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How Can Responsible Use of Medication Descend into Addiction?

How Can Responsible Use of Medication Descend into Addiction?

Many people who are addicted to prescription medications did not start taking a drug to abuse it

Becoming an addict is not a choice. The many misconceptions and stigmas about addiction have made it difficult for people to recognize the danger of addiction, even if they are simply following a prescription for a medical condition.

In fact, many people who are addicted to prescription medications did not start taking a drug to abuse it; instead their intentions of proper use slipped slowly into addiction. Since this descent is a real danger for anyone under such medical treatment, understand how this process occurs and how can you prevent it. Most importantly, learn how can you reverse the process to be healthy and free from addiction once again.

Prescriptions that Become Addictions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found out that, in the US in 2013, over half of the deaths by overdose were related to prescription medications. This statistic is significant, because, in 2012, prescription medication abuse was the leading cause of death by injury.

However, not all of these numbers represent people who were addicted to pharmaceutical substances; in fact, many of these people were using a drug for therapeutic purposes. Still, a number of people who are at risk of overdose were in this group at one time, but they developed addictions without even realizing it. It is important to understand how and why addiction forms.

In a series of notes published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), medical professionals explain how people who use opioids like Vicodin can fall into addiction, particularly when using them in ways other than prescribed. By acting in specific brain systems, these drugs can be habit-forming, meaning they can cause addiction. And, as explained in the same publication, this issue is a concern, because over one hundred million (100,000,000) people in the country suffer from chronic pain and are eligible to use opiates as treatment.

Opiate addiction develops in the brain. Psychoactive medications act directly in the central nervous system, particularly in brain regions related to pain, wellbeing and pleasure. These drugs are designed only to reduce the perception of pain and to create a light sense of wellbeing; however, when the pills are snorted, injected or used in any way other than directed, then the chances of dependence or death by overdose increase dramatically.

Even people who use medications responsibly must be on the lookout for signs of tolerance or dependence. As defined by the NIDA, tolerance develops after repeated substance abuse to the point where the body is desensitized to small dosages, meaning it needs higher doses to feel the same effects as before. Tolerance does not mean addiction, but it can be a sign that someone is becoming addicted to drugs like opioids. All needs from tolerance need to be discussed with the prescribing doctor to assess the risks of continued use.

On the other hand, dependence means that a person needs her drug of choice to function correctly. This symptom usually appears after creating high levels of tolerance, and it is a sign that the brain has adapted to having the drug in the system. When dependent users stop taking their drugs, they will trigger withdrawal symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center also notes that certain people are more likely to abuse drugs or become dependent upon them due to their background or certain personal characteristics and issues. According to the same study, the following symptoms are related to drug dependence:

  • No control over the drug use
  • Feeling a need for daily or regular intake of the drug
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Performance decrease in school or work
  • Hiding the drug abuse through secretive behavior

It is important to note here that, as in the case of tolerance, dependence does not mean addiction. A person becomes addicted when, after developing dependence and most likely high levels of tolerance, he begins suffering from physical, psychological, emotional and social problems, but ignores these problems in lieu of abusing the drug. In the case of opiate addiction, addicts might resort to activities such as “doctor shopping” (seeing more than one physician to obtain more prescriptions) or even obtaining the drugs through illegal means.

Whatever your case might be with a prescription substance, seek the assistance of your doctor whenever you think your medication use might be descending into addiction. Prompt action and even a slight change in medication could be all that you need to avoid further addiction issues.

Help Knowing if You or Someone Close to You Is an Addict

Don’t hesitate to call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline, because one of our admissions coordinators will give you the assistance you need in complete confidence. Feel free to ask about intervention services, detox programs, family counseling, using insurance to pay for rehab and more. One call could be all it takes to get onto the path of addiction recovery.

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