Millions of people get addicted to the drugs which were prescribed to them by their doctors to relieve physical pain or anxiety or stress. They become so dependent on the drugs that they continue to take them even when they get better from their physical condition. This kind of addiction is called accidental addiction, as the person would not normally have been exposed to the drugs.
It has been seen that prescription addicts misuse the drugs as they get hooked on to the euphoric feelings the drug produces, or the escape they provide from pain. Prolonged use of the drug/s reduces the potency, leading to users increasing the dosage. Thus, to get ‘high’, prescription addicts keep increasing the dosage until it becomes lethal.
If you know someone who is an accidental addict, or suspect that you may be one too, read on to find out all about the signs, symptoms, withdrawal effects and most importantly, how to overcome accidental addiction. Remember that you can get over the compulsive drug habit with help from dedicated rehabs and friends and family.
What are the symptoms/signs of accidental addiction?
You may not be aware that you are an addict, or on the path of becoming one, if you think that taking prescription drugs is normal, as a doctor prescribed them to you. But the drugs had been prescribed for an ailment of which you have been healed, and if it was for some chronic disorder, you may have upped the dose yourself. In order to get over accidental addiction, you first must know the signs and symptoms of addiction:
One of the telltale signs of accidental addiction to prescription drugs is increasing the dose by yourself, or continuing to use it for reasons other than why you were prescribed those drugs. You are dependent on the drugs in order to go through your day, and feel upset when you do not have them with you. You may even be visiting various doctors in order to get the prescription filled, or get many prescriptions for the medicine.
Even though you may have a craving for the drug, and your body expects it, you can get rid of the dependency by seeking professional help and detoxing your body of the drug. As you are not an addict who has the problem of many drugs’ addiction, you would have an easier time of de-addiction.
Then again, if you are suffering from intense pain on a regular basis due to some disease, then talk to your doctor about increasing the dosage, and also about finding alternate ways to manage the pain. This will help you lead a normal life without being dependent on the painkillers.
Another accidental addiction to prescription drugs symptom is red eyes. The veins/nerves of the eyes will appear to be red.
Note if you are experiencing any changes in your behavior pattern – for instance, you may no longer enjoy the things you enjoyed earlier. Maybe you are neglecting personal hygiene, or even avoiding work, calling in sick. Failing to complete daily chores is another sign. You may become irritable or annoyed with people around you or neglect your spouse and children.
One warning sign which you should not ignore at all is blackouts. Are there periods of time about which you cannot recollect anything? These time periods are called blackouts. You may forget conversations, events, etc and are completely blank when someone reminds them to you. In this case, do take steps to get help in order to overcome accidental addiction.
Some commonly misused prescription drugs:
Prescription opioids are prescribed for pain relief. The signs of misuse are lethargy, euphoria, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, headaches, vision changes, breathing difficulty, nausea, constipation, vomiting and seizures, and behavioral changes.
Some synthetic opioids are prescribed for pain caused by cancer, and are about 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Some addicts use it with cocaine or heroin or both. It is a very dangerous drug and its misuse can be judged by symptoms such as bad dreams and hallucinations. Accidental addiction to prescription drugs like these opioids is highly dangerous, and if you have been prescribed these drugs, then you should use them according to the doctor’s advice only.
Stimulants increase the brain’s activity, boosting the energy and alertness levels. Euphoria, hostility, aggressiveness, hallucinations, paranoia, weight loss, increase in heart beat, reduced appetite, dilated pupils, vision changes, behavioral changes and vomiting are some of the symptoms that the drug is being misused.
Prescription cough syrups have codeine, which is prescribed for mild pain in cold/flu symptoms. The medicine behaves like a sedative when consumed in high quantity. These types of prescription drugs also can alter your level of consciousness. Cough syrups are used to concoct other toxic drug combinations, and the seemingly simple cough syrup can be a lethal drug.
You might have heard of it, it is also called ‘speed’. It is used in the treatment of ADHD as well as narcolepsy. The drug is misused when users are addicted to the energizing effects. Sleep deprived people such as shift workers, college students, truck drivers are prone to misusing these kinds of drugs. The continued misuse leads to accidental addiction.
Rapid breathing, increase in alertness and energy, increase in body temperature and blood pressure are signs that the drug is getting hold of you. Stimulants are easily available, which is another reason why they become habit-forming. Some stimulants cause agitation and insomnia.
Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants
It is very easy to become dependent on CNS drugs which are called tranquilizers too, and help in calming a person. Signs of misuse are lethargy, drowsiness, irritability, memory problems, confusion, dizziness, vision problems, headache, slurring speech, coordination loss, behavioral changes, nausea and vomiting.
Drugs like valium which are used to treat panic disorder and anxiety are misused as people use them to get the feeling of being relaxed to avoid stress. But after the time they are prescribed for, these drugs should not be used on a regular basis.
According to CDC, overdose deaths caused by the misuse of Xanax and Valium in combination with opioids has quadrupled in the years between 2002 and 2015. Potential symptoms of misuse are paranoia, constipation and hallucination.
How do you overcome accidental addiction?
You may have turned to prescription drugs due to an ailment or due to the inability to cope with life’s problems. Whatever the reason, you do have the strength in you to give up the habit, and reclaim your life. You no longer need prescription drugs if you are healed, so understand that you just cannot give in to the craving for the drug. Here are some ways to help you on the path of de-addiction:
Once you understand that you are misusing your prescribed drugs, you can reach out to your loved ones, friends and family and explain your problem to them. They might find it easy to understand your behavioral changes and accept your habit. Then seek their help in finding treatment options and also their emotional support. You need not go through the journey alone, and it will be much easier to quit when you have people supporting you.
You and your family/friends will be happy to help you in your struggle to become fit and healthy again. They would also be happy that you trusted them and their faith in you will increase the faith in yourself to get over accidental addiction.
Seek professional treatment
In you’re in too deep, you might need professional help. Choose a treatment program or center which has various options, and which is right for you. The center should have a dedicated team of doctors, counselors and therapists who can help to restore the body, mind and spirit to a healthy balance. The techniques used should not be fads, but well-researched techniques which have a proven track record.
Different programs/centers have different options such as inpatient, outpatient as well as aftercare. Choose one which would not only help in detoxification but also help in empowering you to get back to your normal life.
Seek community support
Even though you may have the support of your family, friends, colleagues, you also need to have a connection to other people around you, in your community. You can join a yoga class, and/or gym class which will increase the ‘feel good’ hormones and reduce the dependency on prescription drugs. Join a Zumba class or dance class to let go of the stress you are under. Start a new hobby such as painting or sketching or learning to play an instrument. Do whatever you find enjoyable as it will be easier to continue that activity.
Keep in touch with your counselors
Go out and watch movies, volunteer in charities, go for long walks. All these will make the difficult times easy and bearable, and you will be able to overcome the unwanted behaviors and thoughts. Always be in touch with your counselors, especially when you feel like giving in to your cravings. If professional counselors are unavailable, then talk to your friends or contact anyone from the network of positive people around you. Beat the ‘high’s of the drugs, with the ‘high’s you get from positive relationships, hobbies and activities.
If you believe in God or in a higher power, you may read books on positivity, attend church or temples – it’s all about filling the emptiness inside you with the help of spiritual connection, wherever you may find it!
What are the drug withdrawal symptoms?
It is difficult to heal yourself of accidental addiction cold turkey. You should definitely join a detox program run by professionals who will be able to take care of you when you go through the difficult withdrawal process. This will help in avoiding a relapse.
Some of the common withdrawal symptoms for prescription drugs are drug cravings, panic, anxiety, headache, excessive sweating, nausea, muscle pain, fatigue, and depression. Opioid withdrawal symptoms could be all of the earlier mentioned things, and also irritability, runny nose, chills, excessive sweating and chills and digestion problems.
Anyone who is addicted to prescription drugs and is in the process of detoxing will go through some very uncomfortable symptoms. But these symptoms will last only for a short duration, and with the controlled help offered by medical professionals, you can get over them and also over the dependence on drugs.
You can choose to first get admitted as an inpatient, so that you have help 24×7, and as the symptoms decrease, move on to becoming an outpatient and then start seeing a professional counselor or psychiatrist. These steps would help you regain your health, form relationships and even improve your finances.
How to help your family member’s accidental addiction?
You may suspect your family member might have started misusing prescription drugs. It is important to talk to them, without being judgmental and focusing only on the problem. Offer your complete support and help them get professional help. You have to understand their compulsion, and that it is a disease/disorder and treat it accordingly. Negating them or abusing them might be counter-productive.
Join support group/s
You could also join a support group for family members of addicts, which will help to keep things in perspective. With support groups, you would be able to see how others are dealing with the prescription drug abuse. You have to be ready to go all out to support in any way, maybe even sponsoring their rehab treatment. This would put a strain on your finances, but it will be worth it when the person you love regains their health. The process is a long one, so be prepared to be emotionally invested in it as well. Support groups will help to deal with the intense emotions that you feel.
There is a lot of literature in the form of books which you can read to understand more about dependency on prescription drugs. There are many resources online also which might help you. Learn about the ways in which family members and friends can help and ask your family for support.
Though overcoming the addiction is difficult, it is perfectly possible, as many people have done so. It takes time, but a consistent and continuous positive approach makes a great difference, and makes the journey happier and successful!