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.
Different types of opioids and opiates include:
Some brand names of common opioid medications are:
Benzodiazepines induce relaxation and are commonly used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, sleep disorders and seizures. Types of benzodiazepines include:
Some brand names of benzodiazepines are:
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.
The Prescription Drug Abuse 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.
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 addiction, 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.
Seeking Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
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 from 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 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 patients can live substance-free lives long after they leave rehab.