It can sometimes be difficult to accept that we can develop an addiction to medication prescribed to us by a doctor, or that is freely available for us to purchase over the pharmacy counter. However, addiction to prescribed medicines could be as big a problem in the UK as addiction to illegal drugs like heroin. Whatever your addiction, our residential drug rehab here at New Leaf Recovery can help you.
While the majority of people with drug addictions are addicted to illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, or cannabis, a growing number of individuals in the UK are becoming addicted to prescription medication.
It is hard for many to comprehend the fact that it is possible to become addicted to medications that have been prescribed by a doctor, but the reality is that some prescription medication is highly addictive. Medication such as opioids, depressants, and stimulants are prescribed to treat various conditions but have the potential to become addictive if not used as prescribed by a GP or if taken for a long period of time.
What prescription drugs can a person become addicted to?
There are many prescription drugs that can be abused; the most common tend to be:
- Opiates - often prescribed to treat pain e.g. codeine.
- Central nervous system depressants - which are used to treat anxiety and sleeping disorders e.g. barbiturates (although rarely prescribed now) and much more commonly, benzodiazepines such as diazepam and temazepam.
- Antidepressants - e.g. citalopram and mirtazapine.
- Antihistamines - chlorphenamine.
- Stimulants used to treat ADHD - such as dexamphetamine.
Over the counter drugs
What over the counter drugs can people become addicted to?
These are mainly codeine-based analgesics such as:
- Ibruprofen and codeine (nurofen plus) and paracetemol and codeine (solpadeine).
- Some cough medicines (some types of beneylin) also contain codeine.
When do you classify usage as an addiction?
When a person becomes physically and psychologically dependent, although not all drugs are capable of inducing a physical dependency.
Dependency is characterised by a feeling of not being able to do without a drug and a desperate need to obtain and consume the drug to alleviate feelings that arise from not having it.
What are the signs to look for in yourself and others?
The signs may include:
- Needing to take more of the drug to get an appropriate effect.
- Asking for repeat prescriptions early.
- Difficulty in trying to cut down or stop drug use.
- Feeling guilty about drug use.
- Problems with work, finances or legal issues.
- Being secretive about drug use.
- Arguments or disagreements with significant others about drug use.
- Taking other medications to alleviate the side effects of prescription drugs.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping/reducing the drug or between doses.
- Continuing to take the drug despite actual or likely negative consequences.
What are the dangers of prescription drugs?
There are many dangers of prescription drugs but it will depend on the type and dose of the drug. There are the risks involved with the short-term effects and with prolonged use.
- Sedation - usually associated with short term use.
- Lack of coordination - again usually short term.
- Altered states of consciousness - more likely in short term.
- Gastrointestinal complaints, such as nausea (short term) and diarrhoea (short term) and constipation (long term).
- Depressed respiration - high dose, acute.
- Changes in blood pressure or heart rate - short and long term.
- Changes in appetite - more likely short term.
- Interactions with other drugs and alcohol - short and long term.
- Tolerance and dependence - long term.
- Symptoms associated with withdrawal - long term (again differing with each drug) including anxiety, depression, seizures, tremor and insomnia.
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