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From Prescription to Addiction: What You Need to Know

Prescription medications have helped many of us - they provide relief from pain, anxiety, and various mental health disorders to name a few. And let’s be honest: prescription medications are part of modern healthcare. But it is key to remember that just because a doctor has prescribed a medication doesn’t mean it can’t be misused.
Prescription medication

Prescription medication addiction has a way of sneaking up on you, especially when medications are taken for prolonged periods of time. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to medications that influence the brain’s reward system. These medications trigger a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, leading to a “high” that many people chase.

Over time, this can lead to dependency – it is as if you can’t survive without it. In the end, you need a higher dose to achieve the same effect. When this happens you have developed a high level of tolerance for these types of medications.

Types of Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs like sleeping pills, tranquillisers, painkillers, and antidepressants are frequently prescribed for temporary relief from physical or mental discomfort.

These medications contain active ingredients that lower the activity in the brain and central nervous system, essentially making one less prone to external stimuli. However, prolonged use of these drugs may result in dependency issues.

Let’s look at examples of some of the most commonly misused prescription drugs.

Opioids: These are primarily prescribed for pain relief but are also known for their euphoric effects. Common opioids include Oxycodone (OxyContin) and Codeine, which are also used in some cough syrups.

CNS Depressants: This category includes benzodiazepines like Alprazolam (Xanax) and Diazepam (Valium), prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. These drugs reduce brain activity, inducing a calming effect.

Stimulants: Drugs like Amphetamine (Adderall) and Methylphenidate (Ritalin) are prescribed for ADHD.

Understanding the Signs and Risks of Prescription Medication Addiction

Symptoms of misuse can vary but generally include changes in mood, sleep patterns, energy levels, and physical health. Understanding these substances and their potential for misuse and dependence is crucial for preventing prescription drug addiction.

Opioids

Common signs of opioid misuse can include euphoria, lethargy, drowsiness, and confusion, among other symptoms such as dizziness, vision changes, headaches, and more severe effects like seizures and breathing difficulties.

Discontinuing opioids after addiction can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as drug cravings, agitation, runny nose, sleep disturbances, and more.

CNS Depressants

Symptoms of misuse can range from drowsiness and irritability to confusion, memory issues, sleep disturbances, and more severe effects like loss of coordination and slurred speech.

Many people experience various withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, panic, and physical symptoms, such as excessive sweating and nausea.

Stimulants

Signs of stimulant misuse include euphoria, aggressiveness, paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, and more.

Stopping the use of stimulants can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and extreme fatigue.

Recognising the Signs of Prescription Medication Addiction

Prescription medication addiction is a serious condition that can profoundly affect your health, relationships, and overall quality of life. Knowing when and how to seek help is crucial for recovery. Let’s look at some key signs that you or someone you know may be suffering from a prescription medication addiction.

Addiction can manifest through various behavioural, physical, and psychological signs:

Behavioural Signs:

Increased usage: Taking the medication in larger amounts or for longer than prescribed.

Doctor shopping: Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions.

Neglecting responsibilities: At work, school, or home due to drug use.

Social withdrawal: Isolating from family and friends and withdrawing from social activities.

Defensive about usage: Being secretive or defensive about the drug use when confronted.

Physical Signs:

Tolerance: Needing more of the medication to achieve the same effect.

Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing physical symptoms like shaking, nausea, sweating, or agitation when not using the drug.

Changes in physical appearance: Noticeable weight loss or gain, poor personal hygiene, or other unexplained changes.

Psychological Signs:

Preoccupation with the drug: Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of the drug.

Mood swings: Rapid and extreme changes in mood.

Cognitive impairment: Difficulty in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.

When to Seek Help for Prescription Medication Addiction

It’s time to seek help when the use of prescription medications negatively affects your health, social life, and responsibilities. If any of the following occur, it’s advisable to consult a professional:

·         Inability to stop using the medication despite wanting to quit.

·         Continuing to use the medication despite knowing it’s causing problems.

·         Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit.

·         Hearing concerns from others about your usage.

Steps to Seek Help

Consult a Healthcare Provider: This is often the first step in seeking help. A doctor can provide a safe plan to taper off the drug dependence and may refer you to specialised addiction services.

Addiction Treatment Programmes: These may include inpatient and outpatient recovery programmes that offer therapy, support groups, and sometimes medication-assisted treatment to help manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.

Support Groups: Groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Pills Anonymous (PA) offer a community of individuals who share their experiences and support each other in recovery.

Counselling and Therapy: Behavioural therapies can be crucial in treating prescription drug addiction. Therapies like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) help modify the patient’s drug-use behaviours and effectively manage triggers and stress.

Family and Friends Support: Support from loved ones is vital. They can offer encouragement and understanding which can significantly impact recovery.

Our Approach

At Connection Mental Healthcare, we are dedicated to providing quality care. We deliver effective, personalised care to each patient by employing a distinctive approach and adhering to the highest standards of excellence. This commitment ensures that every patient receives the specialist attention necessary for enduring positive outcomes.

Our method for addressing addiction extends beyond merely overcoming the habit. We focus on comprehensive rehabilitation, identifying and tackling the underlying issues that contribute to addiction and any related conditions. This holistic strategy allows individuals to achieve sustainable recovery from their battles with substance abuse.

Conclusion

While prescription medications are powerful tools for managing health conditions, their potential for misuse requires vigilance and understanding. Recognising the signs of misuse, understanding the risks involved, and taking preventive measures can help maintain the benefits of these medications without falling into dependency.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug use, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. Early action can prevent the severe consequences of addiction and lead to a safer, healthier life.

Overcoming addiction is challenging, but at Connection Mental Healthcare, we believe everyone deserves a chance at lasting recovery. Our team of specialists provides highly effective treatments and a customised aftercare plan that has assisted numerous individuals on their path to a better quality of life. Contact us now and start your journey to recovery.

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