In the United States, addiction to prescription drugs is a growing problem. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 50 million Americans have abused prescription medications. Perhaps even more frightening, many individuals who develop an addiction to prescription drugs do so while under a doctor’s care. Chronic pain, anxiety and other disorders often require the use of powerful drugs, many of which, though effective at addressing uncomfortable symptoms, carry a significant risk of addiction.
Thankfully, though, you can reduce your risk of developing an addiction, no matter what drugs you’ve been prescribed. Keep reading to find out how.
Before taking any prescription medications, you should educate yourself on factors like side effects, possible interactions with other drugs, the drug’s potential for abuse and other risks. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist, and ask questions until you feel comfortable taking your medication or pursuing other options. Also, pay close attention to warnings concerning drowsiness and dizziness, and plan your day accordingly; for example, you won’t want to drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of certain medications.
Painkillers, sedatives and other drugs with a high potential for abuse should only be taken when absolutely necessary. To avoid physical or psychological dependence, only take the dosage you need, when you need it. In fact, in some cases, it might be better to deal with a little discomfort now, as opposed to dealing with addiction in the future.
Consider Your Options
When it comes to the treatment of pain, anxiety and other conditions, prescription drugs aren’t always your only option. For example, in addressing the uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety, exercise, meditation and deep-breathing techniques can be extremely helpful. Likewise, some types of pain can be treated with alternative therapies like massage or chiropractic medicine. Lastly, some drugs are more addictive than others; ask your doctor about non-narcotic drugs, or those that have a lower potential for abuse.
If you take prescription narcotics, self-monitoring techniques like the following can help you avoid misuse and addiction:
- When do you take your medication? Do you take your medication at the same time every day, or only when symptoms arise? Do you ever dose ahead of schedule? If you’re more medication than you’re precribed, you might have a problem.
- Do you mix your medications with alcohol or drugs that haven’t been prescribed by a doctor? This can have deadly consequences, and often indicates a problem.
- Do you ever take your medication when symptoms aren’t present? For example, do you feel the need to “self-medicate” when you’re feeling unhappy, angry or overwhelmed? This can point to psychological dependence, and often contributes to addiction.
- Do you have obsessive thoughts about your medication? Do you worry about running out? Have you ever lied about symptoms or visited more than one doctor with the intent of gaining prescriptions? Any of these signs can point to a developing or full-blown addiction.
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take your medication? Body aches, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, sneezing and other flu-like symptoms are a sign of physical dependence.
Seeking Professional Help
If you recognize the signs of addiction, getting help can mean the difference in life and death. Talk to your doctor about switching medications, and seek immediate treatment from addiction professionals. With the proper treatment, you can break the ties of addiction, and improve health and quality of life.