Hooked on Prescription Pills

How it happens…

I’m going through a really tough time.” “My doctor prescribed these for my [headache /nerves /sleeplessness /pain /anxiety].” “They just help me feel normal.”

Many are helped by the responsible use of prescription drugs when under the care of a physician. The problem begins with self-medication and abuse which, in turn, leads to full blown addiction, usually before a “problem” is even recognized. Three types of the drugs 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; and
  • Stimulants, which are prescribed to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Prescription drug abuse is addictive. Treat-ment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than 300 percent between 1995 and 2005.

The abuse of certain prescription drugs-opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants- can alter the brain’s activity and lead to addiction. While we do not yet understand all of the reasons for the increasing abuse of prescription drugs, we do know that accessibility is likely a contributing factor. In addition to the increasing number of medicines being prescribed for a variety of health problems, some medications can be obtained easily from online pharmacies.

The risks for addiction to prescription drugs increase when the drugs are used in ways other than for those prescribed.

Who does it affect?

The non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs is a serious and growing public health problem in this country. The elderly are among those most vulnerable to prescription drug abuse or misuse because they are prescribed more medications than their younger counterparts. Most people take prescription medications responsibly; however, 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.

Persons 65 years of age and above comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for approximately one-third of all medications prescribed in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, which could lead to unintentional misuse.

Every day 2,500 youth aged 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs. Among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice. Today’s teens are abusing prescription drugs more than any illicit drug except marijuana.

When parents in your community think about keeping their teens safe from drugs, they don’t usually think of drugs that could be found IN their homes. Teens, who typically get prescription drugs from relatives or friends, overwhelmingly report that they didn’t think these drugs were as dangerous as illicit drugs so they felt safe, trying them. Because these drugs are so readily available, and many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, teens that wouldn’t otherwise touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs.

According to a 2007 survey conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse occurs in more than 15 percent of U.S. high school seniors. The types of drugs most popular for prescription drug abuse are codeine-based painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin).

What are the dangers?

There are serious health risks related to the abuse of prescription drugs. A single large dose of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers or depressants can cause breathing difficulty that can lead to death. Stimulant abuse can lead to hostility or paranoia, or the potential for heart system failure or fatal seizures. Even in small doses, depressants and painkillers have subtle effects on motor skills, judgment, and ability to learn.

Because the medications associated with prescription drug abuse activate the brain’s reward center, it’s easy to become addicted to them. Addicts continue to use their drug of choice even when this use makes their lives worse — just like nicotine addicts continue smoking cigarettes even when it harms their health and they want to quit.

The elderly also are at risk for prescription drug abuse, in which they intentionally take medications that are not medically necessary. In addition to prescription medications, a large percentage of older adults also use OTC medicines and dietary supplements. Because of their high rates of co morbid illnesses, changes in drug metabolism with age, and the potential for drug interactions, prescription and OTC drug abuse and misuse can have more adverse health consequences among the elderly than are likely to be seen in a younger population. Elderly persons who take benzodiazepines are at increased risk for cognitive impairment associated with benzodiazepine use, leading to possible falls (causing hip and thigh fractures), as well as vehicle accidents. However, cognitive impairment may be reversible once the drug is discontinued. Medications intended for use by elders can also be a source for the young. Addiction to prescription drugs spans all age, race, economic, social and religious boundaries. Anyone can fall prey!

What we can do…

Years of research have shown us that addiction to any drug (illicit or prescribed) is a brain disease that, like other chronic diseases, can be treated effectively. No single type of treatment is appropriate for all individuals addicted to prescription drugs. Treatment must take into account the type of drug used and the needs of the individual. Successful treatment may need to incorporate several components, including detoxification, counseling, and in some cases, the use of pharmacological therapies. Many normal-acting people may only take a minimum dose but can be just as addicted as heavy users, finding it nearly impossible to stop on their own. Withdrawals should be medically supervised because sudden withdrawals can cause seizures or even death, regardless of dosage size.

Once out of physical danger, a program of recovery must be established to prevent a return to active addiction. Twelve step programs, such as AA, NA, and CA offer free help and support for those seeking recovery. Friends and family members often find help in Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Co-Anon for the pain they have endured through watching a loved one struggle and can gain valuable insight to the disease of addiction.

Overcomers Outreach meetings offer support to both the addicted and their loved ones through the love and power of Jesus Christ.  Together, we discover the wisdom and practical application of God’s word to our daily lives using the twelve steps of recovery. We encourage attendance at other groups as well for additional help and the support of others who have “been there”.

Freedom from the bondage of chemical dependency is possible. But the first step is yours. If you even think you or someone close to you might have a problem, ASK FOR HELP! You don’t have to live like that anymore!

“In this world you will have trouble.

But take heart!

I have OVERCOME the world!”

John 16:33

HELP FOR THE INDIVIDUAL:

Narcotics Anonymous (818)773-9999

Cocaine Anonymous (800)347-8998

Alcoholics Anonymous (212)870-3400

HELP FOR THE FAMILY:

Al-Anon (888)425-2666

Co-Anon (800)898-9985

Nar-Anon (800)477-6291

HELP FOR BOTH:

OVERCOMERS OUTREACH

12828 Acheson Dr.

Whittier, CA  90601

1-800-310-3001

www.overcomersoutreach.org

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