Recognizing Addiction

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Recognizing Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of prescription drug abuse

There are various reasons how and why a person can become addicted to prescription pills. Painkillers are prescribed to people when they break a bone, tranquilizers are prescribed to people with insomnia and stimulants are prescribed to people who can’t focus. These medications are even prescribed when said symptoms aren’t even physically evident, but are simply spoken. Once a person starts taking the prescribed medication, the drug’s resulting impact on the central nervous system can turn into an addiction. For individuals with an addictive personality, it’s very easy to become addicted to a prescribed opioid, tranquilizer or stimulant. According to a 2014 study done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people in the age brackets of 45 to 49 years of age had the highest death rates due to drug overdose.

The beginning stages of prescription addictions can start off quite innocently. If a prescription runs out and an individual still experiences pain, this person might obtain medication from non-medical sources. These pills might be taken for weight loss or enhanced mental and physical performance. Sometimes, individuals with prescription pill addictions are just looking for a different perspective on life, so they start using pills as a way to access the intended feeling or perspective. Unfortunately, after months or years of using a drug, it will take substantially more of the substance to create the intended feeling.

The CDC reports that addiction to prescription pills is on the rise in America and is taking its toll on people of all ages. The prevalence of over diagnosing and over prescribing coupled with the availability of prescription drugs on the internet are both large factors to consider. In 2013 out of the 43,982 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,767 (51.8 percent) were related to pharmaceuticals. Deaths due to overdosing on opioid pain relievers has more than tripled in the past 20 years and treatment admissions for primary abuse of opiates other than heroin increased from one percent in 1997 to five percent in 2007.


Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) done in 2010 shows the most commonly abused prescription drugs were OxyContin and Vicodin. Opioids or narcotic analgesics are usually prescribed for pain. Some common names for opioids are hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), methadone and hydromorphone (Dilaudid). Some side effects of opioids are addiction, constipation, drowsiness and lethargy. According to NIDA, the number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of opioid analgesics increased from 114,600 in 2004 to 305,900 in 2008. Withdrawal of the substance may include anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, muscle spasms or muscle and bone pains.

Opioids and chronic pain

Chronic pain clients usually experience the pain for longer than six months. It can feel excruciating, on and off pain, constant pain, or completely incapacitating. Chronic pain happens when the signals of pain remain active in a person’s central nervous system for months or even years. Some typical chronic pain sources will stem from headaches, joint pain, pain from injury, sinus pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and pain in specific parts of the body such as shoulders, neck or pelvis. Most general forms of muscle or nerve pain can also develop into a chronic pain condition. Some emotional signs of chronic pain are depression, anxiety, stress, depression, anger or fatigue.

An opioid is intended to only be used to manage pain for a short period of time. Addiction to the prescribed pill can happen very quickly if a person continues the use of an opioid after the time frame of the prescription. Opioids are produced naturally in the body. The human brain becomes addicted to opioids when synthetic opioids (found in heroin and prescription medications) alter the brain’s chemical balance.


Stimulants are usually prescribed for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) and narcolepsy. Some of the more common drug names for stimulants are Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, Benzedrine and Concerta. Common side effects of stimulants are addiction, anxiety, irritability, paranoia, psychomotor retardation or agitation, hypersomnia, irregular heartbeat and seizures. Withdrawal symptoms may include depression, lethargy and insomnia.

Stimulants increase dopamine levels in the brain. The release of dopamine into the brain will start low and increase gradually until the desired effect is reached. When prescription stimulants are taken in higher doses than prescribed or via routes other than prescribed, these drugs can cause a rapid increase in the brain’s dopamine levels. This process blocks the brain’s ability to naturally produce dopamine, increasing the brain’s risk of addiction.

Tranquilizers and central nervous system depressants

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants are usually prescribed for insomnia, anxiety or panic attacks. Some of the more common drug names for CNS depressants are barbiturates and benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion, Nembutal). Side effects of CNS depressants include addiction, drowsiness and withdrawal symptoms. These drugs are very dangerous when combined with other depressants such as alcohol and certain cold medicines.

Symptoms of prescription pill addiction

  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • A desire to keep using even when health complications arise
  • Spending excess time and money on getting drugs
  • Sleeping for extensive periods of time
  • Not sleeping for extensive periods of time
  • Turning to crime to pay for more drugs

Prescription drug addiction treatment

Prescription drug abuse is an incredibly serious matter. Once addiction is detected, the illness should be treated right away. Individual and group therapy can be extremely beneficial to the prescription pill addict. There are more people suffering from addictions to prescription medication than one might think. It’s never too late to seek the help needed to treat the addiction. For more information on where to find help, please call (866) 450-1557.

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