A Crucial Start to Long-Term Recovery
Detoxing from prescription drugs is frequently start the journey from addiction to recovery.
After a person has taken a drug for a certain amount for a specific period of time, their body builds tolerance and becomes “used to it,” requiring a specific amount of that drug on a regular basis in order to prevent unwanted withdrawal effects. Withdrawal for some medications can be disorienting, uncomfortable and even painful.
There are many things that can be done by a trained staff (like ours) to lessen the discomfort of withdrawals during the detoxification process.
Abuse, Dependence, or Addiction?
Anytime a person uses a prescription drug for a purpose it is not prescribed, it’s considered substance abuse. Substance abuse doesn’t always lead to addiction, but it makes it much more likely to occur. Many people with a substance use disorder also experiment with prescription drugs and use them recreationally.
Many prescribed drugs have the potential for abuse. In fact, many people who abuse drugs like opioids or benzodiazepines (used for anxiety, typically) first abused the drug right out of somebody’s medicine cabinet. The potential for young people to misuse drugs in this way is incredibly dangerous and unfortunately quite common.
Some people who are prescribed medications such as opioids or stimulants also may turn to them for comfort, which causes them to misuse them. Quickly a person can develop a tolerance, which requires them to take higher amounts than prescribed. This can lead to addiction quickly if you’re taking an opioid or other highly addictive drug. And like all medications, there can be dangerous side effects that are amplified when you take more quantities of it.
Tapering Off the Medication or “Titrating Down
Aside from opioids, there are many medications that people take that may need to be tapered off slowly, reducing the amount of the drug taken every few days or every week. Tapering is usually done with the guidance of a doctor. Antidepressants, painkillers, anti-anxiety medication and neurological medications all need to be halted slowly because there are withdrawal effects that can be dangerous if discontinued abruptly.
Some people who take drugs regularly are physically & mentally addicted. They usually take much more of the drug than indicated by their doctor, or continue using drugs without a prescription. In fact, many people who are addicted no longer have a legal prescription for their drug of choice at all.
For people with a substance use disorder, tapering can be difficult or feel nearly impossible. The compulsion to take the same or more of their drug will prevent them from tapering correctly. They need help when they detox in the form of substance abuse treatment. It will be necessary for addicted persons to significantly change their lifestyle in order to stay away from their drug of choice.
Detox can help with medication-assisted treatment, counseling, and coordinating your next steps in recovery. Most importantly, you’re around people who know what’s going on and can help you if you’re struggling. You are also around peers who are going through similar struggles.
Which Prescription Medications Are the Most Addictive?
Addiction can occur whenever a drug alters the way a person feels or produces other side effects that a person finds pleasant. People with a substance use disorder may abuse their own drugs or find a way to get the drug illicitly, either on the street or via the Internet.
Here are some commonly abused prescription medications:
- Oxycontin, morphine, Percocet, Vicoden, codeine and other opioids. Opioids are some of the most addictive medications that are prescribed to individuals. They are prescribed for pain and sometimes are included in cough syrup. Some people will abuse these drugs and end up with a substance use disorder.
- Ritalin, which is typically prescribed to young people to help control the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
- Stimulants, such as Adderall, which is also used to treat ADD. A person who misuses stimulants can do permanent damage to their heart, especially if they overdose. Stimulants also can cause periods of psychosis and paranoia.
- Anti-anxiety drugs, usually benzodiazepines such as Klonopin or Ativan, can cause sedation and a feeling like being drunk when taken in larger amounts than prescribed.
Other drugs that change a person’s emotional or physical state have the potential to be abused. All of the above drugs also have the potential for physical dependence, meaning that it takes more of the drug to get the same effects.
Drugs are dangerous when a user is abusing them. The body reacts differently whenever a person uses a higher dosage of a drug. Some drugs, such as opioids and anti-anxiety drugs can slow a person’s respiration rate and cause them to stop breathing, causing an overdose.
Opioid Addiction and Detox
Opioids are highly addictive, and the human body can become dependent on them more as the dosage is increased. People who misuse opioids will often experience intense withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Withdrawal symptoms will include a lot of physical ailments that can mimic the flu, but sometimes symptoms may be more serious. Opioid withdrawal isn’t life threatening unless you are withdrawing from other drugs or alcohol, or have a pre-existing condition that can be exacerbated.
Some symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:
- Fatigue, tiredness, lack of motivation, yawning
- Irritability, anxiety, mood swings, angry out bursts
- Runny nose, bloodshot/teary eyes, and body aches
- Hot or cold sweats, goose bumps, shivering
- Mild to severe muscle aches and pains, goose bumps
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, sweating
Opioid withdrawal can be tough for a person to handle on their own. Many people choose to detox in a safe, welcoming environment such as a treatment detox center.
Medication-assisted treatment can help “take the edge off” when it comes to the most powerful symptoms of withdrawal. Therapy and group support can help you talk through the way you feel and talk about your fears and goals.
Speak with an addiction specialist to learn which options may be the most helpful when you’re getting clean.
Detoxing from Other Drugs
No matter which drug a user is addicted to, there will be certain side effects exhibited when the drug is detoxing from the body. Detoxing in a safe and therapeutic setting can help a person stay centered and focus on their recovery plan, while minimizing the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal.
People who have taken the step of detox can also make a plan for recovery so that they don’t go back to their old way of life. There is a lot of healing that needs to take place once a person has re-claimed their lives from the pain of addiction.
Recovery is a journey, not a destination. Treatment can give a person the tools that they need to start that journey and self-knowledge they need to sustain it. Many people from different walks of lives get help for addiction every day.