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South Carolina Prescription Drug Addiction

South Carolina Prescription Drug Addiction

When it comes to drug abuse and addiction, prescription medications might not be the first substances that come to mind. Nevertheless, South Carolina prescription drug addiction is growing at alarming rate. Getting information about this problem and subsequently pursuing treatment may very well save your life or the life of someone you love.

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines prescription drug abuse as “the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited”. Under this definition, good examples of prescription drug abuse include taking a spouse’s prescription painkiller because of a serious migraine, purposely taking doses of a prescribed medication every four hours instead of every eight and taking a dose of the Xanax prescribed for insomnia to feel the euphoria it produces. Many people who abuse prescription drugs have no intent of doing so on a regular basis or want to help themselves or others without hassle, and they don’t picture themselves as doing anything unsafe or criminal. Prescription drug abuse still can be deadly, however, with some individuals overdosing the very first time they take a drug improperly. Prescription drug abuse and illicit drug abuse are connected, too, in that many people who become dependent on prescription opioids turn to “street” drugs, such as heroin, if the prescription drug becomes unavailable or too expensive.

Statistics for South Carolina

Prescription drug abuse has risen over recent years, so much so that major organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control now are referring to the problem as an “epidemic.” South Carolina is not immune. According to the South Carolina Drug Control Update, in 2010, sedatives had the lowest incidence of abuse, followed closely by tranquilizers. More individuals abused stimulants than heroin. The biggest problem was–and continues to be–opiate/opioid abuse. Using data from the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), the Governor’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council reports that those admitted to DAODAS programs with a primary diagnosis of opiate/opioid abuse rose from 687 in 2004 to 2,011 in 2013.

Commonly Abused Drugs  

Most prescription drugs that people abuse fall into one of three categories: opiates (from the poppy plant) and opiods (synthetically made), sedatives and stimulants. Opiates and opioids, which medical professionals normally prescribe for pain, include drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet and Kadian. Sedatives, often prescribed for conditions such as anxiety and sleep disorders, include drugs such as Xanax, Valium and Klonopin. Stimulants, the abuse rate for which is also climbing to challenge that of opiates/opioids, treat conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. They include substances such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Individuals who are abusing prescription drugs often exhibit telltale signs that can clue loved ones in about their behavior. They might steal prescriptions from others, visit multiple doctors for similar conditions, get through a prescription much faster than would be expected, make frequent prescription refill requests (may claim they lost what they previously received) or order prescription medications online. If the prescription drug abuse is on the verge of or already has turned into addiction, the user also might have mood swings or increased irritability, changes in sleep patterns or increased alcohol consumption.

Prescription Drug Categories (Schedules)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes all prescription drugs according to their risk of abuse or harm, as outlined by the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Currently, the FDA uses five categories, or schedules, for this purpose. Schedule I drugs are those with a very high risk of abuse and little counterbalancing benefit. They thus are banned from medical practice within the United States, as medical professionals see them as being too unsafe. Examples include heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Schedule 5 drugs offer the lowest risk of abuse. Good examples include Robitussin AC and Phenergan with Codeine.

Why are prescription drugs so addictive?

Prescription drugs are addictive because they have the ability to disrupt the way nerve cells process, receive and send information in the brain. Some drugs are so similar to the neurotransmitters the brain naturally makes that they trick receptors in the brain and get nerve cells to send abnormal messages. Other drugs get nerve cells to release huge amounts of neurotransmitters, or they prevent neurotransmitters already present from being naturally disposed. The result is an increase of dopamine, which affects not only feelings of pleasure, but also areas like motivation and movement. The brain thus reduces how much dopamine it makes on its own, and eventually, it becomes dependent on the prescription drug to keep the level of dopamine high enough.

Health Risks

A person can experience a huge range of health risks when they abuse prescription drugs, depending on the exact substance and dose taken. In the short term, common issues include drowsiness or decrease in sleep, lack of coordination, constipation, elevated body temperature, changes to heart and/or breathing, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Long-term risks include weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, seizures, brain damage, decreased cognitive function, organ damage, paranoia and depression. Long-term users also may become addicted and experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop using. Overdose and death unfortunately becomes a reality for many prescription drug abusers and can occur at any point.

Withdrawals and Treatment Options

There is hope for South Carolina prescription drug addiction through a number of treatment options. Rehabilitation facilities that address opiates/opioids routinely turn to medications such as methadone to wean individuals off their drug while avoiding the dangerous symptoms of withdrawal. Some “rapid detox” programs also use general anesthesia, but there is debate about whether this is as safe or effective as other options.

Abuse or addiction involving stimulants does not have a medication-assisted option, although researchers are working hard to develop substances that might help. Thus, facilities usually taper the user’s drug dosage, eventually turning primarily to behavioral therapies. In general, the same approach is used for sedatives.

Depending on the type of drug being abused and the severity of the abuse, facilities may recommend outpatient, day patient (partial hospitalization) or inpatient treatment. Most programs involve some kind of individual, family or group counseling that can get to the heart of the abuse and set a foundation for healthier habits. Many rehabilitation centers also offer other services, such as education or career counseling, and programs also may address diet, exercise, spirituality and more.

Get Help Now

Prescription drug abuse is dangerous and potentially fatal. At the same time, trying to stop using prescription drugs on your own can prove deadly, too. Your best choice is to find caring professionals who can guide you through recovery. For your safety, and to reclaim the positive life you deserve, contact a prescription drug treatment facility near you today.