A person may justifiably feel confused as to how they became addicted to a medication that their doctor prescribed to help treat a health issue. However, just because a drug is legally prescribed does not mean that it is free from generating an addiction with the person properly using the medication. Even without a prescription, people still manage to get their hands on various drugs and medications.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 48 million Americans, age 12 and over, have taken a prescription drug without a prescription for a non-medical reason. To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent to 20 percent of Americans.
A lot of factors go into how a person can become addicted to prescription drugs and painkillers. If someone has a member in their family who struggles with any kind of substance use disorder, they may have genetically inherited a heightened risk for addiction. A person’s age may also have something to do with it, since 12 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 25 have taken prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. Some of those reasons include trying to get high off a pain pill or taking a stimulant to focus better while studying. Another determining factor is if a person has any kind of mental illness, like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because prescription medications, like opioid painkillers, attach to parts of the nerves and block the emotional aches which then decreases feelings of worry or sadness. So if a person is prescribed a painkiller for a sprained ankle, they may be tempted to keep taking it after the ankle has healed, just for the relief of emotional pain.
During withdrawal, the body tries to regulate itself back to its original state before it relied on the prescription drugs and painkillers to function. However, withdrawal can be a painful process to go through if it is not done safely and properly. The reason the body reacts so severely during withdrawal is because the chemical processes in the brain were disrupted. Stimulants, opiates and antidepressants interfere with the GABA receptors in your brain. The role of the GABA receptors is to inhibit or reduce the activity of your nerve cells. Therefore, a person who is weaning off of the prescription medication on their own can put themselves in danger if the process is not done with proper medical supervision.
Not every person experiences withdrawal in the same way. The kind of withdrawal symptoms that a person struggles with depend on:
- The length of the addiction. If prescription drugs and painkillers are taken on a daily basis for an extended period of time, this results in a higher tolerance of the drug, which paves the way for more severe withdrawal symptoms.
- The half-life of the drug. If the prescription drug is fast-acting, the person may experience the withdrawal symptoms immediately after the first dose they missed. If it’s a slow-acting, the symptoms may be delayed by a couple of days.
- The prescribed dosage. The higher the dose of the prescription drug, the more likely a person is to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
- Any mental or physical disorders. If a person suffers from a co-occurring disorder, such as depression or anxiety, or a physical condition, such as severe pain, a person’s withdrawal symptoms are likely to be severe as well.
When experiencing withdrawal, thebody goes into shock as it begins to rid itself of the prescription drugs and painkillers that it has become accustomed to. While withdrawal symptoms are usually somewhat similar, there are different symptoms for different kinds of drugs.
Stimulants are prescribed to help patients with sleep disorders, hyperactivity disorders and severe cases of depression. The impact of the drug on the nervous system makes the body release natural chemicals, like dopamine, to make someone more alert. Stimulants are popular among students because they are used as study drugs to enhance academic performance. When a person stops misusing stimulants, they can experience symptoms like:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Intense dreaming
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
- Stomach pains
Typically, opiates are prescribed to treat pain. Opiates have a long history of being used to treat pain, and misused for recreational purposes. Opiates are available in a couple of different forms: one form is as a prescription pharmaceutical, like morphine or codeine, and the other form is asan illegal street drug, like heroin.
When opiates are taken, the drugs enter the brain through the bloodstream, which create false endorphins and dopamines. This means that the drug gives the person the kind of high that creates a rush of happiness and euphoria. On the other hand, opiate withdrawal is far from euphoric. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle aches and spasms
- Abdominal cramping
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Inability to concentrate
Another common prescription drug that can often get misused are antidepressants, which are the most commonly used prescription drug among teenagers.
While antidepressants are usually used to treat medically diagnosed depression, these medications are misused for the feeling of euphoria the can provide. For the most part, antidepressant misuse occurs in teenagers who have a substance use disorder or a mental illness. Much like opiate withdrawal, antidepressant withdrawal comes with a handful of potential side effects. Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal are:
- Mood swings
- Loss of coordination
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle spasms
In order to start the detox process from painkillers and prescription drugs, it’s important to understand how the process works in order to ensure that the road to recovery will be smooth and simple. The Recovery Village helps people who are looking for a solution to their addictions by offering comfortable and cohesive treatment options.
To start the detox process, an evaluation is essential in determining the specific treatment plan for each client. This is a very significant part of the recovery process as it gives the medical professionals at The Recovery Village an idea of what treatment is going to work the best. During this time, the team evaluates symptoms, medical history, and the severity of the addiction to pain pills and prescription drugs. The team will then create a unique and individual treatment plan to make the detox process as effective as possible.
After the evaluation comes the detoxification process itself. The moment a person stops using prescription drugs and pain pills, the detoxification process automatically starts . During this process, the body works to remove the drugs that were consumed. The most effective form of detox is one that is medically supervised and assisted. The Recovery Village has a variety of programs to make detoxification easier:
- Inpatient Rehab: Depending on the severity of the addiction, the treatment team may suggest staying in a 24-hour care facility during the inpatient rehabilitation program. During that time, the client will have the chance to receive one-on-one counseling, group therapy and additional recreational therapy opportunities.
- Outpatient Rehab: Instead of living in a rehabilitation facility, The Recovery Village offers a treatment plan where clients commute daily for treatment during an outpatient rehabilitation program. The treatment team determines how often the client should come in, but they still receive the same therapeutic options as inpatient rehab provides.
- Intensive Outpatient Rehab: In this case, the client may not live in a facility.. With a minimum of nine hours each week, this intensive outpatient rehabilitation program can be split between either a full week or several days throughout the week – whatever is going to fit into the client’s schedule the best. This program can last for as long as it needs to, to ensure maximum impact and convenience.. As the client progresses during the recovery process, their treatment team may feel that the client can receive a less intense level of treatment.
When trying to detox from prescription drugs and painkillers, some people attempt to detox in the comfort of their own home. While detoxing at home is not an ideal undertaking for people looking to defeat a substance use disorder, it can be possible. However, it is important to keep the risks in mind.
Detoxing in a professional rehabilitation facility is more effective for several reasons. A change of environment could be beneficial to recovery because a person is no longer surrounded by the things that influenced the substance misuse. Also, being around medical professionals can significantly increase the chance of a long-lasting recovery.. While an at-home detoxification attempt is possible to succeed, without medical professionals, this can be a dangerous process. Addiction treatment experts agree that the best way to detox from pain pills and prescription drugs is to be supervised by professional addiction treatment service providers.
When individuals with a substance use disorder attempt to detox at home, they typically choose to try and quit “cold turkey.” This means that instead of a gradual weaning off of the drug, the consumption of prescription drugs and pain pills are abruptly stopped completely. This is a very dangerous ways to detox. When a person stops the utilization of the drugs so suddenly, the body can go into shock and experience extremely severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Upset stomach
- Excessive mucus production
- Extreme mood swings
Another detox method that some people try to attempt at home on their own is tapering. A taper is a gradual weaning off of a substance over the course of a period of time. The length of time that a person tapers off of a drug depends on factors like the severity of the addiction and dosage amount. Using the tapering method allows the body to slowly and safely rid itself of the toxins. Detoxing by tapering also limits the amount of withdrawal symptoms that are experienced, as the body has more time to become accustomed to functioning without the substance. The usual approach, when tapering, is to decrease the dosage by one-quarter for each week during the detoxification process.
While tapering is a more effective and safer method than quitting cold turkey, it is still recommended to begin tapering with professional medical support. A great way to do so would be through an inpatient or outpatient program, with The Recovery Village. Seeking out professional medical help at the start of the rehabilitation process is setting a strong foundation for future, long-term recovery.
The Recovery Village has a variety of facilities located across the country for individuals to begin their journey to recovery at. With locations in Florida, Washington, Colorado, Ohio and Maryland, each center is focused on helping clients through the process of beginning a life of sobriety and teaching them the skills they need to remain sober.
If you would like more information about The Recovery Village and all of the ways we can help you or someone you care about achieve a drug-free life, do not hesitate to call. Our associates are ready to answer any questions you may have about entering treatment. Calls are free and confidential. Take the first step to a happy and healthy recovery.
Symptoms & Side Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.