However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 48 million Americans – or 20 percent of the population – have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at some time during their lifetime.
In most cases, these medications were initially prescribed by a physician to treat pain, relieve anxiety, or improve sleep. They may have been prescribed initially for something as simple as a toothache. However, within a short period of time, the user began to increase the frequency or amount of the dosage, causing a dependence.
Addiction is a chronic habit that causes compulsive drug seeking and can physically lead to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Repeated drug use can affect your self-control and ability to make sound decisions, impacting on your social, occupational and psychological well-being. Unlike with most drug addictions, a major segment of pain medicine addicts are in their 60s, 70s or older, people who started using pain killers after surgery or due to chronic pain.
While opioids with such brand names as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin are effective in reducing pain, they can lead to drug dependency and abuse over time – and can become deadly when combined with substances that depress the central nervous system, like alcohol, barbiturates or benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium and Klonopin which work by decreasing brain activity.
The risks for addiction differ among individuals, and may be affected by one’s biology, social environment and/or age of development at the time the drug was first taken.
How do you know if you or a loved one is addicted to a prescription drug? Through communication and check ins. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns to other family members, especially if you notice your loved on calling a doctor for frequent refills or asking for an increased amount of medication. The best thing to do, should this occur, is to contact an expert, such as their doctor, as soon as possible.
Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors.