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Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

Prescription drug addiction in Rhode Island is increasing at an alarming rate. The sheer number of overdose casualties and fatalities across the state continues to rise with each successive year, despite measures to address the drug addiction problem.

One of the primary contributing factors to the problem of prescription drug addiction treatment in Rhode Island, is the sharp increase in the number of prescriptions written for such drugs.

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Taking any prescription medication in ways that were not prescribed by a doctor, is considered drug abuse. Examples of this are, taking higher doses than were prescribed, taking medications prescribed for other people, taking medications for recreational purposes, or taking them in order to get high.

Statistics for Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction in Rhode Island

According to a report released by the Rhode Island Medical Society, the number of drug overdose death rates per capita in Rhode Island, is now one of the highest in the country. Prescription opioids were the most common drugs involved in overdose fatalities in 2014.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released a report, showing that the abuse of prescription pain relievers and the drug overdose death rate in Rhode Island, exceeded the national average.

The same report from the CDC also shows that opioid painkillers, including oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), fentanyl (Duragesic), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid) are responsible for 75% of all prescription drug overdose deaths in the state.

Common Drugs of Abuse

The most commonly abused prescription medications fall into three categories. These are:

Opiates: opiate drugs are commonly prescribed to treat chronic or acute pain. Opiates are the compounds found naturally in the opium, poppy, such as morphine and codeine. By comparison, opioid drugs are drugs that act in a similar way to opiates, and are often synthesized from morphine.

Common examples of opioid painkillers are methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. Heroin is also an opioid drug that was once sold as a prescription medication before being made an illegal Schedule I controlled drug under the Controlled Substances act.

Sedatives: sedative/hypnotic medications are also commonly referred to as tranquilizers, and are usually prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, or sleep disorders. These act as a central nervous system depressant to slow down brain functioning. The most commonly abused sedative medications include, benzodiazepines (Valium or Klonopin), imidazopyridines (Ambien), and barbiturates (phenobarbital).

Stimulants: stimulant medications are usually prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drugs act as a stimulant on the central nervous system, counteracting fatigue and improving concentration in focus.

The most commonly abused stimulant medications, include amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta). Incidentally, cocaine is also a strictly controlled prescription medication, although it is most commonly abused as a recreational drug.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

The individual signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse will vary, depending on the type of drug being taken. However, there are some common elements to look for, including:

  • Appearing to be unusually drowsy, high, energetic, or sedated
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Constantly ‘losing’ prescriptions in order to get more written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
  • Stealing, forging, or selling prescriptions
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Defensiveness or hostility when confronted about drug use
  • Tolerance, or needing to take higher doses to achieve the same effects

Why Are Prescription Drugs So Addictive?

Prescription drugs cause changes within the brain’s chemistry. When they are used exactly as prescribed under medical supervision, they can be highly effective for treating specific medical conditions.

However, when they are abused, the changes within the brain’s chemistry create an artificial short-cut to the brain’s reward pathways. The user interprets the effect as being an easy way to achieve the reward usually reserved for life-sustaining activities.

Over time, the brain’s chemistry adapts to the presence of the drug in the system. This is known as tolerance, where the user needs to take higher doses to get the same effects that used to be achieved with smaller amounts. Taking higher doses dramatically increases the risk of accidental overdose.

Long-term abuse of any prescription medication can cause the brain to become dependent on the substance. The brain is eventually tricked into thinking it can no longer produce dopamine or serotonin naturally unless it has the artificial stimulation of more drugs. At this point, the user is considered drug dependent.

Treatment Options

Treating an addiction to prescription medication can be complicated, as it is important to address both the physical and psychological side of the addiction. The treatment used is also dependent on the type of drug being taken.

Opioid Treatment: treating an addiction to opioid painkiller medications, is almost identical to treating a heroin addiction. The first step in treatment is the detox process, which can be conducted with the use of replacement medications, such as Suboxone or methadone.

Without assistance from treatment medications, recovering addict can expect to experience excruciatingly painful withdrawal symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps, muscle and bone aches, runny nose, fever, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, and diarrhea. Psychological withdrawal symptoms also include anxiety, agitation, and deep depression.

The objective of replacement medications, is to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms by detoxing the body over a period of time. Eventually, the dosage of treatment medication is tapered down so that the user becomes free from both drugs.

Intensive counseling and behavior therapy are also required to treat opioid addiction. These work to correct dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes surrounding addictive drug use, and replace them with healthy habits and new coping skills for living life without the need for drugs.

Sedative Treatment: treating an addiction to sedative medications requires careful medical supervision, as quitting use suddenly can cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that require emergency medical assistance. Detoxing from sedative medications should be conducted slowly over a period of time, with the dosage level being carefully tapered down until the person is free from the drug.

Intensive counseling and behavioral therapy is also required to address the psychological triggers behind addictive drug use.

Stimulant Treatment: there are no FDA-approved medications for treating addiction to stimulant medications. However, the intense psychological addiction is perhaps the most difficult of all prescription medication addictions to treat. The user may experience relatively mild physical withdrawal symptoms during detox, but the intense psychological symptoms are often enough to drive an addicted person to relapse back into a cycle of drug abuse just to make it stop.

While the initial symptoms of acute withdrawal may occur during the first few days after the last dose, psychological withdrawal symptoms can be protracted and take weeks, or even months, to subside.

Symptoms include sleep disturbances, increased appetite, mental fog and confusion, anxiety, paranoia, irritability, agitation, vivid unpleasant dreams and nightmares, profound depression, suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

Why Seek Professional Treatment?

There is no need to live in the grip of prescription drug addiction, especially when there is a significant amount of professional help available. Seeking professional treatment for drug addiction offers the best chance of making a full recovery.

Detoxing under medical supervision can make it easier to get through the detox process. Medical staff can administer medications that reduce the severity of any withdrawal symptoms that may emerge. Professional counseling and treatment also works to help people regain control of their life again and help them find healthy ways to live a productive life without drugs.

If you or a loved one is battling prescription drug addiction, reach out to qualified rehabilitation centers in Rhode Island today to learn more about available treatment options.