Addiction is not an intellectual process, and, by definition, it overrides rationality; around 400,00 people have lost their lives due to opioid overdoses since 1999. Many addicts are otherwise smart, well-meaning people who are predisposed to addiction by both genetics and circumstance—circumstances being that one in three Americans is now prescribed an opioid. As opioid addiction morphed into a crisis, in 2015 the CDC reported that Alabama led the nation in prescribing opioid painkillers.
One in Three
One major reason people slip into addictive drug use is the sense that it could not happen to them because they are not drug-seekers, or they have no history of recreational drug use. We have a crisis in part because many of us do not feel vulnerable to addiction personally, even though one in three Americans now knows someone who has been addicted to opioid or prescription painkillers. We should all be wary for ourselves and those we love through awareness and early intervention.
Early Awareness is Key
Early awareness of addiction, often occurring with prescription medicine, is the best hope to control this indiscriminate disease. First, relapse rates are increased by duration of a drug’s usage. Further, most people who progress to street drugs begin with a pill addiction, so the drugs become more dangerous over time. In fact, 80 percent of heroin users first misused prescription opioids. Finally, your chance of death increases over time as you abuse drugs because the amount of chemical necessary to stimulate brain receptors increases.
Know the Signs
What does it look like when someone slips from relief of pain to subconscious pursuit of an altered state?
Watch for these signs as you would watch for signs of diabetes or heart disease:
Thinking incessantly about your supply and dosage of the drug: watching the clock to take another dose; do you have enough?
Not following dosage instructions: taking too much, taking it preemptively, using it just because you have extra.
Changes in sleep and/or mood: are you angry or unable to sleep if you don’t have the medicine in your system?
Lapses in good judgment: borrowing medication from others, taking other prescription medicine without a prescription, seeking a new doctor for higher dosages, or generally putting yourself at risk to obtain medicine illegally
Hiding from others: being ashamed of usage, not accurately reporting changes in craving, and withdrawal from significant others to avoid addressing changes
Perhaps you are concerned that you or your loved one is moving toward a problem. Now is the time to intervene. You shouldn’t trust yourself or your loved one to confront it alone. Addicts continue to use drugs even if their lives are getting worse because of it—rational processes will not take over and overshadow this disease. Even worse, withdrawal symptoms can often lead to relapses.
Fortunately, addiction specialists can mitigate these symptoms—cold turkey is a dangerous, outdated strategy. Your best chance to curb addiction without disrupting your life in the meantime is with the support of medical professionals. Notify your doctor or come in for a simple addiction screening to begin the process of recovery before your professional and personal life is sacrificed. Click here to contact our team at Medplex today for a step in the right direction or call 205-731-9090.