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When Does Prescription Drug Use Turn Into Addiction?


Prescription drugs can be a safe and effective way of dealing with pain, combating infection, or managing chronic health conditions when used as directed and monitored by a physician. Most people take a prescription drug at some point. But once they have recovered, they stop taking it and continue on with their normal life. Or, if their condition is chronic, they follow up with their doctor to ensure everything is still going well.

However, when a person is on high doses of a painkiller or takes them for a prolonged period of time, they can develop dependency and eventually addiction. Their body adjusts to always having it in their system, and their brain is rewired. When they stop taking it, they experience discomfort and withdrawal symptoms. These can be unpleasant, so they find a way to keep using.

While there are certain preventive measures in place to reduce risk of prescription drug misuse, they are not foolproof. There are ways people have found to get around them. Many states are implementing drug databases that physicians and pharmacists must check before writing a prescription for opioids or other commonly abused drugs. However, it is also up to doctors and patients to be proactive and ask the right questions and monitor their use to help prevent addiction.

Signs that May Indicate an Addiction Problem

If a loved one is taking prescription painkillers, and you are worried about potential misuse, there are signs that you can look for that may indicate addiction:

  • They are taking more medication than is prescribed. Instead of taking one pill, they may start taking two. Or they’re taking it more frequently than they should. They may come up with excuses such as it wears off too soon, or they feel better when they take two as opposed to just one. Or they may say they forgot they already took it.
  • They are taking prescription drugs after they’ve already recovered. Usually prescriptions are given on a short-term basis. They are given for acute pain following surgery or an injury. Oftentimes doctors will tell them to take medication only as needed. But you may notice that even after they have recovered, they are still popping pills. Or, they complain of ongoing pain or discomfort, but it seems to come and go. Yet, they still get a prescription refill or a new prescription.
  • They have multiple prescriptions or go to multiple doctors. This is often referred to as “doctor shopping.” They will make appointments with several different doctors for the same problem, or go to the emergency room at different hospitals to get pain medication. They may have several prescriptions for similar medications.
  • They become fixated on getting or taking drugs. They are concerned about running out or not having enough. If you confront them about it, they may get defensive or deny that their use is a problem. They may become angry, agitated, or upset more easily than usual.
  • They experience physical symptoms from drug misuse. Prescription painkillers can be very powerful. Misusing them can result in constipation, nausea, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, or slowed breathing. They may not realize that these side effects are from the painkillers. They may also experience psychological changes as well such as anxiety, paranoia, or confusion.

Seeking Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can be very dangerous. An overdose can lead to unintentional death or long-term disability. Seeking treatment is essential to protecting your life or that of a loved one. If you believe that a loved one may be addicted to prescription painkillers, share your concern with them. Let them know that you are worried about their health and safety. You may also want to contact their doctor and express your concerns. This may prompt their doctor to more closely manage their condition and reassess any prescriptions.

If this does not help, or your loved one still denies that they have a problem, you could opt to stage an intervention. An intervention specialist can help you to prepare and get everything in order. They will guide you through what to say and how to respond. The ideal outcome would be that your loved one accepts your offer to get treatment, and they proceed to an Orange County drug and alcohol rehab facility. If they do not accept, certain consequences are put in place to further encourage them to seek help.

At an inpatient treatment facility they will go through detox, intensive therapy, and a variety of other programs to help turn their life around. They will learn how to manage pain, stress, and challenging situations without the use of drugs or alcohol. You can begin to rebuild your relationship and support them in their ongoing recovery efforts.

Learn more about the comprehensive and customized addiction treatment programs available at Chapters Capistrano by contacting us today at 949-371-4198. Your loved one does not have to let prescription drugs and addiction control their lives. They can start a new chapter at Chapters Capistrano.