Who Gets Addicted?

An article written by Amanda Gardner sheds a little light on the whys and hows of prescription drug abuse. Most often this happens when a patient is prescribed a very strong drug to treat a multitude of pain issues. It might take away the pain but then some end up enjoying the euphoric numbness that they receive far beyond the end of the actual pain.

According to one teen who was interviewed, he was eventually popping 45 prescription pain pills a day, with the strongest one being hydrocodone. He was also abusing tranquilizers like alprazolam and diazepam.

This addiction overtook him and he eventually hit rock bottom. Next came the stealing of pain medications from his mother who was dying of cancer. This left his mother crying because she had no medication left for herself and kept her in severe pain. That is what finally took this teen to seek help.

Following an operation or an injury, the doctor almost always will prescribe some pain medication. But, when that person decides they like this effect, they will end up going from doctor to doctor, receiving multiple prescriptions of the painkiller. Just a visit in one day to various doctors can get enough pills to fuel a habit. This is called “doctor shopping” and is a serious problem.

There is no way of knowing how many people in the U.S. are hooked on prescription drugs. Only the overdoses can be easily tracked, but the experts think that more than 8 ½ million Americans are abusing such medications. Quite often, and quite sad, they start at a young age. About 8% of high school seniors have reported they used the painkiller hydrocodone for non-medical reasons during the past year. It’s impossible to know who will become addicted. There are some who use a prescription painkiller but don’t become hooked on them.

One thing that can raise your risk of prescription drug addition is if you have already abused another substance like alcohol or cocaine. This puts you at a higher risk. Your chances are higher of abuse if you have family members with addiction problems, according to Howard Forman, MD, a medical director at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. This might be because you have inherited genes that will make you more likely to become addicted. Also, those who have gone through childhood trauma such as physical or sexual abuse, losing a parent, or violence, can also have a higher risk. Those who live in a place where prescription drug abuse is common might also be more likely to become addicts.

If an anxious person is given oxycodone and has a mental illness, it also increases the likelihood of addiction. After the pain is gone, the medication has powerfully helped their distress and they could now become hooked on it. Those who have problems such as anxiety and depression are more likely to use the painkillers on a long-term basis.

Drug addiction has risen with the availability of these drugs and can result in death. More people are now dying from overdoses of prescription drugs than they do of illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine, according to Jim Davis of the New Mexico Department of Health. Much of this is driven by the availability and there is a lot of effort now going on into trying to push that down. Nationwide the number of prescriptions being written has jumped dramatically by as much as 400% in the last decade or so. About 259 million prescriptions for painkillers were written in the U.S. in 2012.

Legitimate pain should be treated with legitimate treatment, and this should not be interfered with, but how do you know when someone you love truly does need the pain meds or if are misusing them?

Dr Fredda Branyon