Monday, October 3, 2011

Medical Mondays: The Ups and Downs of Prescription Drug Abuse


Welcome back to Medical Mondays! Melissa Sarno had some great questions about her current WIP and I thought I'd tackle a few specific questions she had.

"What kinds of effects can prescription drugs of abuse can a person have, and what are the withdrawal symptoms if they go off the drugs?"

The prescription drugs that are commonly abused usually run in three classes.
  • Pain medications (opioids, like morphine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, methadone, etc.)
  • Sedatives, including sleeping medicines and anxiolytics ("anxiety destroyers") also known as benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Ativan, and Xanax
  • Stimulants (amphetamines, such as Ritalin)
Here are some scary factoids (courtesy of the International Narcotics Control Board):
  • In the US, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem (16 million people in the US as of 2009)
  • Except for marijuana usage, more people in the US abuse prescription drugs than heroin, inhalants, cocaine, hallucinogens, crystal meth, and ecstasy combined.
Why are some drugs abused more than others?
  • Rapid onset (quicker high)
  • Route (to get the best high), so a drug that can be given or changed to intravenous is preferred over inhaled > immediate release > slow release formulas
  • Purity (trade names have more street value than generic)
What are the symptoms of being intoxicated on these medications?
  • Pain medications: The mental states can range from euphoria to sleepiness and even coma. Physically, abuser might have a lower breathing rate with shallow breathing, tiny pupils, and a slowed GI rate (constipation and quiet belly sounds)
  • Sedatives (benzos and barbiturates): Slurred speech, incoordination, wobbly gait, stupor and coma. Their mood may be all over the place and they might be socially inappropriate. Physically, their irises might be twitchy.
  • Stimulants: Euphoria, increased energy and exuberant mood, decreased appetite, and sometimes hallucinations. Severe intoxication can cause agitation, violent behavior, elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rates, elevated body temperature, and sometimes heart attack and cardiovascular collapse.
What are the symptoms of withdrawal of these medications?
  • Pain medications: Classic opioid withdrawal includes terrible, downed mood, restlessness, runny nose and tearing, body pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 
  • Sedatives: tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, psychosis and seizures.
  • Stimulants: fatigue, depression, inability to find joy in anything, increased sleep or insomnia, vivid dreams, drug cravings, and increased appetite.
There you go. Keep in mind this is a very brief overview of quite an extensive subject matter. Hope this helps, Melissa!


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48 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks Lydia! Great information. :)

Miranda Hardy said...

Scary facts, and many reasons I refuge these types of medications. I'd rather deal with the pain.

Bathwater said...

Very brief and I don't really think it includes what people are likey to do on the drugs. I have seen girls on Xanax for instance that mix the drug with alcoohol and wil loose parts of there evening. Like a roofy almost.

I think one of the reasons they are so abused is pain killers are over perscribed by the medical industry.

mooderino said...

Great post. The celebs in the taboids always make these sorts of addictions seem so much more fun.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great post, Lydia. After my last surgery, I had to make myself stop taking the Vicodin because I needed it even when I wasn't hurting. Scary stuff. I'll never let that happen again.

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, I didn't realize it was such a problem. I try not to take medication of any kind unless I have to but thanks so much for the information.

Anne Gallagher said...

After my father's cancer six years ago, he got addicted to his pain meds. It took me two years to get him off it. It was more or less a mind game. He "thought" he needed it, when all he really needed was a couple of Advil. You're right, it was worse than heroin.

Sarah said...

Another nice, concise, and useful guide, Lydia. I have a kneejerk prejudice against the anxiolytics, because I feel like they get prescribed when the individual should instead be encouraged to engage in cognitive therapy that could actually result in sustainable benefit. Those medications result in quick relief but no lasting positive changes, and I wonder sometimes if they keep people in a cycle of anxiety rather than actually helping.

Lorelei said...

Great post!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Very useful info, Lydia. I keep forgetting Ritalin is a stimulant. No wonder it gets abused, especially by those who want to lose weight and gain more energy. Makes you wonder if some kids end up on the stuff because their parent actually wants it for themselves. (Yep, I saw that episode of Desperate Housewifes a few years ago).

salarsenッ said...

Informative post. I found the withdrawal symptoms interesting. Also, I hadn't ever thought of why people chose one drug over another to get high--faster high does sound logical.

vbtremper said...

Hey Lydia! Sorry I haven't been around lately. Thanks for this extremely helpful post!

-Vicki

Melissa Sarno said...

Thanks Lydia! :)

Old Kitty said...

Getting addicted to pain meds is so easily done. I think I got addicted to my one - containing codeine. Not good at all!! *Shudder*!

Take care
x

LTM said...

and some of those Rx drugs are so addictive--we've all heard the stories. I have to confess, if faced w/the choice of taking Oxycontin or enduring the pain, I might pick the pain. :p

great post, Dr. K~ :o)

Angela Felsted said...

Very informative, scary post. You are a fabulous researcher.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I was reading where you can actually get addicted to lip balm. That's scary. LOL.

I was a substance abuse counselor for a time, and I know there is nothing funny with prescription drug addiction. Great post. Roland

Lisa Gail Green said...

Fascinating as always and I wanted to offer a belated congratulations on becoming agented! :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now why on earth would anyone want to do that to themselves?

Linda Gray said...

I'm bookmarking this one, Lydia. Excellent info: twitchy irises--wow, perfect.

Munk said...

Yes! Finally an answer to my crazy-loud belly sounds.

Rubye Jack said...

If your pain is bad enough, most people will choose pain relief. It's hard living with pain from flare-ups because I want to keep taking the pills when the pain lessens, but I would much rather be addicted and have to kick the narcotic then to be in debilitating pain. Pain is not good for the body either.

Giles Hash said...

Ug. That stuff scares the crap out of me. I barely even used my prescription when I had my wisdom teeth removed. Just enough to make the pain recede so I could sleep. So one a night. For just over a week until ibuprofen would kick the pain for me.

Narcotics terrify me. :P

Donna said...

I am so sorry to tell you the experience I have gone through lately. I have a volunteer job working with all kinds of women. One in particular is having every problem there is...and she is addicted to prescription drugs. I understand it, when life is so hard who doesn't want to escape? There are some who see life as a great, interesting challenge...but for so many, it is just hard. too hard.
She is in rehab right now, and I hope for the best, but I don't think she wants to get better. Life has beaten her down.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the info! Good to know.

Emily Rose said...

It's so sad that there are these addictions. Great informative post.

Connie Keller said...

Wow! Now I'm really thankful for my good health.

Southpaw said...

Those are scary facts.

PS: I changed my URL and username back to southpaw, but managed to mess up my feeds.

Krispy said...

Wow, did not know some of the side effects on these. I'm not so surprised that it's becoming such a problem, considering our society seems to think pill-popping is a cure-all. :P Thanks for the great post as usual!

Olga said...

You have touched on an important subject. Unfortunately, it only occurs to you when there's an urgency to take pills. However, that's not right; it's important to consider those things earlier.

Meredith said...

So interesting. What a horrible addiction to have.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

That's why I refuse to take any of those medications. Very informative.

lbdiamond said...

Great post! Sad thing is, I see this type of thing every day. Oy.

Alleged Author said...

The teachers at my school were warned about "rapid onset" prescription drugs because a few kids took some during lunch. Way scary.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great info for us - thank you!

LD Masterson said...

I tucked this post away in my little reference folder. Good info to have. Thanks.

Kelly Polark said...

I was going to comment that I just read today that 16 million people abuse prescription drugs...but then I remembered that you may have been the one that tweeted that! :)
Scary though!!!

WritingNut said...

Wow, that's a horrible addiction :(... thanks for sharing this information.

Em said...

Something that has, sadly, touched my life. (Not me, but someone quite close to me.) It's horrifying for everyone. There's collateral damage of family and friends with this. Just so hard.

Carrie Butler said...

Informative as always, Lydia. Thanks for sharing! :)

Slamdunk said...

Good topic Lydia--one that has left police departments struggling to enforce laws in this area.

Oxycontin abuse is big, and it seems like many of the heavy users have complexion probs. I don't see that on the list of side effects, but maybe it is a lesser one or the product of other abuses (meth).

Rachna Chhabria said...

I just love the pictures for all the posts. Great post, Lydia. Drug abuse is indeed scary!

Nancy said...

This is a very scary scenario. Thanks for the information and for stopping by my blog.

Leslie Rose said...

Ditto on the scary aspect of all this. Never clicked that Ritalin was a stimulant. Makes sense though the way it acts on ADHD. Thanks for the info.

Medeia Sharif said...

The addiction and what follows sounds horrendous.

This was informative. Thanks for sharing, Lydia.

Jennifer Hillier said...

This is definitely a post to be bookmarked! Once again, thanks for explaining medical things in ways we regular folks can understand. :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Very informative post. I wish people were more aware of how easily one can become dependent on prescription meds, even if taken as prescribed if taken for a period of time.

My 88 year old father takes hydtocodone daily, but he says that at his age he is not about to go through withdrawals or learn to live with the pain.

There is one area I did not see in your description of how a person may act while on these drugs. My stepson is 30 years old and has been on opiates for such a long time that his high tolerance kept him from appearing under the influence and he was functioning in every capacity so it took us a long time to discover the addiction and even longer to get him to admit the problem and to seek treatment. The give away sign to us was the enormous amount of money he was paying to buy the medication when he started taking amounts in great excess of his prescribed amount.

Thank you for sharing

Angela Ackerman said...

Wow--this was incredibly eye opening! Thanks for this!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

 
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