Arizona Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction
Prescription drugs are some of the most abused substances in the country — in fact, nearly half of all drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved prescription medications . There are many reasons why these drugs are so dangerous, but one of the most critical is that many users don’t fully understand the medications they’re taking, or the risks that accompany them.
It’s important to us at The River Source that we help educate our clients and those closest to them, because recovery begins with identifying the problem. Below, you can find some answers about prescription drug abuse: why it happens, how to recognize it, and what we can do to help.
“Prescription” Doesn’t Mean “Safe”
A common misconception about prescription drug abuse is that if a doctor prescribes a medication, it means that the medication is completely safe. Many of those who become addicted to various substances started using them for valid reasons. But unfortunately, some substances — especially opioids and benzos — are so addictive that users can become physically dependent on them before they’ve realized it.
We don’t recommend that you stop using prescribed medication without consulting your doctor first. That said, we do encourage you to ask yourself some questions as you continue using any drug:
- Do you find yourself getting a decreased effect from your use?
- Do you feel negative effects when not using?
- Are you using the medication more, or differently, than was prescribed?
- Do you really need the medication?
These signs of tolerance and dependence may indicate a developing addiction — and many of these drugs are much harder to quit the longer they’re taken.
Commonly Abused Prescription Medications
Some classes of prescription medications are more likely to cause addiction, dependence, and withdrawal than others. Some of the most widely-abused prescription drugs include:
- Opioids: OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Demerol, Dilaudid, Duragesic, and other prescription opioids are used for severe pain, and despite a push to increase regulation over the ways and frequency by which they’re prescribed, they are still relatively easy to access.
- Benzodiazepines: Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and other prescription benzos are used to treat a range of conditions like anxiety and panic disorders. They’re also commonly abused.
- Stimulants: Amphetamines like Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Vyvanse, and others are used in children and adults to control disorders that affect focus like ADD and ADHD. College students are frequent abusers of this class of controlled substances.
- Medical Marijuana: In Arizona, marijuana can be prescribed for pain and several other conditions, which has contributed to an increase of availability for some people. It’s important that users of medical marijuana understand the risks before they start using it.
Even Over-The-Counter Drugs Can Carry Risk
While not all drugs are physically or chemically addictive, nearly any drug has the potential to be mentally addictive and habit-forming. Some OTC cough medicines can be abused or used in the production of harder drugs, but even sleep aids — such as Ambien — can create issues with dependence if a user can’t sleep without it.
How to Identify Prescription Drug Abuse
Every drug has its own signs of abuse, and we encourage you to read more about them using the links above. That said, some symptoms of prescription drug abuse are common across all these substances:
- Increasing dosage or frequency of use
- Less effects from dosage
- Negative effects while not using
- Inability to function without the substance
- Hiding or lying about use
- Stealing or forging to get more
- Unstable emotions and mental state
- Disorientation: Confusion, drowsiness, nausea
- Sleeping significantly less or more
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
- Riskier behaviors
- Problems at work, school, or with the law
Many people start using either by abusing their own prescription or taking a family member’s prescription. This is especially common with young people or those dealing with chronic stress or career problems. It’s important to pay attention to how medications are being used or shared within the home, and whether or not certain drugs are disappearing.
Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
The long-term effects of prescription drug abuse vary from substance to substance. In addition to the instability described above, most chronic prescription drug abuse presents serious health risks including altering brain functioning, organ damage, heart and lung problems, and — if the substance is smoked — cancer.
Withdrawal can pose its own dangers. Going off of a highly addictive substance can lead to terribly uncomfortable or painful symptoms that cause relapse, where people are more likely to overdose. And some withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, heart issues, breathing problems, and severe dehydration with nausea, can be life-threatening on their own.
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Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment in Arizona
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the risk of prescription drug abuse. They’re doctor-recommended, at least at first. Many assume that they’re safe, even if not taken properly. They can be easy to obtain and inexpensive, depending on the substance and prescription. And they can be highly addictive whether or not a user knows it.
At The River Source, we recognize the invasive ways that prescription drugs can cause addiction and dependence, and we seek to treat the body, mind, and spirit of those suffering from prescription drug addiction. Through evidence-based therapy individualized to each client’s specific case, and holistic therapies focused on improving overall wellness, we seek to give people the tools and strength they need to break free from their addiction and find fulfilling relief through healthier means.