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Arizona Prescription Drug Addiction
addicted to drug

Arizona prescription drug addiction is a major public health concern across the state. The number of deaths caused by drug overdose in the country exceeds the number of motor-vehicle-related deaths in 29 states and costs the country an estimated $53.4 billion each year in medical expenses, lost productivity and criminal justice costs.

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

The use or overuse of any prescription medication is considered abuse. For example, taking prescription painkillers for recreational purposes, or taking medication that was prescribed for someone else is considered abuse. Likewise, taking higher or more frequent doses of any medication that is prescribed to you by a doctor is also considered prescription drug abuse.

Arizona Prescription Drug Addiction and Abuse Statistics

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona has the sixth highest rate of death caused by drug overdose in the United States. While most people associate drug overdoses with illicit street drugs such as heroin or crystal meth, the reality is that more people die from accidentally overdosing on prescription drugs each year than from heroin, cocaine, or crystal meth combined.

The total number of deaths caused by drug overdose increased by 65 percent in the years between 1999 and 2013.

A report released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that the age group with the highest percent of non-medical prescription drug abuse in Arizona was 18 to 25-year-olds.

Common Drugs of Abuse

The most common drugs of abuse fall into three common categories:

Opiates: Opiate drugs are those derived from the morphine molecule found naturally in the opium poppy, such as morphine or heroin. Opioid drugs are those that have opiate-like effects and are in part synthetic, and include synthetic opiates like oxycodone (OxyContin) or hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Opiates are used for their analgesic properties to treat chronic or acute pain. They act directly on the central nervous system to trigger the brain to release a flood of dopamine into the system. The opiate molecules bind directly to the brain’s opioid receptors, creating a euphoric effect.

People who abuse prescription opioid medications may attempt to repeat or intensify the euphoric experience by taking drugs in ways other than were prescribed, dramatically increasing the risk of accidental overdose.

Sedatives: Sedative/hypnotic drugs are also known as tranquilizers, and are central nervous system depressants that affect the brain’s neurotransmitters to reduce brain activity. When used exactly as prescribed, sedative medications can be used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, or seizures. The most commonly abused prescription sedative medications are barbiturates (phenobarbital) and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium).

Sedative/hypnotic medications work by slowing down brain activity, causing a sense of calmness, relaxation or drowsiness. Tolerance to tranquilizer medications develops quickly, leading some people to take higher doses than were prescribed in an effort to recapture the same effects that used to be achieved with smaller amounts, increasing the risk of overdose.

Stimulants: Stimulant prescription medications are sometimes used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but can also temporarily increase alertness and energy. Commonly abused prescription medications include Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta. While cocaine is also a strictly controlled prescription drug, it is more commonly used for recreational purposes.

Stimulant drugs are extremely addictive due to their effects on the brain’s reward pathways. Abusing any stimulant medication triggers the brain to release a flood of serotonin and dopamine into the system, but then blocks the brain’s ability to recycle, or re-uptake, the serotonin and dopamine that was released, causing an intense temporary “high.”

People who abuse stimulant drugs seek to repeat the intense euphoric feelings by continuing to take more drugs. However, tolerance to stimulants develops quickly, leading the person to take higher doses to achieve the same effects that used to require smaller amounts.

Arizona Prescription Drug Addiction: Signs and Symptoms

The individual signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse will differ, depending on the type of drug being taken. However, there are some common signs to watch for. These include:

–       Taking higher doses than were prescribed

–       Excessive mood swings

–       Agitation or hostility

–       Appearing unusually drowsy or revved up

–       Repeatedly losing prescriptions, so more prescriptions need to be written

–       Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

Withdrawal Symptoms from Prescription Drugs

A person who has been abusing prescription medication may develop a dependency on the substance very quickly. Dependence on drugs develops when the neurons in the brain have adapted to the constant presence of drugs in the system so the person is only able to function with continued drug use.

When the person suddenly stops taking the drug, the brain can’t adapt to operating without them. The result is that the person experiences physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

Opioid Withdrawals – Nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, muscle and bone aches, runny nose, insomnia, profuse sweating, fever, anxiety, and depression.

Sedative Withdrawals – Anxiety, panic attacks, agitation, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, stroke, heart attack or seizures.

Stimulant Withdrawals – Profound depression, suicidal thoughts, nightmares and vivid dreams, irritability, violent behavior, and psychosis.

Arizona Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Programs

It’s common for many people to continue abusing prescription drugs in an effort to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms. However, with the right combination of treatments, it is possible to overcome drug addiction.

Treatment will vary, depending on the type of drug being taken, the person’s characteristics, the severity of the addiction, and whether there are any underlying or coexisting mental illnesses that need simultaneous treatment.

Detoxing from the drug of addiction is the important first step to recovery, as it rids the body of the drug’s toxins. It’s important that the detox process is conducted under medical supervision in a safe environment, as many withdrawal symptoms could be potentially life-threatening.

For people being treated for opiate abuse, prescription medication such as methadone or Suboxone can be given to reduce the severity of symptoms. The dosage of treatment medications is reduced over a period of time, so by the end of detox treatment, the person is free of both drugs.

Treating sedative abuse requires carefully monitored tapering of the drug of addiction over time. It’s dangerous to stop taking sedatives suddenly, so it’s strongly advised that detox is conducted under medical supervision.

There are no treatment medications available for people being treated for stimulant abuse. However, due to the severe psychological withdrawal symptoms, many people may experience, it’s important that treatment is conducted under medical supervision.

When the detox process is complete, individual counseling and behavioral therapy can begin to address the psychological aspect of the addiction.

Why Seek Treatment?

Seeking treatment for prescription drug abuse is the first step to recovery. The right combination of treatments can help to break dependence on drugs and make it possible to live a happy, productive, sober life over the long term. When you are ready to get sober once and for all, pick up the phone and speak with an addiction specialist.