It’s common knowledge that addiction can devastate lives. But when people get addicted to prescription drugs, it can be really hard to understand what’s happening and even harder to seek help. Your mum may be like millions of people, who first took the pills for a legitimate reason. Her GP may have prescribed opioids, benzodiazepines or antidepressants, for example – for the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, depression or insomnia. She may have been prescribed medication in hospital after a serious operation or procedure.
This is why it can be very confusing and frightening if addiction takes hold – especially if your mum wasn’t ever warned about the risks of getting addicted to prescription drugs. Many people aren’t given clear information about the strength and addictive nature of medications they’re prescribed. Not everyone gets addicted to prescription drugs, but there is a very real risk of addiction and withdrawal symptoms for a significant proportion of people – especially those on long-term prescriptions.
It’s also increasingly common for people to obtain prescription drugs illegally from black market suppliers. There are added risks for your mum if she’s doing this – including no guarantees of what’s actually in the drugs she’s taking.
Signs that Your Mum is Addicted to Prescription Drugs
Getting addicted to prescription drugs can take weeks, months or years. Every person is different but there are some common signs of addiction in most cases.
1. The original prescription drug doesn’t work like it used to
As dependence develops, your mum’s level of tolerance to prescription drugs will change. This means she’ll take more prescription drugs and/or feel stronger cravings to use more, to get the same effect as when she first started.
Long-term opioid use, for example, has been shown to be ineffective for managing chronic physical pain. Where once your mum felt pain relief from opioids, now her pain seems to be worse than ever. Mistakenly, she believes that increasing the dose will solve her problem. It may help her temporarily but the pain always comes back.
Your mum may experience withdrawal symptoms too, such as mood swings, flu-like symptoms, confusion, sweating or shaking. She might put these symptoms down to her pre-existing health condition, rather than associate them with addiction.
Medically-assisted detox and rehab will help your mum to understand the symptoms that result directly from her addiction to prescription drugs, rather than any other health condition.
2. Your mum has changed her dose of prescription drugs without consulting a doctor
Self-medicating is very common when people get addicted to prescription drugs. Your mum may be trying to hide this from her family but you suspect this is going on. She may have increased the dose of an existing medication without going to the GP. She may be stockpiling tablets, so she doesn’t run out. She could be purchasing additional medications over the counter, from an online doctor or on the black market.
If your mum is doing this now, one of the first priorities for her is to detoxify safely and undergo rehabilitation. Addiction Helper can advise on prescription drug detox and rehab treatment in the UK and abroad.
3. Your mum is more unavailable or unpredictable
If your mother is addicted to prescription drugs, more of her time will be spent thinking about, buying and taking medications. She will also suffer greater side effects from taking strong drugs like codeine, tramadol, diazepam or others. She may not understand any of this as addiction – she may sincerely believe that she must get hold of and take prescription drugs, just to be able to function.
As a result, she is likely to become more up and down in her moods. She is less available to spend time with you or distant when you meet up. It will be harder to have a conversation with her in person or on the phone. She’s often distracted or short with you. She may cancel get-togethers at the last minute too. If you live with your mum, you’ve probably noticed that she’s often ill or very tired.
4. Your mum does not like being challenged about prescription drugs
This is common with all active addictions – questions from family or friends, specifically about the addictive substance or associated behaviours, feel threatening or upsetting. Your mum may change the subject or avoid answering your questions.
This may be because she’s aware that she’s taking more prescription drugs than before. On the other hand, she may be unaware of how much she relies on medication. Either way, direct questions about how much and why she uses prescription drugs are often difficult for your mum to answer – or her responses seem inconsistent with what you’ve observed.
An addiction intervention can really help in this situation. This is where a qualified addictions professional meets with your mum and one or two family members, to help break through the denial and explain treatment options.
Please speak to an addiction treatment advisor at Addiction Helper today about prescription drug addiction. All calls and messages we receive are treated in confidence. We carry out assessments over the phone, so we can advise you on the most appropriate and affordable addiction treatment.