While there are no “easy” drug addiction problems, prescription drug addiction can be one of the most frustrating and upsetting drug addictions to deal with. After all, the individual did not knowingly and intentionally begin to take illegal drug substances that are proven to be dangerous and addictive, they went to a medical professional for help with a health problem and were prescribed a medication. It is hard to believe that a medical professional, dedicated to helping improve the health of others, could ever recommend something that is potentially very dangerous to an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health, but the sad fact is that they do exactly this every time they prescribe medications to their patients.
Understanding Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs are chemical substances that have been designed for use in treating a variety of medical conditions. However, what few people truly understand is that all drugs, even prescription drugs, cannot actually resolve the problems for which they are taken. Whether prescribed for depression, back pain or cancer, prescription drugs are simply not designed to get to the root of these problems and handle them. Instead, these chemical substances simply suppress the undesirable symptoms of these problems, and often also stimulate desirable sensations. By interfering with the normal functions of the body to produce their desired effects, prescription drugs give the individual some measure of temporary relief and the impression that these drugs have helped them in some way, which drives the individual to continue using these substances even when they begin to notice undesirable side effects.
Just like any other drug substance, prescription drugs can eventually become tolerated by the human body. What this means to the individual is that they no longer experience the same desired effects through the same dose of prescription drug use. Medical doctors and pharmacists try to warn the individual against this – urging the individual to contact them if and when this occurs. However, without understanding exactly why it is so important to alert their doctor to the fact of prescription drug tolerance, the individual may decide that it’s inconvenient to do so, and they can solve the problem themselves by taking more of their prescription medication more frequently. In some rare cases, the individual is even driven to switching to more potent drug substances, including illicit drug substances, in an effort to recreate the desired relief they once experienced through prescription drug use. This is especially true if the individual finds that tolerance forces them to realize that not only is the original problem still very much there, but a host of new problems have now joined in as a result of their prescription drug use.
If the individual continues using prescription drug substances for a long period of time, they may come to realize that their body has adapted to the constant presence of these substances and now depends upon them. Drugs will interfere with the normal functions of the body until the body creates a new normal that includes these substances, and the individual will find that they actually “need” these substances just to operate each day. Their prescription drugs may not even fully and effectively suppress the undesirable sensations like they once did, but without them the individual can feel tired, weak and ill, suffering from powerful cravings and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. They will compulsively continue their prescription drug use, despite recognizing the many damaging effects it has had on their health, relationships and life, and they are often quite sure that nothing can be done to resolve it.
How Prescription Drug Use and Addiction Affects the United States
While prescription drugs are used in countries all around the world, no country seems to depend upon them quite as much as the United States. In fact, while the population of the United States only makes up about five percent of the total population of the world, it consumes roughly seventy-five percent of all prescription drugs made in the world. Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that deaths related to prescription drug use outnumber the deaths related to cocaine and heroin use combined.
Not all prescription drug abuse occurs when an individual begins taking their prescription drug as recommended by a medical professional. Some individuals who are curious about drugs or interested in seeing whether drugs can help them may choose to use prescription drugs because they believe these are safer than illicit drugs. In actual fact, many prescription drugs, like opiate painkillers, can but just as dangerous as illicit drug substances. In 2011, more than two hundred thirty-eight million opiate painkiller prescriptions were written, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While this is quite evidently a very high number, consider this: the amount of prescriptions written for opiate painkillers in 2011 was enough to medicate every single American adult six times a day for a full month.
According to another 2011 report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than fifty-two million Americans admitted to the non-medical use of prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime, while more than six million Americans admitted to the non-medical use of prescription drugs at least once in the month prior to the survey. Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that five million Americans admitted to the non-medical use of prescription painkillers, over two million Americans admitted to the non-medical use of prescription tranquilizers, and over one million Americans admitted to the non-medical use of prescription stimulants.
The easy availability of prescription drugs also largely contributes to the problem of prescription drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, .3% of individuals surveyed reported that they had purchased prescription drugs off the internet, 1.9% of individuals surveyed reported that they had obtained prescription drugs by doctor shopping, 3.9% of individuals surveyed reported that they had obtained prescription drugs from a drug dealer or total stranger, 16.6% of individuals surveyed reported that they had obtained prescription drugs from a relative or friend either through purchase or theft, 18.1% of individuals surveyed reported that they had obtained prescription drugs from a single medical professional, 54.2% of individuals surveyed reported that they had obtained prescription drugs for free from a relative or friend and the remaining 2.2% of individuals surveyed reported that they had obtained prescription drugs in some other way not listed.
How to Handle Prescription Drug Addiction
One of the first steps to handling the problem of prescription drug addiction is to work on preventing it in the first place. Individuals should never share their prescription drugs with anyone else, and they should absolutely never accept prescription drugs from another – even a close family member or friend – for any reason. When a medical doctor recommends a prescription drug to an individual, that individual has a right and a responsibility to verify with their doctor whether it is absolutely necessary for them to take this drug and if so, for how long. They should also find out exactly what the risks and side effects are of this drug.
When prescription drug use is absolutely necessary for some reason, the individual should make sure that they stick to the recommended dosing guidelines precisely, and notify their doctor immediately if they experience any undesirable side effects, including tolerance. If the individual no longer needs to take prescription drugs but still has some to hand, they should contact their doctor or local hospital to find out about proper prescription drug disposal, thereby eliminating the chance of prescription drug abuse.
If an individual is suffering from prescription drug addiction problems, they should seek professional rehabilitation treatment services so that they can thoroughly address and resolve all of the physical, mental and emotional causes and effects of their prescription drug addiction problems. It is possible to fully recover from prescription drug addiction and move forward into a healthy, happy and productive future.