prescription medications no longer work
- Stealing money or other items to sell to pay for your drug habit
Notice your reactions if your doctor, pharmacist, family or friends ask about your prescription drug use. If you find yourself becoming defensive or angry when you respond, it may be time to seek help for prescription drug abuse.
What to Expect in Prescription Drug Rehab at 12 Keys
Prescription drug rehab starts at home. You have to admit you have a problem. Whether you’ve finally realized that your prescription drug habit has gotten out of hand or something else has prompted you to look into rehab, you need to take that first step and admit that you have a problem.
Once you call a rehab facility such as 12 Keys, the admissions counselor will ask you questions about your drug use. He or she may ask you about other medicines you’re taking, about any over-the-counter or prescription drugs you use, or about your alcohol use. Answer as honestly as you can, so the rehab center can help you receive the treatment you need.
Before going into rehab, you may need to discuss your need for time off from work with your supervisor. We’ll help you arrange your travel to and from 12 Keys. Once you arrive, you’ll meet with an admissions counselor who will help you get settled. You’ll also meet with our doctor, who will give you a physical examination and ask more questions about your health and prescription drug abuse, so your detox period is carefully planned.
During detox, we’ll make you as comfortable as possible. If medicines are needed to help you stay healthy, we’ll make sure you get them. We know what detox is like. We’ve been there. Most of our staff have also recovered from drugs or alcohol abuse. There’s no shame and no blame. It’s all about getting you healthy again.
After completing detox, you’ll begin a program of therapy at 12 Keys that addresses a lot of the underlying problems that prompted you to turn to prescription drugs in the first place. Drug abuse is a physical, mental, psychological and spiritual problem. Our response helps you heal all of these areas and build a good foundation from which you can continue your recovery after you leave 12 Keys.
Each day you’ll participate in individual therapy, group therapy, and 12 step work. The 12-Step program, based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, is an important component of recovery work. We’ll help you get started in 12-step work, find a sponsor, and learn how to work the steps.
Recovery isn’t all about work, though. It’s about reclaiming your life. With that in mind, we include plenty of outdoor activities so you’re not cooped up all day. 12 Keys is comfortable and homey — we’re in Florida, after all. There’s sunshine, beaches, sand and scenery to see. We include group activities like horseback riding, swimming, kayaking and fishing to help you learn new skills, build teamwork and trust, and enjoy some exercise.
Rehab at 12 Keys also includes time for rest and reflection. Rehab and recovery from prescription drug abuse takes time. We’ll help you make a good start at recovery, but what you do after you leave us is what counts. We’ll make sure you leave with an action plan that will help you stay sober. And, of course, we want you to keep in touch with us! We care about everyone we’ve worked with over the years, and are always here if you need us again.
Prescription Drug Rehab: Withdrawal
Being addicted to prescription drugs is the same as being addicted to any substance. You need treatment to help you safely stop taking prescription drugs. A prescription drug rehab or prescription drug treatment center will help you safely stop taking drugs and learn the tools and skills you need to stay sober and drug-free.
Prescription drug rehab starts with detox. The process of detox means weaning your body from the substances you’ve been taking. As they leave your body, you may experience some physical side effects.
All drugs produce some changes in your body. These changes typically affect your brain chemistry. They change the quantity and effect of neurotransmitters, flooding some into your system and blocking others. They may also affect your blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and nervous system.
Physical withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Opiate withdrawal: You may experience nausea, chills and shaking. Diarrhea and vomiting are also common. You may have trouble sleeping and experience muscle cramps. When you withdraw from opiates in the safety of a rehab facility, healthcare professionals can monitor your vital signs and give you special medicines to counteract any dangerous side effects of withdrawal.
- Benzodiazepine withdrawal: Benzodiazepine (benzo) withdrawal can produce serious side effects. These include severe panic attacks, shaking and muscle tremors, hallucinations, headaches, heart palpitations, irritability, insomnia, vomiting and nausea. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on how much you’ve been taking and for how long.
- Central nervous system (CNS) drug withdrawal: In addition to benzodiazepines, other CNS drugs such as sleep medicines and anti-anxiety medications can also cause withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be very serious and are similar to those from alcohol withdrawal. Fluctuations in heart rate and body temperature and even comas have resulted from abrupt CNS drug withdrawal. When you’re in rehab, you can be monitored and treated for any serious side effects of withdrawal.
- Stimulant withdrawal: Stimulant drugs also cause withdrawal symptoms. You may experience anxiety, lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, irritability, sweating, tremors, muscle pain and depression. Some people experience suicidal thoughts. This is another reason why it’s important to be in a safe, supportive place like rehab during withdrawal.
In addition to physical withdrawal symptoms, people who are addicted to prescription drugs may experience psychological withdrawal. Because you began abusing prescription drugs for a reason that you haven’t yet explored or a problem you haven’t resolved, the underlying issue is still there. You may still feel anxious, worried, depressed or bored. Dealing with these feelings and the void left by quitting an addiction is part of what you’ll learn in rehab.
Some People Are at Greater Risk of Addiction
Everyone is at risk of an addiction, but some people are actually at a higher risk than others, such as:
- People with a relative or family member who has an addiction disorder: Addiction has a genetic component, and it may run in families. Having a relative who has an addiction makes it more likely that you can become addicted to substances, including prescription medicines.
- Alcohol abuse: Alcohol abuse often goes together with prescription drug addiction. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, making it easier to take higher amounts of prescription drugs. It can also predispose your brain and nervous system to responding differently to drugs.
- Mental illness: People who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses often receive prescriptions to help them cope with their symptoms. These prescriptions can sometimes be abused.
Before prescribing medications, especially those that are more prone to abuse, doctors should thoroughly assess their patients and their health history. It’s important to talk to your doctor about any problems you’ve had in the past with substance abuse or mental health issues. Your doctor has to assess the risks and the benefits of prescribing a medicine for you, and he or she needs the whole picture in order to help you.
Prescription Drug Abuse: Who Abuses Prescriptions and How Does It Start?
Prescription drug abuse doesn’t discriminate. It affects anyone and everyone. Teenagers are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. Many teens think prescriptions are safer than street drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor and dispensed from pharmacies.
Teenagers taking Ritalin may share prescriptions with friends. It’s common to find teens passing around Ritalin near exam time to help them stay up and cram for important tests. Others simply like to experiment with drugs, and these drugs seem safe. After all, everyone has taken a prescription at one time or another. People don’t always understand that you shouldn’t take anyone else’s prescriptions.
Teens are often prescribed painkillers to treat migraine headaches or to offset pain after an injury or surgery. It used to be a rite of passage to get your wisdom teeth removed as a teenager or young adult, and along with post-surgical instructions, a fistful of prescriptions, including some from your dentist for painkillers.
If your teenager doesn’t have prescription drugs around your home, you may think he’s safe from taking them. Unfortunately, many teens like to share drugs, and some teens raid their parents’ medicine cabinets and share what they find with friends. It’s not uncommon to find kids taking medicines intended for parents or grandparents.
Doctors and dentists once thought that you should take painkillers proactively to manage pain. Taking painkillers before pain starts is a smart idea when your doctor suggests it. After all, he or she has a great deal of experience with patients undergoing similar procedures or surgery. However, people take this advice to the extreme, and they often keep taking pills even after the need for them is gone because they fear being in pain. The resulting prolonged exposure to certain drugs can lead to addiction.
It’s not only teens who become addicted to prescription drugs. Anyone at any age can become addicted. Many people start taking prescriptions to treat medical conditions, only to find that they need more and more of a substance to achieve the same effect. If they don’t understand how to properly take medications, they can become addicted.
Which Prescription Drugs Are Abused?
Drugs that are abused produce a strong, noticeable effect. These drugs may be painkillers, tranquilizers, or medicines prescribed for legitimate medical reasons that also produce highs as a side effect.
Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs include:
- Opioids: Opioids are painkillers. These drugs act on opioid receptors in the body to block pain signals. They also make users sleepy and produce a feeling of well-being. Common prescription opiates include Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet.
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants: CNS depressants include tranquilizers and prescription drugs that help people sleep. Some of these medications are prescribed for anxiety and panic disorder, depression, and even seizure disorders. Benzodiazepines are one type of medication that can be highly addicting.
- Stimulants: Stimulants such as Ritalin, a drug prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder, are frequently abused by teens and others who need to stay awake or who want extra energy. Like cocaine and other stimulating street drugs, they make users feel awake, alert and energetic.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescriptions for both opiates and stimulants have risen dramatically over the period from 1991 to 2010 as measured by retail pharmacies. In the late 20th century, the rules were changed around prescription drugs. Some such as opiates could be refilled more easily or without a doctor’s visit each time a patient required a refill. This led to a significant increase in the number of prescriptions filled.
The DEA also states that with the advent of the internet in 2000, online prescription drug ordering became a growing problem. Users could now find drugs for sale online and order them without seeing their regular doctor.
Can Prescription Drug Abuse Be Prevented?
Parents can take many steps to prevent teens from abusing prescription drugs. Keep track of your medications. Know what’s in your medicine cabinet and how much is left in each prescription. If you keep track of prescription medications, you can quickly spot any that are missing and investigate further.
Prescription medicines should be disposed of properly when you’re finished taking them. Many pharmacies will accept opened bottles of prescription medicine to dispose of properly or provide you with instructions on how to dispose of medication properly.
In some counties and municipalities nationwide, law enforcement officials host a “no questions asked” prescription drop off day. They invite the public to drop off opened prescription medicines at local fire departments or police department offices. This helps keep prescriptions out of the hands of curious kids and teens who may try opened medicines their parents don’t need. It can also help others dispose of medications safely.
Everyone can take steps to avoid prescription drug abuse. Talk to your doctor openly and honestly about your past experiences with drugs and alcohol. Share concerns about your medications, especially if you’re taking too much or finding yourself craving more. Your doctor wants to help you stay healthy, and can help you safely wean yourself from prescription medicines or enter rehab if necessary.
If you find that you can’t quit on your own, it’s time to contact 12 Keys. A prescription drug addiction is as serious as a heroin or cocaine addiction. Don’t let shame keep you from getting help.
Using Prescription Drugs Safely
If you’re still not sure whether or not your prescription drug use is safe or borderline abusive, this list of safety tips provided by the FDA can help you determine whether or not you are using prescription drugs safely:
- Know your prescriptions. Follow the label directions and read the package inserts to understand any potential interactions between medicines or medicines and foods.
- Do not crush pills or use them except as directed. For example, crushing time-released pills can destroy the slow-release effect of the coating and make their activity peak earlier. Some prescription drug abusers crush and snort pills.
- Use the same pharmacy for all of your medications.
- Don’t take more than directed, or take medicines more frequently than as directed.
- Stop taking medicines when your doctor tells you to do so. If you find you can’t stop, seek advice from your doctor.
Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse
The Center for Disease Control recently called the prescription drug addiction problem in the United States an “epidemic.” The statistics regarding prescription drug abuse are frightening. Consider the following:
- Over six million people have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in the past month.
- Today, 2,500 young people age 12 to 17 will take a prescription drug for non-medical reasons.
- Seventeen thousand people will overdose from prescription drugs in one year.
Millions of people nationwide are affected by prescription drug addiction. The United States accounts for 75 percent of the world’s prescription drug use. That’s a lot of pills, and many of us are becoming addicted to them.
As if that’s not bad enough, experts believe that the rise in opiate prescriptions over the past decade or more has fueled the nationwide heroin crisis. Young people who start taking prescription painkillers may turn to heroin to achieve a stronger, more lasting high than prescription pain killers can provide.
Prescription drugs have the potential to help people, but they also have the potential to harm them. It’s too easy to become addicted to prescription drugs. Fortunately, there’s help for prescription drug addiction. The key is to recognize prescription drug addiction symptoms and to get help as soon as possible.