Opioid Abuse – Prescription Drug Abuse: Seductive, Sedating Drugs Can Wreak Havoc on Your Health and Life
By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA
Prescription drug abuse is a major health problem in the United States with Opioids leading the pack of drugs that are abused.
People on the street usually refer to Opioids as narcotics. Opioids are powerful pain relievers and consist of OxyContin, Percodan, Percoset, Morphine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Lortab and Codeine. Pain, the fifth vital sign has now exploded into area of health where over-prescribing for the symptom is commonplace among doctors, and subsequently the number of drug addicts have escalated.
Drug addiction is a brain disease. Carl R. Sullivan, MD, FACP, professor and vice-chair of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at West Virginia School of Medicine, Medical Director of Substance Abuse Programs for West Virginia University Hospitals and director of the largest office-base Opioid treatment clinic in West Virginia, says “fifteen percent of adults in the United States are prone to becoming alcoholics or drug addicts.” Although some people can produce addiction where there is no inherent addiction behavior prevalent, it’s uncommon. Most drug abusers have an underlying genetic predisposition. Dr. Sullivan says that it is possible to become dependent upon pain relievers without becoming addictive. For those people that are dependent; it is still dangerous and they can go into withdrawal. There are two factors that determine whether someone is an addict. First, drugs are used in a non-prescribed fashion and second, addicts are deceitful, lying, sneaky, clever people who will do almost anything for their drugs; they also become their “own doctors.”
The archetype of a drug addict may be quite different that what you would expect. Many drug addicts look like your neighbor, your friend, your boss, your aunt, uncle, brother, sister, and can be employed in any job setting. According to Dr. Sullivan, drug addicts are always successful in getting their drugs. They know how to work the system. They “worked so many doctors.” They have many ER visits and “because she didn’t look like a drug addict” she’ll get her prescriptions from doctors.
There are “RED FLAGS” for doctors, clues doctors should look for, according to Dr. Carl Sullivan, to find out if their patients are addicted to pain medications: First, if a patient comes in for an office visit and asks for an Opioid by name. This is your first clue, says Dr. Sullivan. If they say, “I’ve tried drug X, and drug Y, and Z, but the only thing that’ll work is OxyContin…” that should set a RED FLAG off. Second, if all the patient wants is symptom relief without trying anything else; without trying NSAIDs (motrin, naprosyn) or without trying physical therapy etc., that’s another RED FLAG.
Opioid abusers never take a day off. Dr. Sullivan says the job of the prescription drug addict every single day is to make sure they have their drugs. “If they run out of Opioids they get incredibly sick.” They are “dope sick.” They will spend $100.00 to $500.00 per day on their drugs. Some addicts try to quit on their own. They’ve simply had it, and they want to quit. Although the intent of quitting on their own may seem well intended, it doesn’t work.
Opioids may have that seductive allure and bring on that euphoric feeling; however the dangers from abuse far outweigh any elated feeling. The effects from abusing pain medications can result in constipation to more severe symptoms such as respiratory depression and even death can result. Withdrawal effects are just as severe from muscle aches to nausea, diarrhea to cold clammy skin. Dr. Sullivan says it’s like having the worst case of the flu.
There is treatment for Opioid addicts. Suboxone is one medication that used in treating Opioid addiction. Suboxone stabilizes the Opioid receptors and it allows people to feel “normal.” Once they start feeling “normal” they can try to start getting their life back.
For more info and to find out about prevention and treatment, please go to:
The Center for Substance Abuse and Treatment: http://csat.samhsa.gov.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.nida.nih.gov.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov.