Prescription medication is the second most commonly abused substance ahead of cocaine and heroin. No one plans to be involved in drug addiction but chemical dependence results from changes in brain chemistry, as well as the human need to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Dependence can begin innocently with opiates or depressants prescribed for pain, sleeplessness and a myriad of conditions. Addiction, however, is an insidious parasite that rewires the brains synapses to continue to crave the effects of these changes in brain chemistry. Some individuals even continue a medication for fear of future pain and inadvertently create a chemical dependence to prescription medications. Chronic pain is often a key to substance because a pill to relieve pain immediately is often more desirable then lengthy treatments, physical therapy, or psychotherapeutic intervention.
Symptoms of prescription medication abuse vary depending on the type of medication, and the individual client. Often drug addicted individuals feel an overwhelming need for the medication and may mix it with other drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. Continued substance abuse can change a person’s ability to think clearly, exercise rational judgment, and control behavior and impulses. Personality changes may become apparent as well as deceptive and manipulative attempts to obtain additional prescriptions. This drug seeking behavior can lead to financial, social, employment, personal and even legal problems.
Recovery is a slow and difficult process that the addicted person will be unable to complete without professional assistance. Often, the family physician will need to reduce and discontinue the client’s access to the substance, possibly substituting it with a less addictive medication. However, many medications are available for on-line purchase so the addicted person must recognize the problem and cooperate and participate in their recovery.
Government regulated and highly regarded treatment programs are available for addiction recovery. These programs ranging from a month to several months in an inpatient hospital setting are often available with government financial assistance and sliding fee scales that are based on a person’s ability to pay. These programs include, detoxification, behavior management, counseling, and problem solving skill development so that the client has the greatest success for full recovery after treatment. After the initial inpatient treatment, the client is encouraged to participate in outpatient therapy and group therapy to maintain a drug free supportive environment. In the case of individuals with chronic health problems, physicians and caseworkers can assist clients in receiving treatment to abate pain symptoms and manage illness.