Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription Drugs – Summary
Are you or a loved one reliant on a drug initially prescribed by a doctor or other medical practitioner? Help4Addiction are available to provide you with the services needed to help you to overcome the feelings of dependency.
Let’s talk about prescription drugs. We are all pretty much used to using painkillers available in chemists and supermarkets for the various aches and pains we experience in daily life.
We have a headache, we take paracetamol. We have muscle pain, we take ibuprofen. We have back pain, we might take an over the counter product of paracetamol with codeine. The back pain gets worse and we visit our GP who might prescribe us something a little stronger like Tramadol or Naproxen.
The problem with something like persistent back pain, or a trapped nerve, or a migraine, or any other kind of unrelenting physical pain, is that it doesn’t tend to ‘heal’ very quickly. It’s painful, it interrupts our sleep, it’s tiring and it affects our mood; living with constant pain, day after day, preventing us from doing the things we need to do in daily life.
The more it hurts, the more painkillers we take. The more painkillers we take, the more immune to their effects we become. Much like antibiotics, after a while, they’re not really as affective as they were at the beginning. But what else can we do to manage it? We have a prescription, from a GP. They know what they’re doing, right? Their advice is to manage the pain with painkillers. So we do.
Perhaps we experience anxiety, triggered by a traumatic event, a phobia of flying, presentations or interviews, or social situations and often for alcohol withdrawal. Our GP may will prescribe us a course of Diazepam (aka Valium).
Diazepam is intended as a short-term solution, something to ‘tide us over’ a difficult period. Yet Diazepam, a benzodiazepine, is one of the most highly addictive medications available on the NHS, for free and legally. It can take as little as 4 weeks to become both psychologically and physically dependent on Diazepam.
What if we experience insomnia? The inability to either get to sleep or stay asleep. Over the counter sleep aids are a-plenty and if they don’t work, our GP might prescribe us something stronger, like Zopiclone. So Sleeping pills help us to get to sleep – HURRAY! Finally, a restful night. or finally, a pain-free day, or finally a day feeling a little less anxious. And…. relax.
Our tolerance to the effects of these legal, prescribed medications do tide us over for a while, but they cease to solve the underlying problem, they tend to mask and help us tolerate the issue and in the meantime, our bodies have not only become accustomed to, but reliant on them.
So having been recommended these legal, ‘safe’ medications, and having experienced the relief they can offer, is amazing! Until suddenly, the GP says “I’m sorry, but I can’t prescribe any more for you, they’re addictive, it’s not safe in the long term, you need to come off this medication now”. So now what? The body and mind has learned to be reliant on the effects of the medication and psychologically, the very idea of not having the ‘crutch’ of these meds’ can be terrifying.
Reliance on prescription drugs has become one of the highest addiction issues in the UK. Those unable to obtain them from the doctor anymore, very often turn to the internet to buy medications from totally unknown sources. The potential risks of this are obviously huge and yet because there is a vast market for it, they’re readily available at the touch of a button.
The fear of not being able to access and use prescription medications continues to fund a huge black market in supplying them. And it is about supply and demand.
The physical and psychological side effects of withdrawing from an opiate-based drug like Codeine or Tramadol, and also Diazepam and Zopiclone can be incredibly serious. There are very serious physical implications of suddenly stopping taking a medication such as these, amongst others, added to the psychological distress and increased anxiety of doing so, which can be crippling.
So what happens when we find ourselves needing to access these drugs illegally? There are the obvious financial implications and the risk of not really knowing what we’re getting. But there are also huge emotional implications attached to this action and behaviour. Secrecy, deceit, shame and fear of being ‘found out’.
What if we can’t access the medication we need? What if our ‘supplier’ can’t provide them? What lengths will we go to, to ensure we get what we need?
Feelings of desperation can lead to extreme and risky actions to obtain what we need. These feelings can leave us feeling isolated, ashamed and alone. And we didn’t choose it, we didn’t seek to need to live this way. It can happen so innocently and so unexpectedly.
Holding onto these feelings of shame and guilt can drive the need to self-medicate even further and sometimes, it seems there’s no end in sight. The preoccupation of needing to make sure we have what we need and the lengths we might go to to ensure we do get it, can distance us from loved ones and have a huge impact on relationships.
Changes in behaviour led by either physical side effects or psychological changes in behaviour may well feel subtle or even unnoticeable, but for those that know us well, it will be noticed and it will be a cause for concern. What if we’re challenged? What if we’re ‘caught’? Will our loved ones understand? And even if it does go unnoticed, how does it leave us feeling? What is the emotional impact of carrying this ‘secret’ addiction? We might well be ‘functioning’ but there is no doubt that the burden of having to maintain this seemingly never-ending pattern has a massive impact on our self-esteem and self-worth.
The severity of this issue is perhaps not recognised as much as other substance addictions, such as class A drugs or alcohol, but the reality is, it’s exactly the same thing. If you cannot get through a day, outside of conditions managed by a medical professional and considering physical and psychological need; there is a problem, there is an addiction and it is serious and requires and deserves the same care and input as anyone else seeking help for recovery.
Nobody knowingly chooses to become addicted, to anything; it’s a process of physical and/or emotional pain that leads to dependence on these medications. When we find ourselves self-medicating, we know that we have stepped over the line of ‘controlled’ pain/sleep/anxiety management to something else entirely and we must seek help.
While there is a very understandable aspect of avoidance, fear and shame attached to reaching out for some help if we find ourselves in this position, it’s important to know that there is help and support available, there are professionals and recovery focused assistance in place to support people to overcome what is so often a very secret and even ‘socially acceptable’ addiction.
But it is an addiction none the less. Anything that we become reliant on to function, becomes problematic and it’s important to know that there is help available, you are not alone and there is a light at the end of that tunnel.
What are Prescription Drugs?
Prescription drugs are routine medicines prescribed by a doctor which are taken for a variety of reasons such as pain or for mental health reasons. The long term use of a drug can sometimes lead to people becoming reliant on the drug. This type of addiction is difficult to identify as the drug is legal and prescribed by a doctor. If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of being dependent on a drug prescribed by your doctor, we can help you. Severe problems can arise if people attempt to obtain prescription drugs from illegal sources as it is not possible to prove what is in the drug. The addiction to some prescription drugs can be due to a range of reasons. It is important to explore and identify the reasons for the addiction to allow a suitable treatment to be used. It could be that you are either dependent on the drug for physical, psychological or emotional needs.
What are the Symptoms/ Side Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse?
- Obtaining a prescription from a doctor for a drug you no longer need
- Seeking out the drug from illegal sources
- Abusing the amount of the drug you have been prescribed to take
- Using someone else’s prescription
- Experiencing side effects when you stop taking the drug
What Treatments are available?
A range of treatments are available such as cognitive or behavioural therapies. Detoxification is often offered to people addicted to prescription drugs.