From therapeutic treatment to full-blown addiction: The perils of prescription drug abuse

Many of us associate the word addiction with alcohol or illicit drug use, but a number of addictions start in the doctor’s office. Medications used to treat anxiety and ADHD or potent painkillers such as Vicodin or Percocet have therapeutic effects when used as directed, but they’re frequently abused and/or mixed together with other substances to produce feelings of euphoria – with debilitating and sometimes irreversible effects.

The most commonly abused types of drugs include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and stimulants[1]. Tragically, addiction to prescription drugs frequently has both short- and long-term effects on the user’s health, ultimately damaging vital organs:

  • Acetaminophen taken in high doses can lead to liver failure
  • Extended prescription painkiller abuse can lead to irreversible kidney damage
  • Opioids can cause brain damage and breathing difficulties and increase the risk of contracting pneumonia
  • Some painkillers impact digestion, resulting in constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, chronic pain, and a condition known as narcotic bowel disorder

Perhaps one of the more troubling aspects of prescription drug addiction is that it can be notoriously difficult to identify. The dad who has a big project due at work may start taking more Adderall to focus and get through the day, the mom recovering from injuries due to a car accident may find herself taking bigger doses of Percocet to relieve the chronic pain, the high-school senior with the torn ACL may also be fighting depression at missing out on the final season of varsity football, so he takes an extra oxycodone here and there.

However, there are identifiable signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse. According to The Mayo Clinic, these include[2]:

For opioids – constipation, nausea, euphoria, slowed breathing rate, drowsiness, confusion, poor coordination, increased dose required for pain relief, and worsening or increased sensitivity to pain with higher doses

For sedatives and anti-anxiety medications – drowsiness, confusion, unsteady walking, slurred speech, poor concentration, dizziness, memory problems, slowed breathing

For stimulants – increased alertness, feeling high, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, high body temperature, reduced appetite, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, paranoia

As with many instances of addiction, early intervention is critical to help someone break the cycle and work toward lasting recovery. If you or someone know is struggling with a possible addiction to prescription drugs, please reach out as soon as you can. Email jordan@choicehouse.com or call 720-577-4422 for guidance from our admissions director.

 

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20376813

[2] Ibid.

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