No one “decides” to get addicted to prescription or over the counter medication. Alienating family and friends, failing at work, engaging in small-time criminal activities is not what anyone plans when they swallow their first pill to ease a backache, headache, depression or anxiety.
Many people misuse a prescription drug or over the counter medication, at some time in their life, but the overwhelming majority put the pills away with no lasting harm.
For people with an inherent vulnerability to addiction, taking pain pills can lead to an intoxicating rush that makes the brain want more. Repeating the high reinforces the cycle, and sets the stage for addiction.
More potent than morphine, fentanyl (brand names include Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze) is used most often to treat patients with severe or post-surgical pain. It is also used for those who have become physically tolerant of opiates. It’s available as a lozenge, injectable solution, or skin patch.
Methadone is most often associated with people who are trying to safely quit a heroin addiction. It is, however, used as an opiate pain reliever and it can be misused as well. Brand names include Dolophine and Methadose and it comes in tablet and liquid forms.
Street names include Amidone and Fizzies. When it is used with MDMA, it is known as Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Experts are unsure of the exact number of people addicted to prescription drugs today, but all agree it is on the rise. This is partly due to aggressive marketing and widespread availability. Many more people have access to these medicines today than 15 or 20 years ago.
Responding to requests by patients and pain advocacy groups, doctors may have become more lenient when prescribing drugs. There has been a massive increase in sales of these preparations in the last decade – creating of millions of potential drug stashes in medicine cabinets across the country.
Everyone agrees better pain control for people who need it is a good thing. In the pursuit of more efficient and quicker treatment, more people are being exposed to these drugs than ever before, creating the potential for many more addicts.
Finding and eating food, drinking water, having sex, caring for children: these and other activities necessary to survival cause the reward system to release a tiny dose of dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitter. It feels good, and so we’re likely to repeat that activity later on.
Repeated abuse of prescription or over the counter medication floods the system with dopamine, which contributes to the euphoric rush.
When a person with a predisposition to addiction, uses these drugs repeatedly, it causes the reward system to inappropriately learn that these drugs are as essential to survival as food or water. Experts believe that the receptor cells in the brain actually change.
The reason addiction to prescription drugs may be on the rise is that some people do not actually believe that the drugs they are taking are harmful or addictive. They feel that if a drug has been purchased legally or prescribed by a doctor, then it must be alright. The false belief can allow people to continue with their addiction for years, concealing it from their friends and loved ones. However, the fact of the matter is that becoming addicted to prescription drugs is extremely dangerous. Just as potentially perilous as being hooked to an illegal street drug like heroin. Not that some people even believe they have, or admit to having, a problem, despite the pleas of their families.
“It is just a little pill to help me sleep. I am stressed out. I have a headache”.
Many take prescription drugs for legitimate purposes, be it for pain relief or to help them sleep. But people should be aware that some prescription drugs should only be taken for a short period of time as they can be very addictive. If a person has been taking them for too long, they could show signs of addiction, which differ based on the drugs in question. When under the grip of addiction, a person will go to extreme lengths to get the pills they need, from constantly changing doctors to taking the potentially hazardous step of buying them off the internet.
A person could also endanger their health if combining prescription drugs with other substances such as alcohol. As it heightens the effects and related risks. Moreover, a longstanding use of prescription medication can have a significant adverse effect on a person’s physical and psychological state. Withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, not least if addicted to benzodiazepines and opiate-based painkillers and ultimately your addiction could prove to be life-threatening.