How to Detect If You or Your Loved One is Addicted to Prescription Medication

June 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Health, People and Culture

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Prescription addiction happens covertly, so you may not detect your own or your loved one’s dependence until much later in the process. Many people who abuse prescription painkillers simply tell others – and themselves – that they take their pills because of pain.

“Most of the time you are unable to decipher [an addiction] until an individual has experienced more deficits than benefits from abusing the medications,” Dr. Nancy B. Irwin, a primary therapist at Seasons in Malibu, says. “In other words, unless there are apparent impairments in functioning as a result of abuse, most individuals do not even realize they are abusing.”

The fact that prescription opioids come from a doctor tend to lull one into thinking that he or she is simply taking medicine instead of abusing hard drugs. “Prescription medication can be obtained legally and is largely covered by your health insurance,” Dr. Irwin says. “[Some believe] street drugs carry more risk than prescriptions because you are unaware of any additives or other drugs it could be combined with.”

On the contrary, prescription painkillers are actually one of the most common causes of lethal drug-related accidents in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve at least one prescription opioid. The report also reveals that more than 15,000 Americans died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in the year 2015 alone.

To help you or your loved one pull out of this dangerous cycle, here are four key questions that can unveil whether or not someone’s prescription medication use has developed into addiction.

1. How often are you taking the medication?

If you suspect prescription opioid abuse, Dr. Irwin says this should be one of the first questions to ask. Are you or your loved one taking the pills every few hours or are you actively trying to space them out as much as possible? Are the dosages low or high?

Bear in mind that all prescription medication must be taken as prescribed. Many doctors also write prescriptions for pain medication to be taken only “as needed.” If you find yourself or a loved one taking these medications on a regular basis or in higher doses, the prescribing doctor needs to know. Taking higher doses or more frequent doses is a sign of possible addiction.

2. Can you stop taking the medication?

Prescription pain killers are usually not an ideal way to manage chronic pain. They’re much more effective for acute pain, which should pass in a matter of weeks in most cases. If the person is unable to stop taking the medication after the appropriate amount of time, check to see if discontinuing the medication causes problems. This would be a tell-tale sign of dependence. Dr. Irwin says, “The abuse begins to happen when individuals become physically dependent on prescription medication and the desire to avoid the physical and psychological discomfort from withdrawal symptoms outweighs the choice to stop taking the medication.”

3. How do you act when you don’t have medicine?

If you or your loved one forgets the medication at home or can’t get a refill on time, what happens? Your behavior during this time is usually a telling sign as to whether you are an addict.

According to Dr. Irwin, initial signs and symptoms include changes in behavior or mood, decreased tolerance of others, increased agitation, irritability, anxiety or impulsivity.

“You will see changes in cognition which can include memory loss, confusion, poor concentration or focus, complaints regarding physical aches and pains, body sensations such a pins and needles, poor G.I. functioning or an urgency to get to the medication.”

Typically, right before a prescription runs out, addicts get “panicky” and spend a great deal of time scheduling doctor appointments and pharmacy pickups out of fear of missing a dose.

4. Where are you getting the medicine?

Most people with serious pain should not have an issue getting prescription medication from a doctor who can oversee their pain treatment plan. Whenever possible, it is best that the person gets all of his or her prescriptions filled from the same pharmacy. A pharmacist who gets to know the patient and his or her medications is in a good position to help spot signs of possible prescription addiction. If you or your loved one makes an effort to avoid seeing the same pharmacist, know that this may be a sign of addict behavior.

While prescription pain opioids are often useful and sometimes necessary to treat moderate to severe pain, they are far from harmless. The key is to monitor one’s intake of these prescriptions and maintain an open and honest dialogue with a medical professional.

Recovery from Prescription Medication Addiction

Not everyone who receives prescription painkillers become dependent, but when addiction does take hold, it’s important to look beyond the drug abuse. “The addiction is a symptom to underlying psychological and physiological ailments that have yet to be treated,” Dr. Irwin says.

The problem with addiction is that it contributes to the brain being hijacked and leads to poor judgment, often rendering them unable to seek help on their own. If you find that your loved one refuses to acknowledge their drug abuse, Dr. Irwin suggests an intervention along with other family and friends. “Be vigilant, stay informed, consult with professionals and ensure that you continue to be persistent.”

On the other hand, if you recognize the addiction symptoms in yourself and are ready to recover, allow yourself the time to heal. Get assistance and do what you can to prioritize your health and overall wellbeing.

“Prescription addiction requires a focused approach to eliminating the dependence and then facilitating a long-term plan for success,” Dr. Irwin says. “Seasons in Malibu thinks about that plan from the moment [the person] walks through the doors.” The recovery team’s approach includes a systemic treatment model that strongly takes the individual’s family, environment, vocation and activities of daily living into account, she says.

When dealing with drug addiction, remember that having a good spirit and keeping an open mind help tremendously during the recovery period. “Prescription abuse and dependence can be more difficult to spot early on, that is why staying vigilant, maintaining an open line of communication and seeking help immediately can make the crucial difference for you or your loved one.”


Dr. Nancy B. Irwin is a Certified Hypnotherapist and the Primary Therapist at Seasons in Malibu, a world class, dual-diagnosis, CARF-accredited drug rehab and addiction treatment center in Malibu, CA that specializes in treating addictions such as alcoholism, cocaine addiction, opiate addiction, prescription drug abuse and more. Dr. Irwin earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from California Southern University and is a certified practitioner of Time Line Therapy, Emotion Free Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Over the years, she’s shared her expertise on CNN, CNBC, Fox, MSNBC and other popular radio and TV shows.

The Dangers of Prescription Drugs

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TGDGprescriptionIt’s almost expected that when you visit the doctor, you will receive a prescription for medication. If you are in pain, the doctor prescribes medicine that will reduce the pain. If you are having anxiety or mental issues, the doctor or specialist will likely recommend pills for that. In fact, there is a pill that can be prescribed for nearly anything that ails you these days.

Obtaining “Legal” Prescription Drugs

As addicts, maybe even those who have not abused prescription drugs, we know how easy it can be to obtain a prescription. It may take a bit of “doctor shopping” before you find a doctor who is willing to write you a prescription, but it can be extremely easy to get the kind of drugs you are looking for. Doctor shopping is a term used to describe when a patient visits multiple doctors to try and obtain multiple prescriptions for controlled substances, usually addictive narcotics or opiates such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Some addicts are reluctant to carry out such a scheme, so they just look for others who use prescription drugs and are willing to sell their prescriptions. Furthermore, since addictive narcotics are so commonly prescribed, it is easy to search anyone’s medicine cabinet to “find” what you are looking for.

Spiraling Down

A big concern with prescription drugs is that consistent use may lead to addiction and a higher potential for abusing other drugs–a downward spiral many people have traveled. This may not seem likely for all people who receive prescription medications, but to those of us with addictive tendencies, it seems like a guarantee. With a prescription like Oxycontin, for example, which has been nicknamed the “legal heroin,” it’s easy to see why a prescription medication can lead to problems. An additional concern is the dangerous effects of mixing prescription drugs with other drugs or alcohol. We often see accidental overdoses in cases where people have combined multiple prescription drugs at the same time, or most commonly, combined pills and alcohol. Sometimes this is accidental. It is easy to forget you took a pill, and then accidentally take another medicine or even sip a drink without even thinking about the risks.

But I’m not an Addict!

In sober recovery meetings, I regularly talked with people who were addicted to pills because at the time, I was abusing prescription drugs myself. The people who shared their stories about prescription drug addiction often started their story with how they had sustained an injury or got into an accident and were prescribed painkillers. They would go on and on with their life story and, for some reason, I could never understand the point of their story. Finally I figured it out: Unlike me, these addicts had not taken their prescriptions with the intention of getting high or ever relying on these pills to function, but addiction does not discriminate. Some of these people had never even touched an illegal drug in their lives. They had relied on the recommendations of their doctors and had taken the pills as they were prescribed. Once the prescription ran out, however, they realized that they had developed a dependency on the pills and were helpless without them. Once the dependency on the prescription pills took hold and their doctors wouldn’t renew their prescriptions, these people felt they had nowhere to turn but to the streets for either the purchase of more painkillers or the use of illicit drugs to satisfy their body’s need for the drug. Luckily, many of these people found their way to addiction treatment and rehab programs.

What Is Being Done about Our Prescription Addiction Problem?

So what’s being done about the abuse and reliance on prescription drugs? There has been implementation of programs to reduce incidence of doctor shopping, and also more stringent monitoring of what kinds of prescriptions are being abused (and handed out). However, it never seems to be enough. The CDC has reported that every year at least 15,000 people die from prescription drug overdoses. We have heard positive news about one prescription drug that has been a problem–the pharmaceutical company Actavis is ceasing production of a popular cough syrup commonly known as “Lean.” Yet, drug companies continue to release prescription drugs that are highly addictive. Zohydro, a new painkiller that is similar to Vicodin, has been shown to be much more dangerous than Vicodin because it only contains hydrocodone and no other active ingredients. For that reason, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick attempted to place a ban on the drug, but a federal judge overturned it.

We need more laws that protect the population from addictive prescription drugs. Must we wait and wonder when the madness from the pharmaceutical companies will end? Does it take years and years of drug abuse and overdoses to put more regulation on prescription drugs? It’s important to know that not all prescriptions are abused, but how many deaths will it take before someone in government or a regulatory position will step up and change the rules?

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Movies for Sober Inspiration

September 15, 2014 by  
Filed under People and Culture, Treatment and Recovery News

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The media and movies can be surprising sources of sober inspiration

The media and movies can be surprising sources of sober inspiration

Finding inspiration through the media and the arts can be extremely helpful for your sobriety. Music can be inspiring and lift our mood, and movies have an abundance of guidance and tools to help you get sober or stay sober. Movies can remind you to stay humble, grateful and emotionally alive. The storyline of a movie that covers the topics of alcoholism and addiction can be important reminder to you about where a relapse will take you or, if you are still finding your way to sobriety, it can keep the reality of what will happen if you continue to use.

Here are some movies to consider viewing as a way of keeping you on the path of sobriety:

Trainspotting If heroin was or is your drug of choice, this movie is as real as it gets. Starring Ewan McGregor and Johnny Lee Miller, the movie is very drug specific, but still a good example of the hardships that substance abuse brings. The movie brings life, death, withdrawal, relapse and more all to your living room. The movie still keeps a touch of humor and even has its own quotes and quips that can be used as references in your own life.

Gia This movie based on the true life story of Gia Marie Carangi, an American fashion model, and is a humbling biographical film. Starring Angelina Jolie, it’s a reminder that addiction does not discriminate. Whether you are beautiful, famous or a bum on the street, you can still suffer the pain and consequences of addiction. The movie only scrapes the surface of addiction because it focuses more on Gia’s life, but it is an emotional roller coaster that shows how quickly drug abuse can derail your life.

The Panic in Needle ParkOne of Al Pacino’s less popular movies, this movie is still effective at breaking down the everyday life of an addict and what hanging around with other addicts can do to you. It quickly dives into how substance abuse ruins relationships, and tears away your self-worth and pride. It also shows what happens when you get caught by the law. It is a clear illustration of how fast drugs can become an addiction and the things you’re willing to do to get them.

A Scanner DarklyFirst and foremost, I will admit I had to watch this movie twice to truly understand what was going on. Starring Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, it doesn’t necessarily focus on drug addiction as much as some other movies. This one leans more towards a conspiracy theory involving pharmaceutical companies and drugs, but it certainly is easy to relate to. As addicts, our personalities change during active addiction and the characters in the movie become so easy to associate with from this perspective. The movie is filmed in live action animation so it keeps your attention while keeping you entertained. The movie sums up drug-related paranoia, the desperate need for a fix, and how easily “friends” turn their backs on you in your time of need.

BlowThis is another biographical film based on the life of the drug smuggler George Jung. In addition to starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, and being an excellent and engrossing movie, it shows the effects of cocaine addiction, as well as the experience of being on the other side of the spectrum as a drug dealer. Although the movie starts out portraying the characters on their ‘pink cloud,’ so to speak, their dreams are swiftly dashed by the reality of being broke, desperate and depressed. The movie leaves you with a sense of compassion for the main character and the losses he experienced.

Requiem for a DreamLike Trainspotting, this movie depicts the raw reality of substance abuse. The movie, starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, is an extremely well-written film, but can be disturbing and nerve-wracking to watch. If you have already experienced the rock bottom of addiction, you’ll find yourself knowing what’s going to happen next because the movie gives the characters real life options as to what to do when they are desperate to get high. The film does not have a happy ending and it leaves you with an empty, terrible feeling in your stomach. The difference between this film and the others listed here is the sub-story it tells involving the use of prescription medicine. Many people don’t yet realize that prescription drugs are commonly used to get high and are very addictive. This movie will leave you truly grateful to be in sober recovery and drug-free.

Candy This may not be known as a top Heath Ledger movie, but it certainly should be. A little different than other films, the movie shows three stages of addiction – Heaven, Hell and Earth – which is the best part about this movie. The honesty in the film shows the false euphoria drugs may bring, but that it’s only temporary and the real life consequences that you’re hiding will rapidly come to life. It also reveals how relationships can be affected by drug use, as that many of the partnerships we form with other addicts are based solely on drugs or alcohol.

Some movies seem harder to watch than others because of the effect they may have on our emotions, but as a recovering addict, those are the ones I take time to watch. The movies and other media can provide an external source, not only of entertainment, but of tools and real-life situations that are easy to relate to and may help give you advice that you didn’t realize you were looking for. Although some of these movies may not end happily, it’s okay to be grateful when you shut the movie off and realize that isn’t your life anymore.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Prescription Painkiller Labels Are Changing

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prescription-labelsProven addictive opioid pain medications—such as oxycontin, morphine, and fentanyl—prescribed for their long-term effects on managing pain are being relabeled due to their high risk for abuse, dependence and overdose. This new FDA ruling targets specific drugs in an attempt to curb abuse and addiction will take affect by the end of this year. These new label regulations also serve to remind physicians of the dangers prescribing these medications to patients who suffer from low to moderate pain or short-term pain.

How the New Labels Are Different

Current language on these prescriptions indicate usage for moderate to severe pain. The change in prescription labels will indicate use for only those patients who need treatment of long-term, severe and chronic pain. This will reduce the number of patients being treated with these medications, which were originally developed for treatment of cancer and other end-stage diseases where dependence and/or overdose issues were not concerns.

In the past, trying to regulating prescriptive use of long-acting painkillers has had little effect on the numbers of addicts who have either abused or overdosed on these medications. Physicians continued to prescribe these analgesic painkillers and they continued to contribute to the overdose deaths of increasing numbers of patients. Research indicates that the rate of overdose in women by prescription painkillers from 1999 to 2010 rose over 400% from the previous period, to over 48,000 deaths. Men overdosed during this same period at a rate of 265% and still rank higher than women.

New label changes should reduce the number of oxycontin prescriptions. Meanwhile, further educating physicians who treat chronic pain is important. Those who abuse painkillers are inclined to experience pain differently than others. Some have used analgesics for years to mask emotional pain and are addicted to the medication for day-to-day existence. These persons may have physical injuries that indicate need for medications, but cannot separate symptoms of pain from withdrawal symptoms. Professionals in treatment for pain medication addiction can provide treatment and education to both the addicted and their physicians, who may not recognize symptoms of addiction.

This attempt by the FDA to control the growing problems of pain management and addiction to prescription painkillers is one step that may assist in that process. However, the problem has many facets to be considered; and many facets of solution will need to be employed. Use and abuse of prescription painkillers is going to be an issue to address at many levels.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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