Most of us inherently understand that there are huge risks to indulging in illegal narcotics and that one of the possible results is an addiction.
This is something we see in nearly every sad story on the news or in movies about the darker parts of life. What isn’t addressed nearly as often is the massive problem of prescription drug addiction.
Between painkillers, antidepressants, and ADHD medication, the general population is being prescribed more drugs than ever before. At Alpine Recovery Lodge, we have seen nearly every variation and problem in this sector, and can attest to the fact that although each rehab process will have its own differences, they all end up sharing the same process.
One of the most common problems in medicine is the over-prescription of opiates. Pain relievers have their place, but doctors have grown too comfortable prescribing them, and the medicines are designed to numb the pain rather than actually fix the problem.
As the most abused drug in the United States, this has become somewhat of an epidemic. The most abused prescription drugs have been found to be OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, and Vicodin. These painkillers can be lethal if mixed with alcohol or taken in too high a dose, which is why this has become such a problem.
Almost worse is the abuse of ADHD medicine we are seeing in schools. Many children, usually young boys, are given this medication as soon as they show signs of struggling to pay attention in the classroom.
This behavior can often be a natural thing and not the sign of a psychological problem with the child, but the way our health system is set up, it has resulted in many children taking the drug that probably don’t need it. The drugs can permanently change the chemical balance in their young brains, not to mention that some kids will start recreationally taking the drugs as well.
Death or reckless behavior that leads to dangerous situations can result from any of these prescription drugs. It’s usually thought that because they are sold over the counter they are safer and there is less of a risk of getting hurt, but that isn’t true.
The fact that they are sold over the counter just means the strength of the medication is controlled and more measurable, but all drugs have the same potential to be abused if taken in excess.
The Routes to Addiction
There are two ways people end up addicted to prescription drugs – they can either be legitimately prescribed it and then build up a tolerance that leads to a form of addiction, or they can begin taking it recreationally.
The effect of each of these routes is the same, but the way the rehabilitation process will be structured will vary.
The difference in structure comes from the difference in the habits a patient would already have in their life. If you’re taking a drug recreationally, there are probably people in your life and things you do that are perpetuating your addiction.
This means that any sort of recovery will first start with the patient correcting their lifestyle so they can stay clean. Lifestyle can mean any mix of the friends they spend time with, the past times they indulge, and the health regimen they follow. All of these determine the chemical balance of someone’s brain and how they handle stress.
On the other hand, if the drugs were prescribed to the patient, but were taken to the point of excess, then the underlying conditions that pushed the patient to do this must be examined. Additionally, the condition for which the drugs were initially prescribed must be addressed in a different way.
No matter what route brought the patient to addiction, there will be some clear signs for them or their loved ones to notice.
They will see their physical tolerance to the drug increase and even feel a physical dependency. This dependency will result in them “needing” the drug and even lying or faking an illness to get more of it. The end result is that they are taking more pills than advised, which is the most dangerous position to be in.
For a patient’s loved ones, the symptoms might show more in the form of mood changes. There could be big mood swings and bouts of aggression that throw them off, perhaps followed by depression or increased introversion. On their own, these symptoms could be anything, but the total picture is an addiction that could lead somewhere worse.
The Rehabilitation Process
The process of becoming rehabilitated from an addiction to prescription drugs can take a long time. It doesn’t just consist of the time you’re getting clean, but also the time you spend working on staying clean and learning how to rearrange your life in a healthier way.
The withdrawal stage is the first step, and most rehab centers will help find ways to make sure it’s as painless as possible. If the patient has developed a chemical dependence, then it will still be painful, but at least this way there are substances like Vitamins B12 and C that can help alleviate the pain.
After this is the longer process of detoxing all the prescription drugs out of your body. You are no longer high, but trace remnants exist in your bloodstream and give your body subtle cravings.
At this point, patients get on a solid diet and exercise regimen so they can start to sweat out the drug and restore their chemical balance by finding new ways to release dopamine.
It’s well known that the body tends to store excess fats, but what isn’t realized is that those fats tend to contain whatever toxins were in a patient’s bloodstream at the time. This will take a lot longer to fix, but through long periods of time in a healthy state, the cravings will continue to decrease.
One notable issue with rehabilitation can be if the patient was using pain meds and then got clean, but still has the issue that was causing the pain. A holistic approach to rehab will help fix both problems at the same time, resulting in an easier recovery process.
The entire process is really just focused on getting to a lower level of craving by getting as much of the drug out of a patient’s body as possible. The lower the craving, the easier it is to carry on, and it becomes a self-fulfilling process.
This is part of the power in having a chip saying how many days sober you are. The longer you’ve been sober, the easier it is to stay sober a little longer. The cycle repeats itself, and when a patient has a past history of sobriety to view, they can more confidently stay sober and avoid relapsing.
At Alpine Recovery Lodge, our strategy is built around two things. First, we will provide you with coaching along the way, since we have extensive experience with rehabilitation and know the points at which many people end up derailed or discouraged.
Aside from our support, we also help you get healthy by means of a combination of diet, exercise, and vitamins so that you have a good chance of getting the most toxins out of your system.
One thing that some rehabilitation centers will recommend but is not offered at Alpine Recovery Lodge is the option of using a replacement drug. This involves the use of a drug that is not as bad for the body, but still has addictive qualities.
It may feel easier at the time, but the primary goal of rehabilitation is to get past an addictive mindset, not to replace one problem with another slightly less dangerous one.
The Hardest Part
The part of the process you’ve probably heard the most about is the withdrawal stage. In movies, it’s often portrayed as the hardest part of addiction because of the physical symptoms, but this is somewhat of a misnomer.
In our work at Alpine Recovery Lodge, we have seen many people who were strong enough to make it past this stage and even get clean for a bit, and then relapse. This is because it’s easy to control your habits for a day or two, but to control them for life requires a true desire to change that isn’t always possible when there are other pressures being placed on the patient.
For sobriety to truly last and not be followed by a relapse, the patient must change their habits and develop certain soft skills that will allow them to go through life and stay clean.
These skills include avoiding situations likely to trigger a relapse, getting rid of the people who tend to push them into doing the drugs, and developing a healthier mindset so drugs aren’t required.
Overall, the best thing a patient can do is build a healthy lifestyle and use a combination of diet and exercise to get past their cravings and build positive feedback loops. Positive feedback loops are a form of momentum where the patient can see the positive change in themselves and feel fewer cravings, which helps them to continue to stay sober. If the process repeats, the result is prolonged sobriety and a lower risk of relapsing.
Rehabilitation can be incredibly challenging, but at the end, you will have unlocked a whole new strength in yourself. Whatever the addiction you or a loved one may be facing, Alpine Recovery Lodge is here to help you through the process.