Finding the best recovery programs for a substance abuse problem can often be overwhelming. In order to receive treatment for prescription drug abuse, you will first want to access the resources and facilities where effective treatment for prescription drug addiction is available. At NuView Treatment Center, proven methods of evidence-based treatment are used to help individuals overcome their addiction.
Personalized Rehab for Prescription Drug Addiction in Los Angeles
NuView Treatment Center in Los Angeles takes a science-based approach to substance abuse treatment and offers a comfortable, nonjudgmental, caring atmosphere for clients seeking evidence-based treatment for addiction to prescription drugs. We accommodate the individual needs of each client in our comfortable rehabilitation center on the Westside of Los Angeles by creating personalized treatment plans that meet their specific needs. As a result, all clients are able to enjoy their recovery as they develop new coping skills. One should also understand that people develop addictions for different reasons so it’s important for us as therapists at NuView Treatment Center to provide customized rehab programs designed specifically for each client’s personal history with drugs or alcohol.
Evidence-Based Outpatient Programs for Substance Use Disorder
Our addiction specialists and medical professionals know how to track down the true root of a user’s drug abuse habits. No stone goes unturned when deducing why someone uses drugs. By getting to know the individual on a deeper level, the best method of treatment can be doled out accordingly by addressing their past issues with in-depth group therapy and providing one-on-one attention where necessary or desired. By giving our clients several different options that satisfy any need they may have during their rehabilitation process, we’re able to give them as much help as they need while working around certain issues that might interfere with their progress such as problems at home or work.
Flexible Outpatient Programs in Los Angeles
Our outpatient programs are designed so that our clients can work towards their full recovery while also attending school, working, or participating in any activities they might enjoy. Every member of our staff works to help our patients discover things they didn’t know they could do in order to prioritize and fulfill their dreams – and even develop new dreams that they never had before. We understand that everyone is different when it comes to how and why they became addicted to drugs and alcohol – which is why we seek out new and improved ways to help our clients heal while making sure they have all the resources they need in order to correct told thinking patterns and behaviors.
Affordable and Insurance-Covered Addiction Treatment
NuView Treatment Center is dedicated to helping individuals achieve long-term sobriety as affordably as possible. Our trained specialists can help you address any area of addiction and work with you in finding a healthy outlet for dealing with it effectively well into your future. Most major insurance plans cover treatment for prescription drug addiction, so we will figure out the specifics of your health plan when you’re ready to start treatment – so you can just focus on recovery!
What is Prescription Drug Addiction?
Prescription drug addiction treatment may be required when a person develops a physical dependence and a psychological obsession with one or more pharmaceutical medications.
This kind of addiction can occur with people who are legitimately prescribed medications by a doctor. It is also common for people to purchase pharmaceutical medications illicitly. Most cases of prescription drug abuse and misuse are a result of a person pursuing the euphoric feelings — or “high” — that these medications often provide as a side effect.
There is a common misconception that prescription drugs are safe and risk-free. People believe prescription drugs are safe because they are legal. It is important to recognize that just because a drug is legal or serves a recognized medical purpose, that does not mean that it is safe.
In fact, many prescription drugs are more dangerous than so-called “street drugs.” For this reason, when doctors prescribe medication, they ask that patients follow strict guidelines for taking their medication. Addictive medications are often only prescribed for short periods of time to avert the potential for physical dependence.
However, it should be noted that even people who take their drugs as prescribed and follow medical directions to the letter are still at risk.
How Does Prescription Drug Addiction Happen?
When people seek euphoric effects from prescription drugs or seek additional relief from their medical ailment, it is common for them to misuse them. This form of misuse generally comes in the form of taking higher doses than prescribed. However, when an individual takes prescription drugs over an extended period of time, they are likely to develop a tolerance for these drugs.
When a person increases their dosage, this tolerance can become even stronger. Once a person’s body has acclimated to the effects of a drug and develops a tolerance, it takes even greater quantities of the drug to produce any desired effect. The euphoric feeling becomes more difficult to achieve, and the result is that people further increase their dosage.
Once this tolerance for prescription drugs has set in, people generally struggle to resist the urge to abuse their medication. Physical dependence on prescription medication can cause people to experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.
They may reach a point where they are unable to function without their prescription drug or drugs. If their brain and central nervous system have adapted to the effects of the drug, being high may be the new normal for them, and being sober can become intolerable.
What are the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction?
Identifying prescription drug addiction can be tricky, because the medication usually serves a legitimate medical purpose even while a person uses it for a recreational purpose. This is why it’s important to look out for potential warning signs of an addiction. Even if someone is taking the medication as prescribed, there may be other signs that someone is overusing drugs such as difficulty sleeping, hallucinations or withdrawal symptoms. It’s also common to find addicts who have increased their dosage or who are taking several prescriptions at once. If you believe someone you love is turning to prescription drugs for the wrong reasons, please seek help immediately.
Common symptoms of buprenorphine addiction include:
- “Doctor shopping” or having more than one prescription.
- Buying the drug illicitly
- Fluctuations in weight and dramatic changes in physical appearance
- Snorting crushed up pills
- The inability to stop taking it despite a powerful desire to stop.
- The inability to feel joy without the drug
- Lack of ambition or feelings of indifference
- Unexplained hostile behavior, aggressiveness, or agitation
- Lying about usage to friends, family,, and loved ones.
- Taking higher doses or more frequent doses than prescribed
- Off-label use
- Using the medication to experience a “high”
- Strong cravings or withdrawal symptoms if stopped.
Do I Have a Prescription Drug Addiction?
Addiction to prescription drugs is extremely common and can be fatal. Just because these drugs come from a doctor doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same harmful effects and potential for abuse as illicit “street” drugs. One should seek help immediately if one finds oneself taking prescription narcotics for non-medical reasons, like making it through stressful days at work or school, or if one is spending large quantities of money trying to get a constant supply of these prescriptions on the black market.
One of the best ways to tell if you or someone you know has a prescription drug and/or addiction problem is by noticing signs of abusing the medical system. If you typically go from doctor to doctor in order to obtain different prescriptions, then this indicates that you might have a problem with prescription drugs. You should understand that this type of behavior, often known as “doctor shopping”, is unacceptable, illegal, and must be corrected immediately. Because people who shop for doctors are looking for specific prescription drugs rather than appropriate care, they are in danger of developing an addiction to controlled substances because these legally prescribed medications can become addictive very quickly. If an individual is suffering from an addiction as a result of these drugs, one should seek professional assistance from their primary care provider before it gets out of hand and affects their daily life.
How Can I Help Someone with a Prescription Drug Addiction?
It’s incredibly dangerous for someone who is struggling with addiction to have unfettered access to prescription medications, so you need to be aware if a family member or friend is abusing them. An addicted individual will experience harmful behavioral changes such as switching from feelings of happiness to feelings of deep sadness in an instant or engaging in compulsive behavior as a result of their substance abuse. We urge you not to panic but instead approach this person with the utmost care and understanding. Taking them in for outpatient treatment at NuView’s Los Angeles rehab center may also be a good first step.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do when you witness a close friend or relative struggling with drug addiction is to be as supportive as possible. Being supportive is not the same as enabling their addictions or addictive behaviors. Remember that this is an opportunity to help a friend and show how much you care. Just remember not to judge your friend’s personal decisions but instead be there to listen. They likely already recognize their problem, so the best thing you can do is let them know they’re not alone.
The primary way you can be of help is by encouraging them to seek professional treatment. The best way to evaluate whether they could benefit from a medically supervised detox program and long-term treatment is through professional assessment. NuView Treatment Center is highly experienced at evaluating clients’ needs and developing individualized treatment plans. Helping the addict seek support is always integral and we want to remind you that however severe their prescription drug abuse is, professional attention from counselors and addiction professionals will be of benefit when it comes to easing out of addiction and developing a new life in recovery.
How Is Prescription Drug Addiction Treated?
When a person has become dependent on this drug, they require professional help, and in most cases, they need to go through rigorous rehabilitation in a licensed facility. Drug rehab centers vary in terms of the level of care they offer as well as their price. NuView Treatment Center is able to offer an affordable outpatient program because we believe that rehabilitation shouldn’t come at a high cost but rather be accessible for all types of people across the country. Whether you’re struggling with addiction to prescription drugs or alcohol or both, outpatient programs allow clients to live at home and pursue treatment for addiction during their own time. This unique way of offering quality care is quite flexible so that it can meet individual needs while the client simultaneously pursues work, school and personal hobbies, which are so critical when it comes to recovery from substance abuse disorder and developing a new fulfilling life in sobriety.
At NuView Treatment Center, when treating a prescription drug addiction, the physical dependence is addressed first. Given the withdrawal effects that occur with powerful prescription opioids, simply quitting “cold turkey” may lead to painful withdrawal symptoms and even relapse can be quite common. Those who find out they’ll need a taper may meet with supervising physicians to help them methodically reduce their dosage as painlessly as possible during the detox process.
Addiction has physical, psychological and interpersonal aspects to it. Recovering from it takes more than just stopping drug use but also addressing the underlying issues as to why one started abusing drugs in the first place and making sure that one gets help for their mental health, lifestyle, and relationships. Even if a person stops taking drugs and ends their physical dependence, without addressing the emotional components of addiction, relapse is all but inevitable.
How Do Outpatient Programs Help Prescription Drug Addicts?
After a client comes to NuView Treatment Center, a treatment plan will be implemented – and this will include working with the client’s caseworker to create a program that is customized specifically for their individual needs. Most outpatient sessions incorporate different types of therapy including individual counseling as well as group therapy. Staff at NuView Treatment Center each have expertise in different treatment approaches depending on factors such as the particular condition or circumstances being faced by the client, their age, and their relapse history. Therapies available at NuView Treatment Center include a wide range of evidence-based approaches which can help clients develop new strategies and coping tools.
Commonly utilized treatment methods include:
- Individual therapy
- Fitness and health education
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Medication monitoring
- Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation activities
- Career and education planning
- 12-step programs and 12-step alternatives
- Drug education
- Relapse prevention training
- Urine tests to ensure abstinence
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
Complementary and Alternative therapies
When you or someone you love becomes dependent on prescription medications, there are a variety of therapeutic treatment choices. One of the most overlooked ingredients in overcoming addiction to prescription drugs is developing harmony and connection between mind, body and spirit. At NuView Treatment Center, we offer holistic and alternative healing modalities specifically designed to treat drug addiction by addressing the needs of the whole person.
The more holistic and experimental approaches we offer sometimes include:
- Nutritional programs
- Fitness programs
- Art therapy
- Sound therapy
Taking prescription drugs over the long term can actually induce serious changes in a person’s brain which may alter how they produce dopamine naturally and leave them needing more of their medication just to feel “normal”. In terms of recovery, sticking to a healthy diet along with exercising regularly can help heal and rewire the brain faster so that one will be able to produce endorphins and neurotransmitters – which is our body’s natural way of producing “highs.” The holistic and experimental therapies listed above can speed up this healing process.
What Types of Outpatient Programs Are Offered for Prescription Drug Addiction?
NuView Treatment Center provides many levels of care in order to help individuals struggling with substance abuse achieve a renewed sense of wellness. The root cause of addiction is different for everyone, which means that there isn’t just one straightforward method when it comes to treating patients suffering from substance abuse. NuView offers effective outpatient rehabilitation services in order to fight the signs, symptoms and causes of addiction at the highest possible level while responding directly to the individual needs and concerns of each unique client.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
At NuView, we offer partial hospitalization programs that allow individuals to undergo comprehensive treatment for addiction at an outpatient level. These programs feature a variety of the highest quality care options because they are medically supervised and feature intensive programming and structure so clients can receive support for their addiction issues no matter how advanced their substance use disorder is.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Our intensive outpatient program is much like our PHP program. It’s a highly intense form of rehab that emphasizes both individual therapy and group counseling. IOPs are particularly beneficial to those in recovery who have both substance abuse issues and mental health issues. Clients who get involved with the IOP tend to partake in sessions several times per week for several hours each time. The IOP helps individuals identify their triggers while also developing coping techniques that can prevent them from being reactive to specific situations or people.
Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (Evening IOP)
At NuView, we also offer a unique evening IOP that offers the same high-quality clinical practices as our traditional IOP, but with the flexibility to be attended in the evenings after work or school. Many people seeking treatment for prescription drug addiction have hectic schedules, requiring them to balance demanding careers and a responsibility for their family’s health and wellbeing. Our evening IOP affords clients the chance to attend treatment sessions when it suits them best and allows them time to put their own lives first during this stressful period.
Outpatient Program (OP)
NuView’s outpatient program is the foundation of our client care. It focuses on offering a plan for individuals who no longe need urgent critical care but still require support. These forms of support might include providing education to the individual on the nature of his or her addiction and helping them reflect on underlying causes. Our clinical team will also stay in regular contact to make sure your treatment is going as planned! As an individual develops more independence and builds a life in sobriety, it is inevitable that challenges and difficulties will come up. Outpatient programs ensure that no one has to face those challenges alone.
How Can I Afford Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment?
Addiction is a serious condition. so it’s important to know where to turn for help. NuView is committed to ensuring we’ve got you covered. That’s why we work with all major health insurance providers and specialized rehab facilities/hospitals to make sure patients can find the help they need where they can get it quickly without breaking their bank account in the process.
Financial, legal, and career obstacles often get in the way and keep individuals from attaining a life that is clean and sober. But you don’t have to settle for second best. At NuView Treatment Center we believe that no matter what your personal situation is, there is something to be done about it. That’s why we help you explore all of the different options available so that you too can move forward into the future with confidence and renewed optimism. Simply reach out to us and we will figure out what your insurance covers, speak with your insurance representative, and get you the treatment you need as soon as possible – without you having to worry about breaking your bank.
How Does NuView Treatment Center Support Families?
Addiction doesn’t just affect the person taking the medication. The effects can be profound and painful, which often causes loved ones to become profoundly affected by the behavior and suffering of their addicted family member or friend. This is because addiction is in many ways a family illness, and it is caused by genetic factors as well as the circumstances of a person’s upbringing. As such, NuView Treatment Center focuses on ensuring every addict and their social circle receives the attention they deserve. That way, both the addict and those they care about can begin living a happier, healthier lifestyle.
We encourage family members of addicts to attend our meetings and workshops when people in their families are going through the recovery process. Since addiction is a family illness, it’s important for the entire family to learn how to cope with addiction together so that everyone can get healthy once again. Our meetings also include workshops that help nurture these relations even further so that in addition to getting their loved one back on track, each family member gets back on track as well!
Life After Prescription Drug Addiction in Los Angeles
Prescription drug addiction can make substance abuse compulsive and almost impossible to manage without outside help. Moreover, addiction to prescription drugs can lead to a wide range of negative consequences in a person’s life. These consequences range from physical and mental health problems to relationship issues.
As these difficulties build, prescription drug abuse can become even more appealing as a form of short term relief from life’s challenges. The result is a vicious cycle. Fortunately, it is possible for people to recover from addiction and rebuild their lives.
If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, it is essential to get medical help and possibly joining a specific prescription drug addiction treatment in LA as soon as possible.
In the case of prescription opioid overdoses, it is crucial to administer naloxone even before medical professionals arrive. Naloxone, which can be administered easily even to unconscious people via a nasal spray, immediately reverses the effects of an overdose. Administering naloxone in time can save lives. However, getting medical help is still necessary.
Outpatient prescription drug addiction treatment programs, such as the offered by NuView Treatment Center, can offer people the tools, support, and medical attention they need. Not only do outpatient programs help people escape from the vicious cycle of substance abuse, however. They also ensure that clients successfully develop new and fulfilling lives in sobriety that are worth staying sober for. If you are ready to develop new skills, a new relationships, and a new approach to life, reach out today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Prescription drugs, sometimes known as prescription medications, are pharmaceutical drugs that can only be sold to people who possess a medical prescription issued by a doctor or licensed physician.
There is a distinction between prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. While both over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs are designed to treat medical ailments, and both can be abused, prescription drugs are unique in that they can only be legally obtained with a medical prescription.
There are thousands of prescription drugs on the market, and each one is sold under multiple brand names. However, not all prescription drugs are prone to misuse and abuse. There are many prescription drugs that do not offer a “high,” and many of them are non-addictive or simply subjectively unpleasant.
Certain categories of prescription drugs have a high potential for abuse. These psychoactive prescription drugs have widely varying effects and dangers, and each one is prescribed for a different purpose. Understanding the nature of these drugs and their risks is essential.
While prescription drugs are legal (as long as they are obtained using a legitimate prescription), that does not mean that they are safe. It doesn’t take long for people to develop a physical dependence on the medications they are taking, whether they are taking them legally or illicitly. In many cases, this physical dependence progresses and becomes an addiction.
It is important to recognize that while prescription drugs are often purchased illicitly, many people become addicted while using legitimate prescriptions to treat very real medical problems. It is common for a person who would never consider abusing drugs recreationally to begin misusing their prescription slowly. They may begin by increasing their dosage for more relief, and then they may discover that they have developed a physical dependence.
To avoid withdrawal symptoms, many people end up switching to alternative routes of administration, such as snorting or injecting. Ultimately, they may end up switching to a more potent medication — or even a “street” drug, such as heroin. Many prescription drug addicts work hard to keep their addiction secret, until it is too late.
There is no one single factor that causes a person to develop a substance use disorder. Research shows that most cases of substance abuse come about due to a combination of a wide range of factors. However, the two most important elements that can predispose someone to substance abuse are genetics and environmental factors.
People who have a family history of substance abuse have a high likelihood of engaging in substance abuse themselves. Part of this is due to genetics, but growing up in an unstable environment also plays an important role. Trauma, mental health disorders, economic hardship, and early exposure to drugs and alcohol are all factors that make people more likely to abuse drugs later in life.
When it comes to prescription drug abuse specifically, other circumstances play an important role. The risk of developing an addiction to a prescription drug can be affected by:
- The specific drug they are taking
- Whether they are actually using it to treat a disorder or chronic pain
- Height, weight, and other personal factors
- The influence of friends, family, or peers
- Mental health
- Knowledge and education about the drug
The fact that obtaining prescription drugs legally requires a doctor’s signature means that recreational drug users often need to be creative in order to obtain them. Prescription drugs can be acquired and misused in a number of ways, including:
- Obtaining them from a family member or friend who has a prescription
- Taking larger doses than medically recommended
- Taking doses more frequently than medically recommended
- Refilling the prescription without a doctor’s permission
- Abusing the drug using another route of administration (smoking, injecting, or crushing and snorting)
- “Doctor shopping” (If one doctor refuses to prescribe the drug, going to another doctor until it is prescribed)
- Buying prescription drugs online or on the street
Tranquilizers, which include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, and barbiturates, are a class of drugs that slows down brain activity. Sometimes known as sedatives, these drugs are central nervous system (CNS) depressants.
Prescription opioids are also CNS depressants, but tranquilizers are distinct because they are generally prescribed for the specific purpose of producing calmness or drowsiness. Prescription tranquilizers and sedatives are common treatments for anxiety disorders and sleep disorders.
Benzodiazepines are often abused because they produce euphoric feelings, anecdotally similar to the experience of drinking alcohol. While they can be effective treatments for panic attacks, severe stress, and anxiety, they can quickly cause a person to develop physical dependence. In fact, the withdrawal effects that occur when a person tries to stop using benzodiazepines can be so severe that they can be life-threatening.
Commonly abused benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” include:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Estazolam (ProSom)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
Many sleep medications are related to benzodiazepines on a chemical level but are not technically benzodiazepines. Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications act on the same receptors and, while they have a lower risk of physical dependence, they can still cause a wide range of harms when abused.
Common non-benzodiazepine sleep medicines include:
- Zaleplon (Sonata)
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
Barbiturates are a class of tranquilizers that in recent years has become less commonly prescribed than benzodiazepines. These prescription sedatives have a very high risk of overdose.
Common barbiturates include:
- Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
- Phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium)
- Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal)
Opioids are drugs that are derived from the naturally growing opium poppy, though in recent years powerful synthetic opioids that are entirely lab-produced have become popular.
Opioids are generally prescribed as analgesics, or painkillers, because their effect on the brain’s opioid receptors causes the suppression of pain signals. However, opioids also cause people to experience intense euphoria, and they can be extremely addictive.
Prescription opioids, especially synthetic opioids, are often stronger than opioid street drugs. Fentanyl, for instance, is many times more potent than heroin. In fact, the majority of heroin users started off by becoming addicted to prescription opioids.
The United States and much of the world is currently facing an unprecedented opioid epidemic. In 2017 alone, 47,600 people died of opioid overdoses in the United States, with many more people being adversely affected without necessarily losing their lives.
It should be noted that prescription opioids are essential medications that are very effective for treating severe and chronic pain, helping people who are getting surgery or undergoing cancer treatment. However, tolerance and physical dependence builds so quickly that even people who are taking opioids for a legitimate purpose are at a high risk of addiction.
Individuals who misuse or abuse their prescriptions can experience acute side effects, including life-threatening overdoses.
Commonly abused prescription opioids include:
- Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab)
- Oxycodone (Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Methadone (Dolphine)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Propoxyphene (Darvon)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
- Codeine (Vopac, Tylenol with Codeine)
- Morphine (Avinza, Kadian, and MS Contin)
Prescription stimulants are drugs that increase activity in the central nervous system. Taking a prescription stimulant can increase a person’s energy, alertness, and focus. They can also suppress appetite, elevate blood pressure, and increase sex drive. Prescription stimulants are generally used as treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a mental health condition that causes problems with impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness.
However, prescription stimulants are often abused by people who do not suffer from this condition, especially college students who use prescription stimulants to improve their academic performance.
There are many street drugs that are classified as stimulants, such as cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine, and many prescription stimulants are no safer than these drugs. ADHD medication is often prescribed in pill form, though it is sometimes available in a skin patch or liquid formulation. It is common for people abusing these drugs to use alternative routes of administration, such as snorting or injection.
Stimulant pills can be crushed and snorted, or they can be dissolved in liquid and injected; both methods make the effects more powerful and therefore more dangerous, especially when combined with other substances. Stimulants are generally grouped into three classifications: long-acting, intermediate-acting, and short acting.
Long-acting stimulants are often meant to be taken once a day or even less frequently, since many of them have effects that last for days. When taken recreationally, however, these powerful drugs are sometimes abused multiple times a day.
Common long-acting stimulant prescription drugs include:
- Adderall XR
- Adzenys XR-ODT
- Metadate CD
- Focalin XR
- Quillivant XR
- Quillichew ER
- Ritalin LA
Intermediate-acting prescription stimulants require more regular dosage to work properly.
Common intermediate-acting prescription stimulants include:
- Metadate ER
- Methylin ER
- Ritalin SR
Short-acting prescription stimulants are designed to provide immediate effects that wear off relatively quickly. The most common short-acting prescription stimulants are:
By far the greatest risk people face while abusing prescription drugs is the risk of an accidental overdose. Medicines that are available by prescription only are generally restricted because they are so potent, and taking a dosage that is above the medically recommended one can have life-threatening consequences.
A prescription drug overdose occurs when a person takes a greater quantity of the drug than their body can tolerate. Tolerance levels can fluctuate over time, and they can dip down when a person attempts to quit abusing drugs. For this reason, it is common for people to overdose when they relapse after a period of abstinence.
The exact nature of an overdose varies considerably, depending on the specific medication involved. However, the most common type of drug overdose involves synthetic opioids. In fact, it may come as a surprise that the rate of prescription opioid overdoses has far surpassed the rate of heroin overdoses.
In 2017 alone, 17,029 people in the United States died of a prescription opioid overdose. The vast majority of these overdoses occur due to the potency and the wide availability of synthetic opioids, including fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine, and certain fentanyl analogs are thousands of times stronger than heroin.
Even a small miscalculation in dosage can be sufficient to cause an opioid overdose. Even people who are not intentionally abusing synthetic opioids are at risk, since fentanyl is often used as an additive in other drug products, including heroin.
Ultimately, opioid overdoses occur through the same mechanism that causes people to get “high.” Opioids are central nervous system depressants that slow down the body and brain’s functions.
While this can result in feelings of relaxation and euphoria at lower doses, at higher doses essential life-sustaining activities can cease entirely. During an opioid overdose, respiratory depression occurs. Unless treated immediately, loss of life is almost an inevitability.
The symptoms of an opioid overdose include:
- The body goes limp
- The person’s face feels clammy to the touch and appears extremely pale
- The person starts vomiting or making gurgling noises
- Their fingernails, finger tips, or lips have a purple or blue color
- They cannot be awakened
- They are unable to speak
- Their heartbeat slows down or stops entirely
- They find it difficult to breathe or stop breathing entirely
Combining drugs, an activity known as polysubstance abuse, dramatically increases the risk of overdose. The overlapping effects of multiple CNS depressants can quickly overwhelm the body. For this reason, drinking alcohol with prescription opioids or combining opioids and prescription sedatives is often a fatal combination.
However, people who take prescription stimulants alongside CNS depressants also face unique risks. Because stimulants overtax the body and depressants slow it down, the body often struggles to keep up with the demands placed on it. Combining stimulants and depressants is known as speedballing, and it is one of the most dangerous forms of drug abuse.
While “functional” drug addicts may succeed in hiding the overt signs of their substance abuse, their attempts at secrecy can be revealing clues. Furthermore, drug addictions are progressive conditions that tend to get worse over time. Eventually, even the most careful prescription drug addict eventually begins to exhibit concerning physical and behavioral changes.
Prescription drug abuse and addiction can lead to a wide variety of cognitive and emotional changes. Mental changes that can indicate a substance use disorder include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Sudden changes in mood
- Suicidal ideation or actions
It is important to note that the relationship between prescription drug abuse and mental health disorders is very strong. The causal connection between substance use disorders and mental health conditions goes in both directions. This can make it exceedingly difficult to treat both problems.
Many people begin taking prescription drugs initially as a way to treat symptoms of a mental health disorder. Psychiatrists frequently prescribe benzodiazepines, for instance, to treat the symptoms of anxiety or panic disorders. Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse are generally prescribed to help people manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
These are only a few examples. Moreover, many people begin taking prescription medications illicitly — without a prescription — as a way of dealing with emotional distress. In many cases, they are self-medicating and suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders.
Self-medication, however, can quickly become dependence and addiction. An individual who abuses prescription drugs to treat their mental illness will usually find that they are unable to function without their drug of choice.
To make matters worse, substance abuse tends to cause people to develop further mental illness. Not only does substance abuse directly lead to emotional and cognitive problems, but the consequences of addiction in a person’s life can be profoundly destabilizing.
Losing a job, isolating from loved ones, and suffering from legal, financial, and health problems can exacerbate the symptoms of pre-existing mental health conditions and lead to the development of new ones. Unfortunately, people who suffer from addiction are very likely to turn to drugs as a solution to these new problems — even though these new problems are caused by drugs!
Individuals who suffer from substance use disorders in addition to mental health disorders are known as dual diagnosis patients. It is essential for dual diagnosis individuals to get help for all of their comorbid conditions. No matter how thoroughly a person addresses their addiction, for instance, a flare-up of depression or anxiety can easily trigger a relapse.
On the other hand, no matter how well a person addresses their mental health issues, continued substance abuse is likely to make the whole process futile. Mental health disorders and addictions are inextricably linked.
Quality treatment programs provide a form of comprehensive care known as integrated treatment. Integrated treatment is designed to address comorbid conditions simultaneously, so that a person can enjoy lasting recovery.
Most people who suffer from prescription drug addiction work hard to conceal their struggles. After all, if they confess to their doctor, there is a good chance that their prescription will not be renewed. If they tell friends or family members, loved ones will probably try to help them get a proper prescription drug addiction treatment. This means they won’t be able to get high anymore!
While the signs of prescription drug abuse vary widely and depend on the specific drug being abused, common signs of addiction include:
- A lack of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be important
- Missing important obligations at school or work
- Neglecting relationships or reacting negatively to close friends or loved ones
- A willingness to take dangerous risks, especially in order to obtain drugs
- A change in sleeping patterns or energy levels
- Ignoring the negative consequences of their actions
- Increased secrecy and a tendency to lie
- Financial or legal problems
- A sudden change in peer group
Over time, people who are engaging in prescription drug abuse tend to experience health problems. These health problems can sometimes be ambiguous, since they can often be attributed to other causes than addiction. Someone who is not eating, for instance, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder — but the truth may be that they are addicted to prescription opioids.
Someone who is getting sick constantly may be diagnosed with the flu, but they may have a compromised immune system due to prescription drug abuse. It is often helpful to look for clusters of symptoms rather than one tell-all sign.
Common health problems associated with substance abuse include:
- Constant illness
- Bloodshot or glazed eyes
- Abrupt changes in weight or eating patterns
- Unexplained injuries
- Increased tolerance to drugs
- Bad skin, teeth, hair, and nails
- Memory loss or problems with recall
- Change in speech patterns, such as slurred words or a tendency to ramble
- Physical withdrawal symptoms, like sweating, vomiting, or trembling