At Alpine Recovery Lodge, people often ask us whether there is any connection between prescription drug use and the use of other drugs.
This is an understandable concern. Almost all of us use prescription drugs at one point or another, but few know what the potential risks for addiction are.
This post will explain the common connections between prescription drug abuse and other drugs, and what this all might mean for you and your loved ones.
Prescription Drugs and Addiction
There are many prescription drugs available that have psychoactive properties. Because they can be mind-altering, they are sometimes abused and taken in ways not recommended by a doctor.
After marijuana and alcohol, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are the most abused substances used by Americans over the age of 14.
Recent research regarding illicit drug use among 12th graders found that many commonly used prescription drugs are frequently abused, including Adderall, Vicodin, cough medicine, tranquilizers, hallucinogens, sedatives, salvia, Oxycontin, Inhalants, and Ritalin.
Opioid pain relievers (Vicodin and Oxycontin) are the most commonly abused drugs, followed by stimulants to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depressants.
People often think that prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but, they can be highly addictive and extremely dangerous if used improperly.
The Link Between Prescription and Illicit Drugs
Growing research over the years has demonstrated that there is, in fact, a strong link between prescription drug abuse and use of illegal drugs.
For example, people who abuse prescription painkillers (such as Oxycontin), are 19 times more likely to use heroin later on. According to the research study, 8 of every 10 people who began using heroin had a history of painkiller abuse.
DrugAbuse.gov statistics show:
- 1 in 15 people who have taken prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes will try heroin within 10 years
- In 2010, 1.9 million people either abused or were dependent on painkillers, and also 14% used heroin
- Heroin users are 3 times more likely to be dependent than non-medical pain reliever users (54% versus 14%)
- Heroin emergency room admissions have risen from less than 200,000 in 2005 to nearly 260,000 in 2011
So, why does this connection exist?
Few realize that heroin and many popular painkillers are all a part of the same class of drugs, called Opioids. Drugs in this class attach to opioid receptor molecules found in the nerve cells of the brain, as well as the intestines and spinal cord. For both opioid painkillers and heroin, this process can result in decreased feelings of pain.
In addition to pain relief, opioids can help people relax and make them feel happy. This is one of the main reasons why many people abuse these types of drugs.
The Dangers of Abusing Painkillers or Heroin
You can’t say that everyone who abuses painkillers will one day use heroin. However, the abuse of painkillers can be very harmful in and of itself.
All opioid drugs are highly addictive, and addiction makes you feel like you need that substance, regardless of whether or not it’s hurting you or causing problems in your life. Addiction can result in chemical changes in your brain after drug use.
People addicted to painkillers or heroin often have major difficulty quitting. Most people who try to stop using opioids go through withdrawal, with symptoms that include restlessness, trouble sleeping, bodily pain, vomiting, diarrhea, cold flashes, and twitching.
For those who can’t manage to quit, opiates can have very negative effects on the body, such as bad teeth, swelling of the gums, constipation, cold sweats, and itching.
A weakening of the immune system, reduced sexual capacity, and respiratory illness can also transpire, as well as depression, introversion, memory loss, coma, and even death.
If you or a loved one is abusing prescription or other illicit drugs, help is available. Get in touch with us to learn how to start healing today. Learn more about prescription drug abuse rehab in Alpine, Utah.