prescription abuse

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Painkiller Addiction

It is no secret that painkillers have played a large role in the addiction rates in the U.S.

In fact, there are currently 58 opioid prescriptions every year for every 100 Americans.

If these are prescribed medications, what kind of damage can they do, and what can I do to help?

Let’s talk about prescription painkillers, their risks, and everything you need to know about them.

What Are Prescribed Painkillers?

Prescribed painkillers are drugs that are prescribed by a doctor for the sole purpose of relieving pain.

These drugs are not meant to treat or cure any disease or illness, but simply to mask pain. They can be prescribed for a wide variety of conditions, from a broken hand to alleviating pain after an operation.

These drugs involve the use of opium, which is a highly addictive compound that can impair judgment and motor functions.

These often lead to a very short-lived euphoria, and many people enjoy the feeling and feel a need to continue to relive it.

There are many risks involved with these types of medications, particularly with substance abuse, leading to other complications. Let’s talk about that.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addictions are a serious problem and should be treated that way. You have likely heard stories of addictions from the media or from loved ones.

Painkillers can lead to serious health risks, especially when taken consistently or with high doses. Here are some of the facts.

1. Painkillers Can Lead To Other Addictions

This may sound obvious, but it is to a much higher extent than you would believe. People who are prescribed opioids are 19 times more likely to start using drugs like heroin.

In fact, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86% had used pain relievers either medically or nonmedically prior to their heroin addiction.

2. Withdrawal Symptoms Are No Joke

After you use these medications for a while, the body can become dependant on it. Once the body has adapted to the presence of the substance, a higher dose may be needed to create the same effects.

After a while, once the body is fully dependant on the substance, quitting can cause some serious effects. Including insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and involuntary muscle spasms.

3. Side Effects Can Be Lethal

Overdoses are all too common in the US, and 68% of them involve the use of opioids.

One of the most serious risks with painkillers is the possibility of respiratory depression. High doses can cause breathing to slow down to the point that users die.

Some of the side effects you may encounter with these drugs include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and decreased cognitive abilities.

While those are not fatal, they can certainly inhibit one’s ability to perform essential duties for their health. That can lead to malnourishment and other potentially fatal complications.

Not only that, day-to-day operations can be incredibly lethal while using these medications, like driving or operating machinery. If you are using these drugs, driving after use can put many people’s lives at risk.

Another serious risk of death with these medications is when they are mixed with other substances, including alcohol. Taking these medications for medical use should be used exclusively, and in the prescribed dosage, to avoid complications.

4. Symptoms Can Be Spotted

Visiting multiple doctors to get prescriptions for painkillers, social withdrawal, slurring speech, lying about whereabouts and activities, or stealing medication that has been prescribed to someone else.

These are all common indicators of painkiller addiction. If you know somebody who exhibits these behaviors, or if you exhibit them yourself, these are key signs of addiction.

If you are looking for physical symptoms, they will likely include dilated pupils, impaired coordination, and heavy perspiration.

If those symptoms fit the bill, then that person needs treatment. Find out how to do an intervention the right way to help a loved one.

5. These Prescriptions Are On The Rise

Since the year 2000, the number of opioid prescriptions in the US has increased by over 400%.

That is a troubling amount considering the rising addiction rates. If you are able to get through the pain with over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen, it may be a wise choice to choose that alternative.

6. Other Factors Can Influence Addiction

There are many co-occurring illnesses that often pair with substance abuse. People can be more susceptible to addiction when they are facing other mental health issues.

People suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are far more likely to be a victim of substance abuse. People will look for non-medical ways to help ease their suffering.

Be transparent with your doctors about these pre-existing conditions before accepting addictive medications.

However, there is dual diagnosis treatment available for people struggling with addiction and mental illness.

7. Treatment Is Not The End

Unfortunately, many people who receive treatment will relapse, as addiction is very powerful. Between 40% and 60% of patients will abuse the drug again.

That shouldn’t stop you from trying. Yes, many do go back to substance abuse. However, that is only because treatment is not a cure.

Recovery is a lifelong process. The three main steps are seeking treatment, starting recovery, and maintaining abstinence. The latter is the longest and most difficult.

If a loved one has received treatment, do what you can to support them, as they will need a helping hand.

If you are maintaining your abstinence, seek out any support you can get and continue the progress you’ve made.

Next Steps

It is clear that the risks of these medications are incredibly serious, and should be treated with care.

If you have been prescribed a painkiller, make sure that you take the proper steps to avoid addiction.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to painkillers, please check out our admissions page and get the help that is needed today!

References:

ATS_Blogs_Launch_DoctorGivesMedOverdosePatient

Overdose Patients Still Getting Drugs From Doctors

intmedPatients who are admitted into the Emergency Room for prescription painkiller overdoses are often still given prescriptions for their drug of choice well after they have had near fatal problems with pills. This is likely due to the fact that ER doctors very rarely communicate with the patient’s prescribing doctor. This significant oversight has caused many patients to continue abusing prescription painkillers and risk further overdose. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine came to this conclusion after investigating information provided by insurance companies. The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Seventy percent of patients who overdosed were getting their drugs from the same doctor who prescribed the narcotic before the overdose…This signals a problem with the health system, but I don’t think it necessarily fingers doctors as being bad doctors,” explained Dr. Marc Larochelle, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Doctors who are treating patients that are prescribed prescription painkillers cannot rely on them disclosing the fact that they overdosed. Those who are addicted are not likely to admit to this for fear that their drugs will be taken away or they will be forced into treatment. In order to effectively handle this problem, Larochelle says that Emergency Room doctors and prescribing doctors have to communicate.

This is especially important because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information stating that prescription drug overdoses are at an all-time high. According to reports, 47,000 people in the United States passed away from drug overdoses, that is a 14% increase from the year before. These numbers are only projected to increase if doctors are not aware that their patients are being treated for overdoses from the pills that are being prescribed.

As the prescription painkiller problem continues to grow, medical doctors are being cautioned about perpetuating the problem by prescribing the drugs to people who abuse them, however the problem may be better addressed if more information was shared, such as with prescription drug monitoring databases. Emergency Room doctors, patients, loved ones and other medical professionals need to maintain communication for the safest prescribing practices and to help minimize future overdoses.

Prescription Painkillers

The Problem with Pain Management and Addiction

Prescription PainkillersPain management is a tricky problem that many healthcare providers struggle with addressing on a daily basis. Measuring to what degree a patient is in pain is very subjective and oftentimes the most important factor in determining whether or not they should be prescribed narcotic painkillers.

Doctors and nurses are taught to take pain very seriously. The American Pain Society designated pain to be the fifth vital sign in 1995 and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) developed monitoring standards in which to measure pain in a patient. So, with the increased awareness of pain and the understanding that it is necessary to treat pain, doctors are put in a strange position. They are tasked with addressing and helping to alleviate a person’s pain, but they also need to make sure that they are not prescribing narcotic painkillers to someone who is lying or exaggerating about their symptoms in order to receive drugs.

The American College of Preventive Medicine reports that 5.3 million Americans abuse narcotic painkillers every month. Some of these people get their pills off the street and some of these people get them directly from a doctor. No matter where they are obtaining their drugs, one this is clear, the pills came after some diagnosis of pain somewhere. Dealers who have a chronic pain problem can acquire the pills and then sell them on the street for one dollar per milligram, or addicts can go into a hospital and complain of pain and hope that a doctor is willing to write them a prescription. It has become the general consensus that we have created the problem together – doctors, patients and drug companies.

There is an incredible amount of people who abuse pain management attempts by doctors, but there is also a large group that suffers from legitimate chronic pain and needs the aid of medication as part of their therapy. The Institute of Medicine came out with a report that stated that more than 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain. Recent reports of the ineffectiveness of opioid narcotics to treat chronic pain, along with their intensely high potential for abuse, have spurred leaders to develop and use non-narcotic treatments instead.

More Doctors Prescribing Buprenorphine

sacovergDrug treatment programs have long been regarded as the best solution to help someone get clean from illegal drugs. While the country grapples with the increasing use of drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers, some wonder why more addicts are not seeking help from rehabilitation facilities.

Experts agree that the stigma attached to drug abuse prevents some people from feeling comfortable in enrolling in a treatment facility. In addition to the perceived shun from society, users often have a difficult time admitting that they need help and following through with their admittance into treatment. Many point out that the painful withdrawal symptoms from heroin or prescription painkillers cause addicts to give up their quest for sobriety in favor of preventing the painful, flulike symptoms. However, a recent study shows that the gap between addicts and at some forms of treatment might be getting smaller, due to more physicians ability to prescribe medication to help with the process.

Buprenorphine is a medication that, when taken, helps to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that people feel when they stop using heroin or prescription painkillers. In order to obtain a prescription for buprenorphine, someone has to go to a doctor that is approved to prescribe, or they have to turn to a treatment program. In the past, many addicts have found it difficult to locate a doctor with this ability, but now more and more doctors are obtaining the certificate that allows them to treat addicts. In fact, it has been reported that 98.9% of physicians were not licensed to dispense buprenorphine prior to 2011. That number has since dropped to 46.8%. The dramatic increase of doctors who are willing and able to help treat opioid dependency has led to a 74% increase in the availability of this form of treatment.

It must be stated, though, that the administration of buprenorphine alone doesn’t cure an addiction to heroin or painkillers. Long-term maintenance programs don’t provide the full solutions either, as the end goal should be to get off any opioid if at all possible. This is evidenced by the fact that buprenorphine itself is a drug that is abused on the street, and why doctors who prescribe the medication typically refer people to a treatment facility to address the full issues related to the substance abuse problem. If you are looking for help to recover from an opiate addiction, contact us today we’ll help you locate a treatment program that works.

How Responsible are Doctors and Pharmacists for Prescription Drug Addiction?

A recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling could potentially impact the fate of physicians and pharmacists throughout the state. A 3-2 vote made it legal for addicts to sue their doctor or pharmacist for allowing the person to become addicted to prescription painkillers. Since the decision was made the medical community and the general public are divided over the future implications of this decision.

Prescription drug abuse has long since reached epidemic proportions and in states like West Virginia, and thousands of people are dying because of their addiction to painkillers. Because of the extreme gravity and speed that prescription painkillers are taking over people’s lives, extreme decisions like the one made in the West Virginia may be called for.

One of the most common ways that addicts acquire their prescription painkillers is through doctor-shopping. This means that they go from doctor to doctor complaining of ailments and receive prescriptions to various narcotics. Many states have instituted a prescription monitoring programs in an attempt to avoid excessive doctor-shopping and other forms of prescription drug fraud. The tool that can be accessed by other doctors and pharmacists is designed to allow doctors to input the information from their visit with a patient as well as review the patient’s prescription drug history.

The decision to allow people who become addicted to prescription drugs to sue doctors and pharmacists is extreme but will likely give many professionals pause before liberally prescribing prescription painkillers.

“It may cause some physicians to curb or stop treating pain altogether for fear of retribution should treatment lead to patient addiction and/or criminal behavior. It may create additional barriers for patients seeking treatment for legitimate chronic pain due to reduced access to physician. It would allow criminals to potentially profit for their wrongful conduct by taking doctors and pharmacists to court,” explained The West Virginia Medical Association in response to the new ruling.

It could be very difficult to prove that a particular doctor or pharmacist was the cause of someone’s addiction, yet there is no doubt that the prescribing industry has certainly played its part, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in the escalation of the prescription drug problem in America.

Prescription Drugs Affecting More Newborns

naspediatricsDue to the prescription drug epidemic that the United States is still battling, there has been a significant increase in the number of babies being born addicted to narcotic painkillers. A recent study looked into the problem of infants born addicted to drugs, something called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The study first delved into the babies addicted to drugs in general, however, researchers noticed that many babies who were born with an addiction had mothers who were not taking illicit drugs. In fact, these mothers were being treated by doctors who were prescribing them narcotic painkillers.

Prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone are very similar to heroin. They produce the same euphoric effect and they have painful withdrawal symptoms. Painkillers are one of the most abused drugs in the country, and legislators and law enforcement have been working tirelessly to reduce the amount of people that abuse the pills.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center studied information from 112,029 women who were pregnant in Tennessee. They found that of all the babies born addicted to drugs, nearly two-thirds of the mothers had filled prescriptions for at least one painkiller during the pregnancy. Other drugs were also present, including prescription antidepressants, nicotine and street drugs. The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

The study is important because it specifically looks at the prescription painkiller problem and how it is affecting newborns and mothers. It shines a light on the need for more doctor education regarding painkiller abuse and the importance of drug monitoring systems that would allow doctors to see if their patient is exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors.

“Historically, drug withdrawal for newborns has been described among illicit drug use such as heroin or women treated for previous opioid abuse. This is really one of the first studies to look at legal prescriptions for pregnant women. And it draws attention to what is going on in our nation,” explained Stephen Patrick, a neonatologist who specializes in infant drug dependency.

Hopefully, for the sake of our children, doctors will start to pay more attention to what they are prescribing to women who are pregnant, as there are many other damaging effects that can cause harm to the babies than NAS, including a wide range of complications before and after birth.

Do Abuse-Deterrent Features on Painkillers Really Work?

embedaThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved new labeling for Embeda (morphine sulfate and naltrexone hydrochloride). The new labeling includes the claim that the drug has properties expected to reduce abuse when the product is crushed.

Embeda abuse-deterrent properties are expected to reduce, but not completely prevent, misuse of the drug when tampered with. When the capsule is taken properly, only the morphine contained in the drug is released. However, if the structure of the tablet is manipulated, or crushed, the naltrexone is released blocking some of the euphoric effects of the morphine. Naltrexone can also bring on withdrawal symptoms in opioid dependent people.

Sharon Hertz, MD, acting director of the Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia and Addiction Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says that the science behind the development of abuse-deterrent properties for prescription opioids continues to evolve, but will not completely correct the problem of prescription opioid abuse. “But they [abuse-deterrent properties] can be a part of a comprehensive approach to combat the very serious problem of prescription drug abuse in the United States,” Hertz said.

Embeda extended release is an opioid analgesic used to treat severe pain. Patients taking Embeda found alternative treatments to be ineffective, and have pain that is severe enough to require daily, around the clock, long term opioid treatment. Abuse or misuse of Embeda can cause an overdose which may lead to death. The fear of abuse stems from the morphine base, which of course is a highly addictive opiate.

Interestingly, despite the PR and marketing hype of the approval of the abuse-deterrent labeling, a snapshot of the Embeda website clearly states, “There is no evidence that the naltrexone in Embeda reduces the abuse liability of [the drug].”

The FDA’s release includes the statement, “When swallowed intact, however, Embeda can still be abused or misused because the naltrexone is not expected to substantially block the euphoric effects of the morphine.”

While Pfizer and some chronic pain patients may disagree, most addiction treatment and prevention experts would probably say that another extended release prescription opioid on the market only increases the chances of someone becoming dependent on the drugs.

CDC Indicates Sharp Rise in Heroin and Opioid Overdoses in US

cdcodsOverdose deaths from heroin abuse and prescription pain medication abuse (opioids) increased through much of the United States in 2012. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed the data from 28 states and found that twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses than died from heroin overdoses.

There are a couple of things that appear to be driving the increase of heroin overdoses. First, there is the widespread exposure to painkillers that can often find addicts winding up on heroin. Second, there seems to be an increase in heroin supply to meet this increasing demand. No all prescription opioid users become heroin users, but previous research showed that 3 out of 4 new heroin users abused painkillers before using heroin.

Heroin’s cheaper price and increasing availability have been contributing factors. Since heroin and prescription painkillers are in the same category of substance, users experience the similar effects from both drugs. Therefore, the relationship between the two drugs is not surprising.

CDC Director Tom Frienden, MD, MPH says that reducing inappropriate prescribing practices is an important part of the strategy targeting overdoses from both heroin and the medications. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term,” he said.

Researchers also believe it is important to help those who are addicted to heroin and painkillers with effective treatment services in conjunction with the preventative measures. While some may recommend opioid replacement therapy, we work with facilities that help people fully detox from heroin and other opiates, and incorporate long-term residential treatment.