Prescription Drug Use and Addiction differs from other forms of addiction. In many cases prescription drug use will begin with a legal prescription based on a medical need. Prescription drug use becomes prescription drug abuse when the medical need is no longer present and the addict continues to take or require the drug. Painkillers are a common prescription drug that is abused .
How Does Painkiller Abuse Differ From Drug Abuse?
Painkiller abuse differs from drug abuse in that the abuse develops very subtly. Individuals who abuse painkillers do not start out trying to get ‘high,’ they are simply trying to stop the pain. In addition, individuals who become addicted to painkillers would not define themselves as ‘addicts’ because they do not think that they have a problem. The also find safety in the legality or prescription status of thier painkiller.
The problem escalates gradually. An individual with chronic pain starts out by taking their prescription painkiller as prescribed. As the effect of the prescription painkiller medicine starts to fade, the user takes more pills than prescribed. Before they know it, these individuals may start taking their pain medication 5, 6, 7 + times a day. When this method doesn’t work, a person with chronic pain may try a combination of methods to increase the effect including Valium and/or alcohol to increase the effect of the drug. Before they know it, this prescription pain medication abuse has led to a dependency, which can be both physical and psychological.
Before they know it, their life begins to revolve around their medication. Instead of talking to their doctor about the decreased effect of their medication or their sudden increase of dosage, they begin to do what is called ‘physician shopping’ in an effort to obtain their medication. For example, an individual may call their OB-GYN to ask for a prescription by explaining that their regular family physician is out of town or they may schedule an appointment to see a new physician in order to get a prescription for the painkiller medication. They are finding ways to feed thier drug addiction.
‘Doctor shopping’ to obtain more medication can cause significant problems to the individual’s health. The chronic pain sufferer finds that their medications no longer produce the same effect, even when they increase the dosage amount. Soon, they find that their body will start to crave larger doses and the individual may develop a tolerance, which may also lead to physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
A person may also be dependent on painkiller medication if they find themselves taking a prescription medication that had been prescribed to someone else.
Withdrawal symptoms for painkiller abuse may include nausea, vomiting, cramping, insomnia and profound anxiety.
According to a newly released national study, today’s teens are at a very high risk for abusing a prescription painkiller or other prescription medication as a means of getting high. The 17th annual study on teen drug abuse found that in 2004, more teens had abused prescription pain medication such as Vicodin and OxyContin than cocaine, crack, Ecstasy or LSD. The most popular prescription drug abused by teens is Vicodin, with 18% or about 4.3 million youth reporting that they had used it to get high.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to a prescription painkiller, help is available. Prescription painkiller abuse is not something to be ashamed of, it is something that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
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