Prescription Drugs

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is when a patient takes a medication in a way that deviates from their doctor’s prescribed use for that drug. Studies estimate that, last year, more than 18 million people ages 12 and older used prescription drugs for reasons other than those directed by their physician. That represents 6% of our population and that is way too high.

Which Prescription Drugs Are Commonly Abused?

There are three classes of prescription drugs that are often abused. These are:

1) Opioids

Since the early 1990s, doctors have been prescribing many more opioid painkillers such as codeine, hydrocodone, morphine (Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, Oramorph SR), and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin). These powerful drugs are prescribed by doctors to relieve pain from surgery and from the chronic pain from other sources that so many people suffer from.

When a doctor’s orders are strictly followed, these drugs are highly effective at managing pain and can improve a patient’s quality of life. However, due to that very pain relief and the euphoric effect that many of these drugs have, It’s possible to become addicted to these drugs even when they are used for a short period of time and under a doctor’s close supervision. Dependence on these drugs is also due to the fact that they are inherently addictive and can dependence, addiction and misuse.

Opioid overdose is another serious risk that can result from the misuse of these substances. Opioid drugs can also be life-threatening if taken with medications and substances that impact the central nervous system like alcohol and barbiturates, or with benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), or diazepam (Valium).

2) Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants.

Millions of people in the U.S. use benzodiazepines (Ativan, Valium, Xanax), which are central nervous system depressants, to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, including insomnia. These drugs affect a chemical in your brain called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which lowers brain activity, and bringing on calming effects and drowsiness.

Barbiturates are also CNS depressants and physicians use them to treat seizures and for anesthetic purposes. Drugs that are barbiturates include amobarbital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), and secobarbital (Seconal).

Patients who take CNS depressants for a short period of time (for several days or a few weeks) may experience beneficial calming and positive sleep effects. However, after a while, many users will need larger doses to get the same effects. Furthermore, using these powerful drugs in conjunction with alcohol can result in a slowed heartbeat, slow breathing, and possibly death.

Also, if you take CNS depressants for a long time and stop suddenly, you might have life-threatening problems such as withdrawal seizures.

3) Stimulants

Drugs that are stimulants are designed to give certain patients an increase in alertness, energy, and focus. Physicians currently prescribe them for a range of conditions including ADD. ADHD,  depression, and narcolepsy.

Some of the more commonly prescribed stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat, ProCentra), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin), and a mix of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall).

Although these drugs do work to improve focus and alertness, they also raise your heart rate and blood pressure and increase blood sugar levels.

It is now the case that stimulant abuse and misuse is rampant in our society. Some users abuse these drugs by using them when they are not prescribed by a physician (taking them from friends or family who are prescribed them) or by taking them in higher doses or by crushing pills and snorting them. As with opioids, users can become addicted to stimulants over time.

Are There Treatments for Prescription Drug Abuse?

The doctors at New Life employ a range of treatments and therapies to help patients wean themselves off the prescription drugs they are misusing and to begin the journey to recovery.

The therapies we employ will be different depending on the specific prescription drugs that are being abused. For some of these powerful drugs, detoxification may be needed, and the withdrawal stage can be dangerous and should be done under the care of Board-Certified physicians like those at New Life.

Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid tapering involves gradually decreasing the level of the drug in a patient’s system until it’s no longer present.

Buprenorphine or buprenorphine combined with naloxone (Suboxone) may be used by New Life’s physicians to assist in opioid detox and withdrawal. The doctors at New Life Medical Addiction Services are Board Certified and are skilled at employing these therapies under legally regulated and monitored conditions to ease symptoms of withdrawal from opioid painkillers.

There are also drugs that can be given by injection once a month that can help people stay off opioids during their recovery. Examples of these include Vivitrol, which is a preparation of the drug naltrexone, or Sublocade, a preparation of the drug buprenorphine.

Withdrawal from Sedatives and Anti-Anxiety Medications

For our patients who are dependent on prescription sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs, the withdrawal and tapering-off period can take several weeks. The withdrawal symptoms associated with going off these can persist for a while. Because of this, the doctors at New Life may prescribe other types of medication to help stabilize our patient’s mood and to moderate the anxiety that comes with detox and withdrawal.

Stimulant Withdrawal

Although there are no FDA-approved drugs used for treating stimulant withdrawal. The staff at New Life is skilled at helping our patients taper off these medications and in relieving withdrawal symptoms.

Along with our Medication Assisted Treatment for prescription drug abuse, New Life also strongly believes that counseling is a key to successful detox, withdrawal and preparation for a life that is free of dependence.

Counseling for Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction

New Life has licensed certified mental health specialists and licensed certified drug and alcohol councilors on staff to provide counseling to our patients who want to escape their prescription drug abuse. Our trained and caring professionals are skilled at helping people better understand the root causes of their addiction and to help them stick with their recovery by changing their attitudes and behaviors towards drug use. We also help our patients by teaching them how to adopt the kind of healthy life skills and approaches that will allow them to embrace a life without the crutch of prescription drugs.

New Life Offers the Following Counseling Services:

  • Individualized counseling, which focus on the life problems and stresses which could have been the trigger for the prescription drug abuse. It can also include setting goals, talking about setbacks, and celebrating the progress a patient has made in the path to recovery.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps our patients recognize the negative patterns of thinking and behavior which lead to their drug dependence and emphasizes the ways a person can change that behavior. It also provides the kind of coping skills that helps our patients manage stress and change the thoughts that cause them to want to misuse prescription drugs.
  • Group counseling, which gives our patients a chance to learn about the difficulties and challenges others are having and how they are dealing with those situations. This can be a powerful reinforcer for a successful recovery
  • Family counseling, which includes partners or spouses and other family members who are close to the patient and who are impacted by the situation. Family counseling can be a critical step in the healing process when bad or disruptive behavior has damaged family relationships.
  • Peer coaching where counselors who have had their own problems with prescription drug addiction can provide insight through their own experiences.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing problems with the abuse of prescription drugs, please contact New Life today. Our caring staff is available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at: 856-942-3700

Prescription Drug Abuse

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