Getting Hooked on Pills Can Be Life-Threatening

Abusing prescription drugs and getting hooked on them has been a grave concern across the United States that is affecting not only people’s health, but also their social and economic well-being. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 2.1 million Americans, including 54 percent females and about 30 percent adolescents, used prescription drugs nonmedically, for the first time, in a year prior to the survey.

When someone uses prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes, it poses a greater risk of health impairments, apart from causing addiction. Jamie was a young, bright boy who dreamt of a great future. He joined one of the top medical colleges in California to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. But his life took a dramatic twist when he was seized by addiction during his stay in the university.

His money, career, future, loved ones, and above all his sanity were all taken away, leaving him crippled. Doctors prescribed strong opioid painkillers to ease his pain that he frequently experienced during heavy addiction days.

The analgesic effect of the pill not only provided the much-needed relief, but also got him addicted to the high. Soon, Jamie had a box of pills for every possible reason – to remain awake to study, to get sleep, to overcome anxiety, and so on. Though he was aware of addiction, he felt they were safe because of being prescribed by his doctor. But one day, an overdose left him gasping for breath. When he opened his eyes, he found himself in an emergency room.

Prescription drugs that are commonly abused

It has been found that some prescription drugs are abused more commonly than others, probably due to their increased psychoactive properties. Some of these drugs are:

Opioids: They are prescription medicines which act on the opioid receptors in the spinal cord and brain to numb the intensity of pain. Apart from alleviating pain, opioids are also known to activate areas in the brain associated with rewards causing euphoric sensations. Chemically, opioid medications have structures identical to heroin and are often considered as gateway drugs leading to other street drugs. Some examples of prescription opioids are oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine (Avinza), codeine, and fentanyl.

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants: These include prescription medicines like tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics, which can slow down the brain activity, and are used to treat anxiety and depression-related problems. Some examples of CNS depressants are benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), and non-benzodiazepines, such as zolpidem (Ambien), and barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal).

Stimulants: They are a class of prescription drugs used to treat mental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, etc. However, the most predominantly abused prescription stimulants are Adderall and Modafinil.

Preventing prescription drug abuse

Doctors, pharmacists, as well as patients can play an important role in identifying and preventing any unauthorized use of prescription drugs, as well as instances of doctor shopping. Physicians must incorporate more evidence-based screening tools as part of their consultation process. There should be an increased focus on other alternative forms of treatment for the management of pain.

Also, patients must be educated about the dangers of overdose, and the consequences of mixing prescription medicines with other intoxicants. Pharmacists need to be vigilant in recognizing counterfeit prescriptions or any alterations which could lead to abuse.

Elderly Americans Are at High Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse

Exceeding prescribed doses and getting addicted to prescription painkillers to manage pain is a serious worldwide concern that has crippling long-term effects, not only on younger adults but also on the elderly who often remain unnoticed. According to a recent report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people aged 65 years or older in America account for more than one-third of the total spending on prescription medications.

Many physical, psychological and social factors have been identified to cause prescription drug abuse in older adults with some of the most common reasons being serious injuries, chronic pain, inability to sleep, depression due to loss of loved ones or the pain of being separated from family.

According to health care experts, constant thoughts about any prescribed medication and fears of daily life-related activities coming to a standstill in the absence of it is a sure sign of addiction. Additionally, when people get habituated to take medications at different times in higher doses than what is prescribed by their physician, it may result in harmful consequences.

Addiction is not limited to younger generation

Dorothy Hatfield, now 75, resorted to painkillers after a knee replacement surgery. It helped her get relief from the excruciating pain following the surgery. Besides, she was constantly haunted by the woes of loneliness, ever since her husband died 10 years ago. Anxiety and depression gradually crept in adding to her miserable condition and agony.

Thus, to escape from her worries, she found herself on an opioid pill-popping rollercoaster, which took her on doctor shopping spree. Hopping from one doctor to another to obtain valid prescriptions to feed her craving for prescription painkillers, Dorothy was soon caught in the web of prescription drug abuse. She slowly developed a high tolerance to the medicines and needed higher doses each time to achieve the same level of relief. Finally, the pills inflicted significant damage on her physical and mental well-being, which led to a range of severe side effects, including mental disorders such as dementia.

Unfortunately, very few doctors and medical practitioners in America screen patients for addiction, which makes it difficult to detect the problem at an early stage.

Preventing abuse of prescription medications

Both doctors and patients can play a significant role in identifying any unapproved use of prescription medications, as well as preventing doctor shopping. Efforts must be made to incorporate more evidence-based screening tools as part of any consultation process. Moreover, people suffering from painful conditions may be prescribed other alternative forms of treatment, if required.

It is also important to spread awareness about the dangers of overdose and the outcome of mixing prescription medicines with other drugs and alcohol. Senior citizens need to be provided with useful information on nonnarcotic methods of managing pain and help them build healthier relationships and enhance self-esteem. Pharmacists are also required to identify counterfeit prescriptions or any alterations which could lead to abuse or overdose.

Helping seniors quit addiction

Therefore, while it is important to create awareness about diverse risk factors associated with addiction in old age, elderly people should be kept under vigilance in terms of handling prescription drugs. When it comes to older adults, the two major factors responsible for their high vulnerability to prescription drug abuse are: tolerance to prescription medicines and slowing rate of metabolism.

The Benefits of Suboxone Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Suboxone is a type of medication used to treat the symptoms of withdrawal from opioid dependence. Suboxone treatment is typically prescribed as part of a complete rehabilitation regimen that includes psychological counseling. Fewer than 25 percent of patients who are addicted to heroin or another opiate are able to successfully quit “cold turkey.” With the help of this treatment, these patients are able to succeed in abstaining from substance abuse, since the medication works to curb withdrawal side effects and subsequent cravings.

How Does Suboxone Work?
Suboxone is a prescription medicine that combines buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, and naloxone, an opioid blocker. Like an opioid, a partial opioid agonist acts on the brain’s opioid receptors. Unlike these drugs, however, buprenorphine does not result in the euphoric feeling the user associates with a “high.” That allows for the prevention of the physical side effects caused by drug withdrawal without the associated pleasurable feelings caused by the abused substance. Naloxone, on the other hand, produces severe withdrawal symptoms when it is crushed or snorted, so it is combined with buprenorphine to discourage the abuse of this treatment regimen.

How Is Suboxone Treatment Dispensed?
Because this is a long-acting medication, it only needs to be taken once a day, either as a 2 mg or 8 mg tablet or a 2 mg or 8 mg film strip that dissolves under the tongue. The filmstrip also includes a serial number to prevent diversion of the medication. Patients shouldn’t drink, eat, or smoke within 30 minutes of their daily dose since this can prevent absorption of the medication. This treatment is not effective for those who chew or dip tobacco.

What Are the Side Effects of this Medication?
Patients typically experience a sense of calm and relaxation, but it sometimes causes less desirable side effects like constipation, insomnia, irritability, or a feeling of jitters or shakiness. Although the inclusion of naloxone reduces the potential for abuse, this substance can still be addictive if it is used without a doctor’s supervision. Those in this type of treatment will be slowly weaned from the medication after the withdrawal period subsides. Using this drug in the long-term can result in drowsiness, confusion, gastrointestinal issues, confusion, anxiety, isolation, and depression. And like heroin addiction, this can lead to financial strain and problems with work and relationships.

How Does Suboxone Treatment Fit into Recovery?
Recovery is the term for returning to a life free of opioid addiction. While Suboxone treatment is a powerful tool in the treatment of addiction, it is not effective alone. Those attempting to overcome opioid addiction should also consider counseling to understand the psychological and behavioral aspects of addiction. Inpatient or outpatient therapy comes in a variety of forms that can help alleviate the psychological mechanisms that led to addiction and treat any underlying mental health conditions that were either caused by or contributed to the abuse of opioids.