With widespread prescribing of opioids and anti-depressants, it’s never been more important for patients to be informed about the signs of prescription drug addiction.
Alongside routinely prescribed medications, new prescription drugs are approved each year. In March 2019, for example, the US Food & Drug Administration approved a new ketamine-related drug. It’s being hailed by some researchers as a breakthrough medication, intended for patients with treatment-resistant depression. However, how much is really known about the long-term effects?
Medicinal cannabis is increasingly being legalised across the globe. However, many experts are calling for much more research than is currently available.
Typically, patients rely on their prescribers to inform them about side effects – including the risks of prescription drug addiction. Some patients get clear guidance, but others miss out on the information and support they need. In this blog, we’ll cover:
- Why prescription drug addiction gets missed
- 6 common signs of prescription drug addiction
- Where to get help with prescription drug addiction
Please call Addiction Helper 24/7 to discuss treatment for prescription drug addiction.
Prescription Drug Addiction – Why It Gets Missed
Prescription drug addiction can be hard to spot because it often starts as completely legitimate drug use. You might have been prescribed drugs to relieve chronic back pain, treat depression or to help you recover after major surgery. You trust your clinician’s experience, and the initial effects from the drugs are helpful.
GPs are often pressed for time, unable to carry out detailed assessments in appointments. Sometimes, family doctors issue repeat prescriptions without enough scrutiny. Anyone with an internet connection and a phone can now obtain strong prescription drugs online.
Even if prescribers warn patients about the addictive potential of drugs like codeine, benzodiazepines or morphine, often they are not informed upfront about the specific signs of prescription drug addiction. Patients can easily mistake prescription drug addiction, including drug tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, for a return or progression of their original health condition.
People can also appear to function for many years with an addiction to prescription drugs. They raise their kids or go to work. They try to disguise signs of illness by distancing themselves from friends and family. Life gets harder, relationships are frayed; but still, many addicts try to hold their lives together by any means possible including taking more drugs.
Prescription drug use and addiction is also a taboo subject. Although there’s frequent media coverage about record numbers of prescriptions, or higher overdose and death rates, it’s still unusual for people to talk openly to friends about the medication they take. Close family members may know – but even so, there can still be little or no dialogue about how people are feeling, including if they’re struggling to cope.
6 Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
If you recognise these signs of prescription drug addiction, please call Addiction Helper for an assessment and treatment options.
1. You’re on a prescription, but you’re varying the dose
Self-medicating with prescription drugs is a sign of addiction. This includes when you’re taking more of a drug than you’ve been prescribed or when you’re using other medications on top, without talking to your GP or prescriber.
2. You’ve concealed or played down your history of addiction to a prescriber
In an ideal world, all prescribers would ask their patients if they have a history of addiction before they issue potentially addictive medications.
Often that doesn’t happen, however. In hospitals, patients are routinely prescribed strong opioids by doctors, who don’t always know their full medical history.
If you’re an active or recovering addict, it’s a good idea to disclose your history of addiction to prescribers. There may be an alternative non-addictive drug you can take instead for pain relief, mental suffering or managing the symptoms of a physical illness.
3. You’re drinking excessively on top of prescription drugs
You go to the doctor for help with anxiety. You’re prescribed Citalopram or another medication for anxiety disorder. The doctor checks if you’re taking any other , but she doesn’t ask you about alcohol.
You drink every evening to wind down – usually a few bottles of beer, often spirits too. Your symptoms of anxiety are sometimes under control; other times they feel worse than ever.
Drinking alcohol excessively is an addiction in its own right. When combined with prescription drugs, the effects of both the alcohol and the drugs can be altered or heightened.
4. The medicine is no longer effective at treating the original health condition
Prescription drugs such as opioids and benzodiazepines can become addictive if they’re prescribed in the medium to long term. Users can build up a physical tolerance to the drugs, meaning the same quantity feels less effective than it once did.
Withdrawal symptoms set in and become stronger and often people react to them by taking more drugs. The spiral continues into addiction, where no amount of medication is ever enough.
5. You’re using a prescription drug for other than its intended purpose
For example, if you take opiate-based cough medicines infrequently, to treat a cough or cold, then it’s unlikely you’re addicted. However, if you’re drinking that medicine regularly, to escape feelings of loneliness or to deal with insomnia, this can indicate addiction.
Another example is mixing prescription drugs with recreational drugs. Perhaps you take Valium to help you come down, every time you take cocaine or ecstasy. You may have a prescription for Valium – but you’re taking it for a reason other than the prescribed purpose.
6. You use stronger medication than really necessary
Perhaps you suffer from mild headaches or you work in a very physical job that tires your muscles. Do you regularly take co-codamol, even when you know paracetamol or a non-medical remedy will do?
If you look forward to the buzz or sensation you get from prescription drugs, then you may be psychologically dependent on the mind-altering effect.
Prescription Drug Addiction – Where to Get Help
If you’re worried that you or a relative is addicted to prescription drugs, please speak to your prescriber, your GP and/or Addiction Helper.
Addiction is a complex illness, particularly where drugs are being used to treat another health condition. Where there’s a dual diagnosis of mental ill health and prescription drug addiction, specialist treatment is essential.
Please don’t try to self-medicate further. If you’re addicted to prescription drugs, this will only make matters worse. If all you can do is confide in a friend or relative, then please do that today. Ask them to speak to your GP or Addiction Helper on your behalf, if you don’t feel able to make the call yourself.
If you speak to your GP and they don’t seem to understand what’s going on, then you can request to see another GP at the surgery. You can also take along a friend or relative, to help you say what you need to say in the appointment.
If you prefer to seek out confidential private treatment for addiction, then get in touch with Addiction Helper. There are many options available to help you recover in the UK and overseas.