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Prescription Drug Abuse and Withdrawal

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The development of prescription drugs involves considerable research, testing, and data collection to prove effectiveness and find side effects. Moreover, the benefits of providing relief for those with various conditions and chronic pain are significant. Misuse of prescription medication can lead to prescription drug abuse.

Unfortunately, the euphoric or calming side effects lure the patient into losing focus on the purpose of the medication. Misuse leads to tolerance for the medication and an increase in dosage to reach the desirable effects. Once tolerance increases, the chance for addiction is on the horizon, leading to 40.3 million people in the US with a substance use disorder in 2020, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Commonly abused prescription drugs that are widely misused include opioids, central nervous system depressants (sedatives), and stimulant medications. These drugs have a combination of physical and psychological side effects.

There is a direct correlation between commonly prescribed prescription drugs and the likelihood of abuse. Chronic pain and mental health conditions are the leading causes of the high number of prescriptions. 

  • Opioid medications for the treatment of severe and chronic pain are known as painkillers. Working through disrupting pain signals in the brain, they also increase the activity of dopamine, which is essential for feel-good reward purposes and can lead to unintentional prescription drug abuse. 
  • Central nervous system depressants, or sedatives, include barbituates and benzodiazepines and are beneficial for treating anxiety, sleep disorders, seizures, and muscle spasms. CNS depressants Interact with GABA receptors in the brain to block or decrease excitation in the brain and body. 
  • Stimulants are treatment sources for ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. They influence the activity level of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily dopamine and norepinephrine. Stimulants also directly affect heart rate and breathing. 

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

One of the significant signs of excessive drug misuse is the onset of prescription drug withdrawal when the dosage decreases or the user stops using the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can induce a user to continue abusing the drug to relieve the discomfort of withdrawal and pose a threat of relapse during medical detox.

Once again, the side effects and signs of excessive drug use involve physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. Short-term signs and symptoms can increase in severity as abuse continues, escalating to adverse long-term damage within the body. 

Significant signs of prescription painkiller abuse include:

  • Constipation, nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to focus, pay attention, or remember things
  • Slowed breathing and sleepiness
  • Slowed movements
  • Scratching at the skin
  • Slurring words
  • Tiny pupils

Signs of prescription drug abuse involving central nervous system depressants begin within the initial first days with sleepiness and incoordination. Other signs include:

  • Lack of focus and confusion
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Uncontrollable eye movements
  • Memory problems
  • Slurring words

Prescription stimulants induce the following side effects:

  • Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature
  • Bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils
  • Chills and sweating due to body temp fluctuations
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Hyperactivity and sleeping less than normal
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

Behavioral Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Behavioral signs and symptoms of misuse and abuse are significant criteria professionals turn to to diagnose substance use disorder. Physical and psychological symptoms are pieces of the diagnosis puzzle, but these factors point to addiction. Professionals state there must be at least 2 behavioral criteria for a correct diagnosis.

The following are behavior signs of misuse or abuse:

  • Continuing use for longer than the prescription period
  • An inability to cut down on the dosage
  • A large amount of time involves drug seeking or recovering from the drug 
  • Developing drug cravings
  • A failure to complete responsibilities or tasks due to substance use
  • Problems with relationships do not deter drug use
  • Substance use interferes with work, social and recreational activities
  • Increased danger levels do not prevent drug use
  • A decline in mental and physical health does not interrupt drug use
  • Building tolerance to the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms appear when drug use diminishes 

Prescription Drug And Alcohol Use

Prescription drug abuse becomes problematic when alcohol use is also present. According to The Centers for Disease Control, polysubstance use occurs when a combination of drugs or drugs and alcohol are commonly in use.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and the combination of CNS prescription drugs can increase the risk of overdose and damage to the brain, heart, and other organs. In 2019, close to half of all overdose deaths were due to multiple substance use.

Prescription Drug Withdrawal

Prescription drug withdrawal can be more complex when alcohol is being used as well. Alcohol withdrawal has its signs and symptoms that need medical monitoring. Professional detox with medical monitoring and the use of medication-assisted treatment is the safest and most successful first obstacle to overcome in recovery.

Withdrawal symptoms are never comfortable, but professional medical detox supports relapse prevention from the beginning. 

How Detox Can Help

Professional medical detox programs help build trust with the patient from the initial recovery steps. Fortunately, an empathetic and understanding treatment team can provide safety while the body eliminates the toxic substances from the body. Each individual has a unique treatment plan geared to their needs. The individual has medical support during withdrawal and access to the proper and best medications for their condition.

Each element of the process—including a peaceful environment, round-the-clock monitoring, and medication-assisted treatment—is essential for the success and completion of detox. Medical detox lays the foundation for continuing therapy with inpatient or outpatient programs. Such programs provide a sense of community. Group therapy offers group support with like-minded individuals who share their recovery journey. 

The Detox Process

Prescription drug abuse takes time to develop, and on the other side of addiction, recovery begins with detox and continues with further therapy. The process of medical detox can be challenging to undertake but can be successful in laying the foundation for continuing treatment.

Professional healthcare providers combine with the treatment team to evaluate the client and discern the individual needs in each case. Within hours of detox initiation, withdrawal symptoms begin to appear. Highly trained medical staff monitors the patient throughout the escalation of symptoms for safety and comfort. Combining holistic approaches, such as nutritional support, psychological counseling, and wellness activities, can benefit the process.

Consistency in a comfortable environment, the use of medication-assisted therapy to prevent discomfort, and the pull together of all supportive measures to prevent relapse are essential factors. Relapse prevention is critical throughout all treatment processes, especially with medical detox. 

Access Premier Prescription Addiction Care in California

Fine-tuning all the components of recovery treatment can prove highly successful in maintaining sobriety down the road. Sierra Health + Wellness provides the highest-quality options for a personal recovery journey, beginning with medical detox. Offering outpatient and inpatient programs in a healing environment supports patients throughout their treatment plan.

Contact Sierra Health + Wellness today to realize the quality of their treatment mission.