Addiction to Prescriptions

One of the fastest growing treatment issues we are seeing at the 10 Acre Ranch, is that of prescription drugs. Valium, Ativan, Vicodin, OxyContin, Adderall, Percocet, and Xanax are just a few of the often prescribed and highly addictive medications that are commonly used to effectively treat pain, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and other ailments. All of these drugs have a respectable and necessary medical use and have helped millions of people. However, since they do produce a euphoric feeling they can be easily abused and lead to addiction. They can be the starting point for a person’s addiction or the relapse point for someone in recovery. Anyone who is in recovery, who has been abstinent for some time, must use extreme caution when prescribed these medications. In fact, unless it is absolutely necessary, like surgery, most recovering people tell their doctor in advance “I am in recovery and please do not ever give me ANY mood altering medications.”

The reason for this precaution is, it is the disease of addiction that we live with. It is not the substance that is the problem it is the disease. There is an expression “A drug is a drug is a drug” For example someone who is an alcoholic and has been in recovery for years can easily start the relapse process by taking any of the above named medications. They will again feel that feeling of ease and comfort, that can only be produced by a substance and that will eventually lead them back to their drug of choice, in this case alcohol, and start the entire active addiction process again.
Additionally, for those who are not in recovery, prescription medication can be the starting point for addiction. The effects from these drugs are powerful and elusive. The feeling produced is so pleasurable, that one naturally likes the way they make you feel and takes more to recreate the feeling. What is unknown to them there is something called the phenomenon of tolerance. The strange thing about these medications is that once you start taking them, it takes more and more of them over time to achieve the desired feelings. So the person starts taking more to produce the desired effect, but while they are doing that the body starts another phenomenon called dependence. When the person who is taking the medication attempts to stop taking it, they cannot achieve a normal feeling of wellbeing, because the body now has become dependent on the medication to produce the normal feeling of wellbeing. In a nutshell, while the person was taking the medication too often over too long a period of time, the brain has stopped or drastically slowed down making the natural chemicals that produce the normal feeling of wellbeing, it became used to its owner ingesting the chemicals artificially. Hence when we stop taking the medication it takes quite a while for the body to start producing the natural chemicals that produce the feeling of wellbeing again and achieve balance. It is this lapse that is the reason for cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms or feelings of discomfort take place during the time the body is in repair and on its way back to normal. The body now feels very uncomfortable and it wants its owner to seek more of the drug that will quickly relieve the feeling of discomfort, and here we have addiction.

Here appears the fork in the road. The person either decides to enter treatment or continues using. For a time it can be easier to find more of the substance to achieve the normal feeling, but always after a while it starts producing unmanageable situations in the person’s life. Loved ones are concerned that there is something not quite right. The person starts missing work because they cannot function without the drug. They might start having encounters with the law, as the effects produced by the prescribed medications impair the ability to drive. The person continually seeks refills from the doctor for the medication, long after the initial reason for its use has passed. The doctor, if they are familiar with addiction, tells the person that there will be no more refills. The person starts to seek other doctors and may be seeing a few doctors and getting multiple prescriptions. They might try to find someone who is selling the medications illegally. If the person runs out of suppliers, often they start replacing the pills, if they are pain medication, with heroin. Heroin is much cheaper than the pharmaceutical medication and lasts longer, for a while. This is generally the last stage, where the addicted person can no longer hide their use. They either get arrested for their actions, they do so much that it effects their brain to the point that they end up in a mental health facility, they overdose and die, or they seek treatment.
As you can see by the chain of events described, it is easy to relapse on prescription medication, and it is easy for a person to become addicted to these medications. Of course not everyone who takes these medications has any problem at all. It is a small percentage who develop a problem, but make no mistake, the fact is that forty five people die every day as a result of prescription pain medication. That is more deaths than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined*. The amount of people who have entered treatment for prescription medication has quadrupled from 2004 to 2010* (National Institute on Drug Abuse). At 10 Acre Ranch we have worked with people who have been addicted to many types of Prescription Medications as well as non-prescription and alcohol. We have twenty three years helping men who are struggling with the disease of addiction. Please give us a call if you are tired of being sick and tired.