Prescription drug addiction is a real problem and I believe it has gotten a bit more insidious as the years have passed. Perhaps this is due to the introduction of more powerful prescription medications, or perhaps it has to do with the growing drug problem in general. At any rate, it is a problem…and for some people, it is their biggest problem.
Prescriptions are the new gateway drug
A huge survey that was done last year among kids aged 12 to 17 shows that prescription drugs have overtaken marijuana as the new gateway drug of choice among today’s youth.
This is really alarming. Just think, more of these teens are experimenting with prescription medications than with marijuana and alcohol. This is a real reversal of trends; it was not like this in the past. These are some pretty frightening prescription drug addiction statistics. Where do you think they are getting these pills? From their parents house, of course. The scary thing is that after they run out of a high powered opiate prescription (such as Oxycontin or Vicodin for example), they will sometimes turn to the streets and seek an alternate source for it. And guess what they are usually introduced to at that point?
Heroin. This is because in many places, heroin is both cheaper and easier to get consistently. So kids are introduced to heroin that never would have normally been a candidate for heroin addiction, simply because they experimented with prescription painkillers.
It can sneak up on those in recovery
Photo by Emuishere Peliculas
Not only are prescription drugs becoming a huge problem for our youth today, but painkillers can also become a potential problem for alcoholics in recovery who are not even suspecting a problem with them. I have personally seen this happen in others around me — people with several years sober in AA who have gone into rehab because they got hooked on painkillers after suffering an injury of some sort. That is a prime example of someone who was caught off guard in the program simple due to a lack of knowledge.
And here is the knowledge that is so critical: if you are addicted to a drug, or if you are addicted to alcohol, then you are potentially addicted to all mood and mind altering substances. This includes alcohol, marijuana, opiates (heroin and painkillers), cocaine, benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Librium, etc.) and so on.
In other words, professionals in the substance abuse field would recommend that a recovering alcoholic or drug addict:
– Not use opiate painkillers to manage pain. There are other ways to treat most any pain rather than doping the brain with opiates. In fact, opiates do not actually reduce pain; they merely mask it. Other non-addictive medications such as NSAIDS like Ibuprofen actually reduce the pain right at the source.
– Not use Benzodiazepines such as Valium to treat anxiety. There are other, newer medications that are not addictive that can treat anxiety.
So every recovering alcoholic and drug addict should be aware of these types of medications that are addictive and can potentially send them back to their drug of choice if they end up taking them.
Knowledge + Holistic recovery = Helps avoid problems with prescription drugs
If you are living healthy and eating well and exercising in recovery, they you are less likely to run into problems with prescription drugs. If you tend to get sick all the time and suffer from various ailments and make excuses as to why you feel terrible all the time, then you’re more likely to have problems with prescription medication.
This is part of what makes the holistic approach to recovery so important. If you’re mindful of your physical health and practice good nutrition and exercise, then you’re overall less likely to end up being prescribed something that is potentially dangerous for you.
I’m not saying that you should avoid pills. What I’m saying is that you need to combine knowledge of potentially addictive medications (listed above) with a holistic approach to recovery that focuses on your overall health and well-being as a core component.
That is the approach that can protect you the most in your recovery. Focus on good health in all that you do and be aware of the potential drugs that could trip you up if you’re not careful.
Prescription drug addiction symptoms
If you suspect that your family or friends are struggling with pills, then you should watch out for the signs of prescription drug addiction. Perhaps they are hooked on pain pills, or maybe a sleeping pill addiction such as Ambien addiction. It could be anything really. You should watch for some of the following signs:
1) Fatigued, drowsy at strange times during the day, mood swings.
2) Being obsessed with doctor visits, getting meds filled, or seeking out more medication.
3) Hiding or stashing medicine.
4) Faking or exaggerating illness or injury in order to get more pills.
5) Going to multiple doctors or emergency rooms in order to get more medicine.
6) Buying prescription drugs from other people or off the street.
And so on. Notice that the signs that you can actually observe are mostly behavioral in nature. Watch for actions (or lack of actions).
Prescription drug addiction treatment
If someone is caught up in prescription drug abuse, then eventually they will probably need treatment in order to get help. The best bet is to check into a drug rehab that has a detox unit, as this will allow them to be physically detoxified under safe conditions. Following this, they may go to residential treatment and learn more about how to actually live in recovery without self medicating with pills.
Presrcription drug abuse rehab is just like rehab for street drugs, and the treatment strategies are identical. Many addicts get caught up in the idea that prescription pill addiction places them somehow higher on the food chain than those who are alcoholic or use street drugs. Guess what? It’s pretty much all the same, and addiction takes us all to the same place, isolates us, and slowly destroys our lives. Doesn’t matter if it is Heroin or Oxycontin. If you are hooked you are hooked. Many people have justified their pill use and ended up overdosing and dying, all the while they had their nose turned up at someone who shot heroin on the streets, but was humble enough to ask for help. Don’t end up like this just because you are hooked on a legal drug that your doctor prescribes for you. It can kill you all the same.
Talking with your doctor about prescription drug addiction
The most critical thing for recovering addicts and alcoholics is that you get honest with your doctor and let them know that you are in recovery and do not want to be prescribed any addictive medications. Period.
Now here is the tricky part that requires some vigilance on your part. Some doctors will actually ignore this request, and insist that even though you are an addict or alcoholic, that you need addictive medications. This is almost NEVER true and if you have a doctor who insists upon this then you should think about seeking a second opinion.
I work for a doctor who specializes in addiction and I have learned from him over the years that there is almost always an alternative.
Prescription drug addiction is a potentially huge threat to anyone in recovery and you need to stay vigilant in order to remain clean and sober in the long run. Everyone gets sick or injured eventually, so educate yourself about what medicines have the potential to trip you up in your recovery.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility to know. Don’t rely on health professionals alone to protect your sobriety….