RX DRUGS

Prescription Drug Abuse in Arizona and the U.S.

Just because a drug is legal and prescribed by a doctor doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Here’s what you need to know about prescription drug addiction and what to do if you or a loved one has become dependent on a pharmaceutical drug.

The Innocent Path to Addiction

It’s common knowledge that illegal drugs are dangerous, but the public is less educated about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. It’s easy to assume that if you get a prescription legally and follow the doctor’s instructions, there’s no risk. But even proper use of certain prescription medication – especially over a long period of time– can lead to dependence and addiction.

As a result, many of those who find themselves addicted to prescription meds are people who do not fit the typical profile of a drug addict, but are simply patients injured at work or in a car accident, or recovering from surgery or any injury warranting medium to strong pain medication. Common medications prescribed to relieve anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders can also be habit-forming.

Patients taking prescription medication may think they don’t have a problem because they are able to function normally while on the drug. The addiction often doesn’t become apparent until they no longer have access to the drug, can’t function without it, and when withdrawal and desperation sets in.

Not So Innocent: Opioids and Benzodiazepines

The two types of prescription drugs that are highly addictive fall into two major classes: opioids and benzodiazepines.

Opioids and opiates are medications used to manage pain, usually after surgery or an injury that causes severe pain. Opiates are naturally occurring drug that derive from the opium poppy plant, whereas opioids are produced synthetically. Both have similar effects on the human body.

Common Opioids

Different types of opioids and opiates include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Diphenoxylate
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methadone
  • Meperidine
  • Hydromorphone

Some brand names of common opioid medications are:

  • Percocet
  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Percodan
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Norco
  • Demerol
  • Duragesic
American Opioid Overdose Statistic Infographic

Common Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines induce relaxation and are commonly used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, sleep disorders and seizures. Types of benzodiazepines include:

  • Alprazolam
  • Clonazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Diazepam

Some brand names of benzodiazepines are:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Niravam
  • Halcion
  • Versed

While using opioids and benzodiazepines for a short period of time or as a single dose before or after surgery may be benign for some people, patients should approach any use of these medications with extreme caution. If long-term relief is needed, another form of treatment should be sought out in order to avoid addiction.
 
Learn More About Benzodiazepines

Prescription Drug Addiction and Recovery FAQs

Learn more about the signs, effects, causes and treatment of prescription drug addiction by reading through our answers to the following frequently asked questions:

How Do I Spot Prescription Drug Addiction in a Loved One?

There are countless prescription drugs with potential for abuse and addiction, so it’s generally difficult to spot signs of abuse unless you know the typical patterns of behavior that surround prescription drug abuse. The most prominent warning signs will not be visible with the user, but rather his or her environment.

Early signs of a prescription drug addiction can include:

  • Missing pills or bottles from family members’ medicine cabinets
  • Sudden appearance of strange pills among the user’s belongings
  • Missing cash or valuables
  • Prescription bottles with unfamiliar names on them

These could all be warning signs that a loved one is addicted to a prescription drug and has started taking potentially illegal steps to secure more.

What Are the Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction on a Family?

If a family member begins stealing money and valuables from relatives, this can certainly cause problems. When prescription drug abusers steal medications from family members who need it, this can create a serious health risk for the person who is supposed to be taking the prescription.

Ultimately, any type of addiction will erode the family framework and send tempers and emotions flaring. Prescription drugs will have similar results if the addiction continues unchecked and unchallenged for too long. Prolonged addiction typically renders enabling and codependent behaviors in the family, as well.

What Are the Symptoms of Prescription Drug Withdrawal?

Withdrawal effects from prescription drugs vary from medication to medication, but there are a few universal signs of withdrawal. If a person has an addiction to a prescription drug intended to treat a psychological disorder such as depression or anxiety, the user should expect a strong resurgence of those symptoms once withdrawal begins.

Other common symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal include:

  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Sweating
  • Decreased self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Racing thoughts, anxiety and depression
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Seizures

What Are the Long-Term Effects Of Prescription Drug Abuse?

Addiction of any kind is difficult to hide once it progresses to advanced stages. A person who develops a prescription drug addiction will invariably feel the effects throughout every aspect of life, from personal relationships to work.

Some of the most significant long-term effects of prescription drug addiction can include:

  • Loss of a job and professional certifications
  • Financial ruin
  • Ostracism from friends and family
  • Divorce
  • Suspension from professional organizations or sports clubs

Physicians and other professionals who allow prescription drug addiction to interfere with safe patient care may even lose their license to practice.

What Are the Root Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction?

Most prescription drug addiction cases stem from misappropriated medications. While some people develop addictions to prescription medications after suffering legitimate medical ailments, this is not the case in the majority of prescription drug abuse cases.

Some individuals carry a genetic predisposition to addiction, while others may simply enjoy the pleasurable feelings these drugs create in the brain or body. Still others turn to prescription drugs to cope with the stresses of everyday life and emotional pain.

Common Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Addiction

Some prescription medications, such as opioid-based painkillers, are extremely addictive even when taken per a doctor’s instructions. Opioids are powerful painkillers and quickly lead to tolerance and dependency. A person who suffers a serious injury may depend on these medications for a long time, only to discover after healing that addiction has manifested.

The overwhelming incentive for most people who abuse prescription drugs is to generally feel better. The pleasurable feelings may offer some measure of temporary relief, but they are actually eroding the user’s psychological state and opening the door to addiction. Prescription drug addiction treatment typically hinges on uncovering the root cause beneath the addiction for treatment to succeed.

How Common Is Prescription Drug Abuse Nationwide?

The most commonly abused groups of prescription drugs in the United States include painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants. At any given time, an average of 3 percent of Americans are abusing prescription drugs.

In each year from 2004 to 2011, the number of Americans who went to an emergency department strictly for the misuse or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs steadily rose from roughly 337,000 to more than 835,000 (a 148 percent change).

Most notably, prescription opioid painkiller-related overdoses have been an ongoing public health crisis for the better part of the last decade, with soaring rates of abuse, overdoses and overdose-related deaths in all 50 states. Prescription opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. have consistently topped 15,000 per year since 2007.

What Are Some Clinical and Holistic Treatments for Prescription Drug Abuse?

There are many options for prescription drug addiction treatment, and it’s essential to find a program that works for you. Staying at an inpatient opioid rehab center may offer a safe way to detox and begin recovery, but counseling, therapy and aftercare are essential parts of recovery as well.

Clinical therapies may include medically assisted detox, nutritional support and specific detox medications to manage long-term health issues and co-occurring mental health disorders. Counseling techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI) are helpful, as well.

Holistic therapies such as meditation, yoga acupuncture, and massage may help reduce stress and encourage the overall recovery process. Look for a rehab program that offers a robust lineup of holistic modalities in addition to traditional, evidence-based clinical treatment.

The Prescription Opioid Drug Crisis in Arizona

Abuse of prescription drugs has become a national epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2013, drug overdose fatalities in the U.S. outnumbered deaths from car crashes and shootings. Even though the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 80 percent of the world’s prescription drugs.

Unlike street drugs, prescription drugs can be easily acquired from a doctor or a family member’s medicine cabinet. This makes them a more pressing threat to children and teens. Prescription medications are also much more likely to lead to overdose and death when mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

In Arizona, approximately 579 million class II-IV pills were prescribed in 2014, and pain relievers accounted for 60 percent of all pills prescribed.

A state health department report approximated that two Arizonans die every day due to prescription opioid overdose. The death rate from 2012 to 2016 increased by 74 percent. Deaths in Arizona involving opioids totaled 790 in 2016, up 16 percent from the previous year. Of those deaths, 500 were from prescription opioids and 490 were from heroin.

The Personal And Financial Costs Of Addiction To Arizona

Arizona Is Fighting Back

In June 2017, Governor Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency regarding opioid addiction in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services is dedicating additional resources to help fight the crisis and educate the public. De-stigmatizing addiction so that people will seek help early is a key part of the state’s message.

In addition, physicians have become better about educating patients about the risks of prescription painkillers and limiting prescriptions. Perhaps this is because Arizona has implemented the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program (CSPMP), an online database where doctors and pharmacists can record and track every prescription. This allows medical professionals to prevent patients from going around to multiple doctors getting prescriptions to feed their addiction, a technique known as “doctor shopping.”

The Heroin Connection

While Arizona’s measures help prevent people from becoming addicted to prescription drugs in the first place, it doesn’t always solve the problem for people who are already addicted.

In fact, cracking down on the availability of prescription painkillers leads many who are addicted to turn to heroin as an alternative, because it is less expensive and more readily available on the black market than prescription opioids.

It’s estimated that 75 percent of heroin addictions in the U.S. stem from using legal prescription drugs.

Heroin is an opiate that provides similar pain relief as prescription opioids do, but the former is much more dangerous. Unlike prescription medications, which are regulated and controlled by the government, heroin may be laced with other drugs, such as fentanyl, and there’s no way to know for certain what you’re getting. Even in a best-case scenario, heroin users are at high risk for overdose.

With naturally derived opiates and synthetic, man-made opioids, an increasingly larger dose is needed over time to achieve the same effect. This forces those who are addicted into a spiral of greater use, until the inevitable overdose occurs – or until treatment is requested.
 
Learn More About Heroin Addiction

Seeking Rehabilitation for Prescription Drug Abuse

People who are addicted to prescription drugs – and their family members – may hesitate to acknowledge that the addiction exists because society looks down on drug abuse. But delaying treatment could literally be a matter of life and death, which is why swift treatment is essential for anyone who’s struggling with addiction to prescription medication or heroin.

At Reflections Recovery Center, we understand the underlying factors that lead wise and innocent people into addiction, and we provide compassionate, comprehensive treatment for men who are ready to shake off the grip of addiction.

Our men-only opioid rehab center in Prescott, Arizona provides a strong, supportive community where men can detox, get their addiction under control, and build skills for lifelong wellness. Where needed, we offer treatment for several co-occurring mental health disorders that contribute to substance abuse.

The holistic treatment methodology we use combines cutting-edge clinical treatment and alternative medicine therapies designed to heal the whole person – mind, body and spirit – so that our clients can live substance-free lives long after they leave rehab.

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