Over the course of the past several decades, national rates of prescription drug abuse and addiction have skyrocketed exponentially. It was recently reported that 34 percent of American adults are currently taking at least one prescription medication on a daily basis. Nearly 12 percent are taking three or more medications on a daily basis. Instant gratification is a big part of mainstream society. When we aren’t feeling well we want a remedy, and we want it to be effective immediately. If we’re having trouble sleeping we are prescribed a sleep medication, if we’re suffering from high stress levels we’re prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, if we are feeling down we’re prescribed an antidepressant. While it is true that many Americans struggle with legitimate mental health conditions that require medication, many physicians hand out prescriptions like lollipops with little exploration of personal history or alternative treatment methods. In the early 1990s, prescription painkillers were being prescribed at extremely high rates. These specific drugs are extremely habit-forming, and they ultimately led to an ongoing, nationwide heroin epidemic.
Currently, narcotic painkillers lead to three out of every four prescription drug overdoses, and cause upwards of 15,500 deaths on a yearly basis. However, prescription painkillers aren’t the only medications that are frequently abused. Other commonly abused prescription drugs include:
- Prescription stimulants
Prescription stimulants can be broken down into two categories: methylphenidate drugs and amphetamines. Some examples of methylphenidates are Ritalin and Concerta, and some examples of amphetamines are Adderall and Dexedrine. These drugs are commonly used by students to increase alertness and capacity to study for long hours – however, they are highly addictive and can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences. Those that abuse prescription stimulants often lose weight and struggle with sleep-related issues.
- Prescription depressants
Prescription depressants can be broken up into three main categories: sleep medications, barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Some commonly abused sleep medications include Ambien and Lunesta. These medications are typically consumed orally and cause extreme fatigue and disorientation. Barbiturates include medications like Nembutal and Amytal, and can either be swallowed or taken intravenously. Benzodiazepines are the most frequently abused sleep medications, and this specific category includes drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Librium.
- Opioid narcotic prescription medications
There are five main categories of opioid prescription medications: methadone, fentanyl, morphine, codeine and other opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. While most prescription painkillers are taken orally, those who develop severe dependencies may switch to intravenous use in order to feel the effects more quickly. These are the most commonly abused prescription drugs, and are responsible for thousands of overdose-related deaths annually.
- Other prescription medications
While not as common, some will abuse dextromethorphan – the active ingredient found in cough syrup. Abusing dextromethorphan is more common amongst youth because it is found in household products, and because it is otherwise affordable.
Prescription Drug Addiction
The abuse of prescription narcotic opioids, stimulants and depressants is a major and far-reaching problem throughout the entirety of the country. Prescription drug abuse is common amongst men and women of all ages and demographics, and in 2017 it was reported that over 18 million Americans over the age of 12 had abused a prescription at least once in their lives. Keep in mind that this is just the number of those who reported their misuse – the actual scope of the problem is far greater. During the same year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that an average of 5,480 Americans abused prescription painkillers for the first time every single day. This comes out to 2 million citizens over the course of the year. Painkillers weren’t the only drugs being abused by the million – 1.5 million Americans abused prescription tranquilizers, 1 million abused prescription stimulants and 271,000 abused prescription sedatives for the first time. Clearly this is a major problem – a problem that is further compounded when we consider the fact that many of these medications act as “gateway drugs” to more addictive illicit substances.
The reasons behind prescription drug addiction vary, but over-prescribing is a common factor. This is especially true when it comes to opioid painkillers. Doctors will typically prescribe highly habit-forming painkillers to treat short-term issues, like post-surgical pain or sports injuries. While these drugs are essentially harmless when taken as prescribed, even those without a personal history of drug addiction or any genetic predisposition are liable to begin abusing the drugs within a short matter of time. Tolerance tends to build very quickly in the case of prescription opioids, which adds to their propensity for abuse. There are also very high rates of comorbid disorders among those who develop prescription drug addictions. In many cases, individuals who begin misusing their medications will suffer from underlying, untreated mental health disorders.
Prescription Drug Withdrawal
The symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal will vary depending on what kind of drug is being abused. For example, the symptoms of Xanax withdrawal are very different from the symptoms of Adderall withdrawal. Despite their categorical differences, symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal are rarely life-threatening when treated in a professional medical facility.
- Painkiller withdrawal
Those who have been abusing painkillers like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone will begin feeling the symptoms of withdrawal within several hours of the last use. Many equate these symptoms to those of a bad flu, and while they are not life-threatening (unless complications occur) they are extremely uncomfortable. Intense psychological cravings are a major symptom of painkiller withdrawal, and cravings lead many men and women back to using before the detox process is over. At Princeton Detox we are dedicated to making the withdrawal process as comfortable as possible and eliminating cravings to the best of our ability.
- Prescription tranquilizer withdrawal
Withdrawing from tranquilizers like barbiturates and benzodiazepines can be dangerous when the process is not overseen by a team of medical professionals. Those who have been abusing barbiturates should never attempt to withdraw without 24-hour medical supervision, because symptoms can include seizures and – in some instances – coma. Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms typically consist of severe body aches, muscle pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and an inability to sleep. We work around the clock to ensure that symptoms of prescription tranquilizer withdrawal are never life-threatening and that patients remain physically stable.
- Prescription stimulant withdrawal
Prescription stimulant withdrawal causes more psychological symptoms than physical symptoms, though the physical detox can be harshly uncomfortable when not properly treated. Those who have been abusing drugs like Ritalin or Adderall will face withdrawal symptoms like depression, extreme fatigue and insomnia. Anxiety is also a common withdrawal symptom. We have licensed psychiatrists on staff who can help to alleviate the psychological symptoms while our compassionate doctors and nurses work to keep residents physically stabilized and prepared for the next phase of treatment.
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Prescription Drug Detox Services
At Princeton Detox & Recovery Center we offer a wide range of services to help those who are new to sobriety get started on the right foot – and stay on the right path. While detox is a necessary first step in the lifelong journey of addiction recovery, we don’t stop our treatment program once a resident has been deemed fit for inpatient treatment. We offer ongoing case management services and comprehensive aftercare planning. Upon admission, each patient will be assigned a personal case manager who will develop a unique and effective treatment plan. Case management services will not stop once a patient has transferred into inpatient treatment – we offer ongoing support, encouragement and advice every step of the way. It is our goal to ensure that your first detox experience is also your last, and that you go on to live the fulfilling, drug-free life that you deserve. For more information on our comprehensive treatment plan and detox program call us today.