WHY PEOPLE IGNORE THE DANGERS of PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

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1 WHY PEOPLE IGNORE THE DANGERS of PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 3 Statistics 4 Why People Get Addicted to Prescription Drugs 6 What are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs? 7 How Do Prescription Drug Users Rationalize Their Use Addiction? 8 When Does Abusing Prescription Drugs Become Illegal? 11 Are Antidepressants Addictive? 16 Sources 18 2

3 INTRODUCTION The abuse of prescription medications is a substantial and increasing problem throughout the country. Prescription drug addiction is in some ways more pervasive than illegal drug abuse because prescribed drugs are legal and fairly easy to obtain from physicians, dentists, psychiatrists and less-thanethical doctors. 3

4 STATISTICS Statistics tied to prescription drug use in the U.S. are alarming: 52 million people over age 12 have taken prescription medication non-medically.(1) U.S. citizens are responsible for consuming 75% of prescription medications produced globally.(4) In 2010, doctors prescribed enough painkillers to medicate the adult population of the U.S. every four hours for one month.(2) Painkillers remain the most abused prescription medication in the U.S. (5 million people), followed by tranquilizers (over 2 million) and stimulants (over one million).(5) 4

5 STATISTICS Over 6 million teenagers and adults have used prescription drugs non-medically in the past 30 days.(3) The CDC reports that 60 percent of drug overdose deaths occurring in 2010 (nearly 22,150) involved prescription medications. The top reason adolescents abuse prescription medications? They are easy to access from their parent s medicine cabinet.(7) Nearly 55 percent of those abusing prescription medications received their drugs from a relative or friend.(6) 5

6 WHY PEOPLE GET ADDICTED TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS Changes To The Brain Many people who become addicted to prescription drugs have never experienced a substance abuse problem. It isn t until they introduce their brain to the chemically altering effects of heroin-like pain pills or prescribed stimulants that they develop an addiction. The potential danger for suffering an addiction to prescription medications is significantly influenced by genetics, childhood experiences, socioeconomic factors and current stressors existing in a person s life. This risk for triggering a previously unknown vulnerability to addiction is further compounded by the severity of the person s health issues, such as coping with chronic pain or illness. 6

7 WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMONLY ABUSED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(9), the most abused prescribed medications are: Stimulants--Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall are frequently prescribed for treating ADHD and sometimes narcolepsy. Appetite suppressants such as Dexedrine and Phentermine may be prescribed to patients who do not qualify for gastric bypass surgery but need help losing weight. Pain killers (opioids)--vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, Fentanyl, Demerol, Darvon and codeine-based medications all affect the same area of the brain targeted by heroin, specifically the brain s reward center (nucleus accumbens, cerebral cortex, hippocampus and the amygdala). Anxiolytics/tranquilizers--prescribed for treating anxiety, panic, obsessivecompulsive and sleep disorders, depressants include barbiturates (Nembutal and Seconal), benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium) and sleep medications (Ambien and Lunesta ). 7

8 HOW DO PRESCRIPTION DRUG USERS RATIONALIZE THEIR USE ADDICTION? Living In Denial Sigmund Freud first described a defense mechanism he deemed denial over a century ago. Freud claimed that when a person s physical and/or mental equilibrium is severely disturbed by their own actions or thoughts they find too disturbing and frightening to accept as being the truth, they engage in denial. Denial is an unhealthy way to cope with problems that produce extreme inner conflict. It is also a kind of emotional repression that protects our innate need to maintain physiological and psychological stability. Consequently, if you are faced with the fact that you may be addicted to prescription medications, denying the addiction by rationalizing your addiction is the only way you can prevent unpleasant and extremely painful emotions--specifically, guilt--from overwhelming your ability to accept yourself and your actions as unhealthy, self-centered and harmful to everyone within your sphere of influence. 8

9 HOW DO PRESCRIPTION DRUG USERS RATIONALIZE THEIR USE ADDICTION? Prescription drug addicts often justify their addiction by using the following excuses to manipulate others: I am not addicted! I can stop whenever I choose to stop. If you had to deal with what I have to deal with in life, you d take pills, too! It s not my fault I need my prescriptions. My mental/physical illness isn t something I wanted! It s not like I m using heroin-- prescription drugs won t kill me like street drugs can. I m not hurting you or anyone else. I m not breaking the law by taking pills prescribed by my doctor. I can take as many as I want and it s perfectly legal. I need to take pain pills because I have chronic pain. You don t want me to suffer, do you? 9

10 HOW DO PRESCRIPTION DRUG USERS RATIONALIZE THEIR USE ADDICTION? Chemical Imbalances The overpowering urge to continue denying a problem exists usually continues even if an addict experiences incarceration or homelessness. By this time, the brain is suffering serious chemical imbalances that cause thinking patterns to become almost delusional in denying a problem exists. At this point, successfully defeating an addiction to prescription drugs means getting the addict into a recovery program that consists of medical detoxification, cognitive behavioral therapy and professional addiction counseling. 10

11 WHEN DOES ABUSING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS BECOME ILLEGAL? Doctor-Shopping All prescription medications should always be kept in their original containers. If you are caught carrying loose prescription drugs that are not in their proper containers, you could be arrested and possibly charged with intent to distribute. In addition, it is illegal to sell, barter or exchange prescription medications for consumer goods, including other people s prescriptions and alcohol. addicts who doctor-shop for the purpose of obtaining multiple prescriptions, these programs also help prosecute doctors who arbitrarily prescribe too many pain pills, sedatives or tranquilizers for their own financial gain. Some states are cracking down on people who obtain addictive prescriptions illegally by monitoring the health records of all hospitals, clinics and private practices. Intended to catch 11

12 5 DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH ABUSING PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS 1. Overdosing Just like a heroin or methamphetamine addiction poses the risk for overdose and death at any given time, prescription drug abuse also has the same, ever-present risk of dying from an overdose. In fact, overdosing on pain pills and anti-anxiety medication accounted for nearly 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S. in 2010, according to the most recent information from the CDC. incredible sensation of euphoria. Both heroin and pain pills feed the brain s reward centers with such strong feelings of well-being and (false) happiness that the brain continues to crave this pleasantly numb sensation repeatedly, leading to a full-fledged addiction. Heroin and painkillers are both sedative analgesics that target opioid receptors in the brain to deaden nerve endings, relieve pain and give the person under their influence an 12

13 5 DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH ABUSING PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS 1. Overdosing In addition, tolerance for both substances builds quickly, forcing the addict to use more of these drugs until they may need a heroin fix or handful of pain pills every two hours just to ward off painful withdrawal symptoms. Developing a high tolerance for any addictive substance also means the liver is processing drugs more effectively and quickly than the brain is processing them. Consequently, it is the brain that thinks it needs more pain pills or stimulants in reaction to chemical imbalances similar to imbalances associated with a heroin addiction. 2. Building Tolerance As tolerance builds, the need to take much more medication than originally prescribed means the addict will suffer withdrawal symptoms unless they can maintain higher levels of consumption. Flulike symptoms, anxiety, insomnia and frightening occurrences of arrhythmia may force the addict to engage in illegal methods to obtain prescription drugs. 13

14 5 DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH ABUSING PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS 3. Overdosing Becoming addicted to prescription drugs often leads a user to experiment with street drugs because they can no longer get prescriptions from their doctor. Consequences of transitioning from legal to illegal drugs include increased risk for arrest and incarceration, becoming involved in dangerous situations and participating in random sexual encounters that could expose the addict to HIV/AIDS and other STDs. 4. Building Tolerance Loss of employment, divorce and homelessness are real consequences of long term prescription drug abuse, resulting in addicts suffering severe depression, temporary psychosis, suicide ideation and multiple attempts at suicide. 5. Overdosing Going cold turkey when trying to self-regulate their prescription drug abuse leaves addicts at high risk for experiencing dehydration and shock from uncontrollable vomiting, breathing difficulties, seizures, coma and death. 14

15 5 DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH ABUSING PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS Professional Assistance Trying to overcome a barbiturate or benzodiazepine addiction without the assistance of professional addiction healthcare specialists is life-threatening. Moreover, reducing the dosage of tranquilizers and anxiolytics without doctor supervision can also cause worsening of anxiety, panic and insomnia symptoms that originally impelled the user to seek help. This rebound effect makes the user crave the drug even more for relief of exacerbated symptoms. 15

16 ARE ANTIDEPRESSANTS ADDICTIVE? Regulating Serotonin levels Since antidepressants focus on regulating serotonin levels in the brain, they do not target opioid receptors and are not considered an addictive prescription medication. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Prozac, Serafem and Lexapro are included in the SSRI group of antidepressants and contain fluoxetine, a chemical which stabilizes the amount of serotonin receptors release into the brain. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter which affects our moods, appetite and circadian rhythm. When a receptor inhibits the amount of serotonin issued into our nervous system, this lack of serotonin can lead to feelings of sadness, lethargy and ultimately depression. Fluoxetine essentially enables these receptors to release the normal amount of serotonin which counteracts mild to moderate depression. 16

17 ARE ANTIDEPRESSANTS ADDICTIVE? Abusing SSRIs does not provide high or euphoric feelings. Instead, taking too many antidepressants can cause: RAPID PULSE INABILITY TO URINATE INVOLUNTARY EYE MOVEMENT IRREGULAR HEARTBEATS SEIZURES COMA NAUSEA AND VOMITING TREMORS RESPIRATORY ARREST 17

18 SOURCES HTTPS://WWW.UTEXAS.EDU/RESEARCH/CSWR/GCATTC/DOCUMENTS/PRESCRIPTIONTRENDS_WEB. PDF (PDF, 267KB) 3. REPORT_2011_EBOOK.PDF (PDF, 10MB) 4. PILLS-PRESCRIPTION-DRUG-ABUSE-IN-AMERICA HTTPS://WWW.UTEXAS.EDU/RESEARCH/CSWR/GCATTC/DOCUMENTS/PRESCRIPTIONTRENDS_WEB. PDF (PDF, 267KB)

19 Check out our other EBook! Get Professional and Compassionate Help for a Prescription Drug Addiction at Ascend Recovery If you or a loved one is struggling to break an addiction to prescription drugs, we at Ascend Recovery sincerely want to help you change the direction your life is heading by providing you with the tools necessary to defeat an addiction. With our caring and patient assistance, you or a loved one suffering from prescription drug abuse will come to understand why addictions happen and how you can successfully take control of your life by learning how to manage and cope with powerful emotions that often trigger the urge to use prescription drugs. Contact Ascend Recovery today to begin the most important journey of your life--the journey towards a sober, healthy Introduction to Experiental Therapy and rewarding life. YOU CAN CALL US 24/ (844)

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