Prescription drugs are used to treat physical and mental health conditions for people of all ages. When they are taken as prescribed, these medications have helpful effects, but when they are abused, it can lead to addiction and other harmful consequences.

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), in the year 2020, approximately 16 million people in the United States abused prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse occurs when a person begins to take their medication more frequently than prescribed or in higher doses to achieve euphoric effects. Not all prescription drug abuse will turn into an addiction. However, recognizing the signs of abuse early can prevent an addiction from forming.

Abusing prescription drugs can cause chemical changes in the brain, which will, in turn, cause the person to compulsively seek the drug above everything else. This is when abuse turns into an addiction. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) states that 12% of prescription drug abusers are addicted.

Although most addictions to prescription drugs will start with an actual prescription of the drug, they are sold illegally. Therefore, many people will seek out the illegal purchase of prescription drugs for their euphoric effects.

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When an individual is addicted to prescription medications of any kind, quitting cold turkey is dangerous. Because their body has become dependent on the substance of abuse, they will experience symptoms of withdrawal if they abruptly quit using prescription medications.

Medical detox is designed to help individuals overcome their symptoms of withdrawal in a safe and controlled medical setting. Rather than suffering through severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, medical detox programs provide their patients with tapering medications and life-saving medical treatments.

The length of a prescription drug detox program will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The type of prescription drug that was abused
  • How long the individual was addicted
  • How much of the drug the individual was taking at once
  • Whether the individual abused additional substances
  • Whether the individual has co-occurring mental health conditions or medical conditions to address
  • Age, weight, gender, and additional medical history

Inpatient prescription drug rehab programs are the most intensive form of addiction treatment. These programs require patients to reside and attend treatment sessions at the facility. This allows staff members to provide patients with 24/7 monitoring, support, and care.

Services offered during an inpatient program for prescription drug addiction include:

  • A thorough assessment of medical, substance abuse, and mental health history
  • Individual therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Specialized counseling groups for specific issues (i.e. trauma-informed groups or family therapy groups)
  • Access to medical and psychiatric care
  • Random drug testing
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Medication-assisted treatment, when applicable
  • Relapse prevention planning and continued care options
  • 12-step facilitation groups

Typically, inpatient rehab lasts anywhere from 30 days to 90 days, depending on the individual’s needs.

Partial care (PC) or day treatment is often the next step after an individual completes medical detox and/or inpatient treatment. Partial care programs allow the individual to live at home or in a sober living community while they attend treatment sessions at a facility 4-7 times a week for 6 hours a day.

While partial hospitalization is less intensive than inpatient treatment, it still provides patients with a sense of accountability and structure. Additionally, all of the same services are offered in partial hospitalization as inpatient treatment programs. The only difference is patients are expected to be self-motivated to attend their individual therapy and group counseling sessions each day.

Most individuals stay in a partial hospitalization program for 30 to 60 days. However, the length of these programs is on a case-by-case basis.

Intensive outpatient programs are considered to be a step down from partial hospitalization programs. In other words, IOPs offer less intensive care and more freedom. Because of this, most individuals attend one of the more involved forms of prescription drug rehab programs before enrolling in an IOP.

During an intensive outpatient program, patients live at home and typically attend individual therapy and group counseling sessions 3 to 4 times a week for 3 to 6 hours at a time. The exact number of days and hours spent at an IOP facility depends on the program’s rules and the individual’s specific needs.

The services offered at an IOP include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group counseling
  • Random drug testing
  • Holistic treatments like art, music, or yoga therapy
  • 12-step meetings or other forms of addiction support groups
  • Relapse prevention planning and continued care services

While IOPs require patients to attend treatment sessions 3 to 4 times a week for 3 to 6 hours at a time, outpatient programs only require 1 to 3 days of attendance for 1 to 3 hours at a time. In other words, traditional outpatient programs (OP) are the least intensive form of prescription drug rehab in New Jersey.

OP prescription drug addiction treatment facilities still provide patients with individual therapy and group counseling sessions, The only difference between OP and IOP is the level of intensity and frequency of treatment sessions.

Additionally, it is important to note that individuals who work full-time jobs tend to prefer outpatient programs. However, OP is not recommended as a stand-alone program for individuals with moderate to severe addictions or co-occurring mental health conditions.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Opioids, stimulants, and central nervous system (CNS) depressants are the most common prescription drugs that are abused.

Opioids are often prescribed to relieve pain levels for chronic or acute pain. Opioids interfere with how pain is processed and increase levels of dopamine in the brain. The effects of prescription opioids are almost identical to those of heroin, a highly addictive illegal drug.

Abusing prescription opioids has many serious consequences, the most dangerous being the possibility of overdose and death. The NIDA states that in 2020 alone, over sixteen thousand people died from an overdose involving prescription opioids. Some of the prescription opioids that are commonly abused are:

  • Percocet
  • OxyContin
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Dilaudid

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Prescription stimulants are typically used to treat ADHD but are also prescribed to help with other conditions. Stimulants increase activity in the central nervous system and dopamine levels in the brain. They speed up specific body functions, providing users with high energy, a sharpened focus, and increased motivation. The effects of prescription stimulant drugs are like those of the illegal drugs cocaine and crystal meth. When prescription stimulants are abused, users will receive a rush of euphoria. However, people abuse them for a variety of reasons apart from the euphoric effects.

People will abuse prescription stimulants to stay awake for long periods of time, to help with academic studies, andto lose weight quickly. Stimulants increase blood pressure, heart rate, and the body’s temperature, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. The most common prescription stimulants abused are:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin

CNS depressants have the opposite effect of stimulants on the body. Whereas stimulants speed up activity in the central nervous system, CNS depressants slow it down. Prescription CNS depressants are typically used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. They provide users with a calming effect on their minds and body.

Abusing prescription CNS depressants can have damaging effects on the memory, causing people to “blackout”, or not remember periods of time. They also slow down breathing and heart rate, which can lead to death. People will often combine the use of alcohol with prescription CNS depressants. This combination is very dangerous and can cause death. Some commonly abused CNS depressants are:

  • Klonopin
  • Valium
  • Ambien
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepine

Signs of a Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug abuse is a serious matter, as it can be life-threatening. The risk of overdosing is always prevalent, but prescription drug abuse can also have many negative side effects on a person’s health. Recognizing the signs of prescription drug addiction can eventually help save someone’s life. Signs that someone may be struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs are:

  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions (Doctor shopping)
  • Stealing other people’s prescriptions and/or medication
  • Impaired judgment
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking the prescription
  • Lying about the frequency of use
  • Hiding medication
  • Finishing prescriptions faster than prescribed

If a loved one is showing signs of prescription drug addiction, it is best to seek help immediately.

The Importance of Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse

There are many options available for the treatment of prescription drug addiction. The first step in getting addiction help is to reach out to a medical professional so they can help you best decide what your loved one needs. If the use of the prescription drug has been constant over a long period of time, it is likely that a physical dependency has formed.

Stopping the use of the drug suddenly will cause the person to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are very difficult to deal with and will typically drive a person back to using drugs in order to feel okay again. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal from prescription drugs include but are not limited to:

  • Cold sweats and chills
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Low energy/lethargy
  • Tremors/shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations

If withdrawal symptoms are present, medical detox should be the first step in the treatment process for prescription drug addiction. While in detox, clients will be monitored 24/7 to ensure they are detoxing safely. There are medications available to ease symptoms of withdrawal and can be given on a case-by-case basis.

After completing medical detox, it is best to continue their treatment with an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program. This allows clients to be in a safe and comfortable environment away from the possibility of accessing drugs entirely. Patients will receive therapy, learn about the disease of addiction, and develop tools to help them stay sober once they return to their life.

How Moving Mountains Can Help

Here at Moving Mountains Recovery, we have a team of professionals who are passionate about helping people recover from addiction. Our goal is to help clients overcome their addiction and assist them in building a new life where they no longer have the desire to turn to drugs. Our team is ready to answer any questions about prescription drug addiction and help get you or your loved one on the path of sobriety today. Please call us today!

Prescription Drug Addiction
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