Most people who take prescription drugs do so responsibly. But it is possible to become dangerously addicted to them.
In fact, millions of Americans already are addicted. Many of those abusing them don’t realize that these medications can have the same serious health consequences as illegal street drugs.
Just because some drugs are prescribed by a medical expert does not make them less of a risk to health or any less potentially addictive. Prescription drug addiction can cause exactly the same problems and tragedy as addiction to alcohol or illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around two million Americans misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the previous 12 months. In addition, 1.5 million people misused tranquilizers; more than a million misused prescription stimulants, and 271,000 misused sedatives for the first time.
Prescription drug abuse is highest among adults aged 18 to 25, with nearly 15 percent using a medication in a non-medical manner. Several studies have found clear connections between prescription drug abuse and heavy alcohol use, higher rates of cigarette smoking, as well as the use of marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs.
Addiction issues are just the same whether the drugs are prescribed or illegal. Beating the addiction can be just as difficult.
What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs?
Some prescription drug abusers begin after being given legitimate prescriptions for a medical issue. But they then get addicted to the medication, and take more than prescribed and more frequently than has been recommended.
But others will get them in another way: such as with forged prescription notes or from a dealer. Prescribed drugs that are most regularly abused are:
Most often prescribed for pain, opioids produce a euphoric sedative effect. This includes such as tramadol that an increasing number of people are getting addicted to each year. Meperidine is another form of opioid sold under the brand name Demerol that’s used to treat moderate to severe pain.
A synthetic opioid, it’s prescribed for acute pain. It creates feelings of euphoria and is up to 50 times stronger than heroin. But it is increasingly being used as a “recreational” drug frequently mixed with methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin.
Used to treat mild to moderate pain as well as cold and flu symptoms in such as cough syrup. It can cause altered consciousness and has a sedative effect. Increasingly it is being used in a recreational drug cocktail known as “lean”, “purple drank” or “sizzurp”.
Commonly sold under the brand name Xanax, alprazolam is a benzodiazepine (tranquilizer) used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. But it’s also misused for its swift sedating effects. It’s one of the most highly addictive prescription drugs.
Clonazepam & diazepam
These are benzodiazepines that are also used to treat panic disorders and anxiety. Clonazepam is most often sold under the brand name Klonopin; diazepam is mostly sold as Valium. But they are also often misused for their sedative effects and people can get highly addicted very quickly.
Adderall is a prescription drug that creates similar effects to methamphetamine and so it is used as a stimulant for alertness and to increase productivity. According to a report in The Washington Times, an estimated five million Americans are illegally using prescription stimulants.
Mostly sold under the brand name Ritalin, methylphenidate boosts the brain’s dopamine levels. It’s used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). But people abusing it can become highly addicted.
Major signs of prescription drug addiction
Prescription drug addiction can be harder to spot or admit than with illegal drugs or alcohol. This is because someone, for instance, addicted to a strong prescribed painkiller for a bad back may justify their abuse due to their physical condition.
Yet if they were to get honest with themselves they would admit they were addicted to the high the medication gave them. Prescription drug abusers can be very ingenious when it comes to hiding and denying their addiction.
However, there are some common signs that can show someone has a prescription drug addiction. These include:
Becoming defensive or angry when challenged about their use of prescription drugs.
Shopping online for prescription drugs.
Frequently visiting their physician.
Work, studies and/or home life suffers.
Less pride about personal appearance.
Constantly bringing attention to and complaining about health conditions that give them reason for taking prescription drugs.
Side effects can include mood swings, increased anxiety, sleep problems, drowsiness, being unsteady, memory issues and poor decision-making.
A hidden danger with prescription drug addiction is the mistaken belief that because doctors prescribe them they must be safe. But these drugs are prescription-only because they can be addictive and have serious health consequences.
If you think you might have a problem with prescription drugs or think someone you know has, it’s vitally important to seek immediate professional help.
Of all the illicit drugs consumed around the world, few have the power to affect the lives and minds of users to the extent that cocaine does. A powerful, highly addictive narcotic, cocaine not only harms those who succumb to its influence but can also destroy the lives of the people who care about them.
To understand cocaine, it’s important to know a bit about what it is, how it feels, its effects, what risks are associated with it, and most importantly, how cocaine addiction can be treated and overcome.
What is Cocaine?
In simple terms, cocaine is a type of narcotic known as a stimulant, or “upper.” The drug is produced by refining the leaves of the Coca plant, indigenous to South America. Yes, this is the same plant that gives us cocoa powder and chocolate. Cocaine is used medically in a number of countries, including in The United States, due to its anesthetic properties, but it’s the illicit consumption for non-medical purposes that make cocaine addiction a dangerous, life-threatening ailment.
What are the Effects of Cocaine?
The effects of ingesting cocaine depend on how the drug is consumed. Typically, cocaine is snorted, causing the drug to travel as rapidly as possible to the brain. As dangerous as this is, the other methods of consuming cocaine are even more deadly.
When “cooked” with baking soda, cocaine undergoes a chemical transmutation into what’s known as “rock” or “crack,” which is even more addictive than its powdery counterpart. When injected with a needle, cocaine is at its most potent and deadly, often resulting in heart attack and death.
The effects of cocaine are as follows.
Cocaine powder, when snorted, starts out by producing an uplifting, euphoric sense of invincibility, followed by feelings of well-being, happiness, and excitement. Shortly after snorting it, these good feelings begin to give way to brutal cravings for more, which, when there is no more, can result in extreme agitation, moodiness, depression, and compulsion for more; sometimes leading users to engage in criminal activities as a means by which to get money for more. The come-down from cocaine is notoriously vicious.
Crack cocaine, when smoked, provides all of the same positive feelings associated with the short period after snorting powder cocaine, only heightened by as much as 10X the strength. The “good” high wears off incredibly rapidly, usually as soon as the smoke is exhaled. The nasty side effects of coming down off cocaine are also amplified dramatically, leading to one of the worst feelings in the world and an overwhelming, unquenchable, all-powerful compulsion to acquire more immediately.
Injecting cocaine, also known as shooting up, is perhaps the most dangerous way to consume the drug. The good feelings associated with the early stages of cocaine ingestion are heightened and can last longer than if the drug was snorted or smoked, but the adverse effects of the come-down and withdrawal can be so bad that suicide is a real possibility.
What are the Risks of Using Cocaine?
The list of risks associated with both short-term and long-term cocaine use is terrifying. Those addicted to the drug should expect all of the following:
Constant, very high levels of anxiety and irritability
Overwhelming, life-crippling paranoia
Poor sleep, or even insomnia
Profuse sweating all over the body
Abnormal, dangerously elevated heart rate
Restricted blood flow to the heart and brain
Nosebleeds and sinus infections
Regurgitation of food and lack of appetite
Pain in the chest and difficulty breathing
Uncontrollable, involuntary twitching
Hallucinations (when injected)
Increasingly violent or criminal behaviors
Imminent liver and kidney failure
A Brief History of Cocaine
The Early Days
The Coca plant has been used as a narcotic for more than 5000 years. Originally, the Inca civilization of the Peruvian Andes chewed the plant’s leaves to increase their heart rates and counteract the effects of living at a high altitude where the air is thin, and oxygen levels are dramatically lower than at sea level.
At first, the leaves were only ingested as part of religious ceremonies, but this all changed when the Spanish arrived. The Spaniards quickly found that forcing their captives to ingest the plant increased the productivity of their slaves working in the silver mines, which makes sense as the drug is a stimulant that results in intense feelings of increased energy.
The 19th Century
It wasn’t until the 1850s that the plant first underwent an extraction process to refine the leaves and extract the most potent, active ingredient: cocaine. The coming decades were full of ignorance and misinformation as European pseudo-medical men extolled the virtues of using cocaine as a miracle cure for everything from hair loss to toothaches. The effects were devastating.
By the end of the Century, cocaine was being used in a new drink that was sweeping across The United States at an unprecedented rate. That drink is now the fourth most consumed beverage globally, behind water, tea, and coffee, with more than 1.9 billion cans being sold every day. They named it after its most famous ingredient. Coca-Cola. There is no longer cocaine in the recipe these days, but it’s still not very healthy for you.
The 20th Century
By the turn of the twentieth century, science started to show that cocaine was not a miracle cure but rather an extremely dangerous narcotic. In 1922 it was declared a banned substance in The United States following a string of cardiac arrests that left a body count numbering in the thousands. Most other countries soon followed suit by banning the substance for recreational use.
For nearly 50 years, cocaine use diminished until in the 1970s, the drug underwent something of a resurgence after its use was advocated by various musicians and pop culture personalities such as George Carlin, Timothy Leary, and Hunter S. Thompson. The effect this time would be unimaginable, and 50 years later, the number of lives lost and families destroyed is beyond measure, surely in the tens of millions.
In the 1980s, nearly a hundred years after Coca-Cola first hit the shelves, a small contingent of drug dealers living in Los Angeles discovered that they could produce a harder variant of the drug by heating the powder with baking soda and rubbing alcohol: crack-cocaine. Because the price of cocaine is proportionate to its weight, profits could be increased because the additional baking soda increased the weight.
So, they could, in essence, buy one gram of cocaine powder, say for $50, cook it with 10 cents worth of baking soda, and ta-da, they now had two grams of crack cocaine that they could sell for $100. They had doubled their money but at a terrible cost. The drug spread like wildfire around the country, killing indiscriminately. The drug split the most impoverished urban communities into two camps, those smoking it and those selling it.
The Present Day
Although cocaine use has tapered off somewhat, especially compared to its peak in the late ’80s, it remains the second most consumed illicit narcotic in the United States. Ruthless drug cartels from Colombia, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, where the Coca plant grows, such as Bolivia, continue to find new ways of supplying America’s demand for the drug, often using violence and terror as a means to control the supply chain and expand their influence.
A Message to Those Suffering with Cocaine Addiction
As you are reading this, somebody is right now convulsing on the floor, dying, as their heartbroken families or friends look on, powerless to save their lives. Now another just dropped, he’s shaking violently and foaming at the mouth; now another, and another…
If you or a loved one are suffering from cocaine addiction, take heart. You don’t have to be the next to die. Despite the severity of your addiction, no matter how much power the drug has over you at this very moment, there is a path that leads to your recovery; there is a road home.
It won’t be easy; you will have to face up to some difficult truths, have some heart-wrenching conversations, suffer through some withdrawals, and acknowledge some painful facts about the things that you’ve done while in the thralls of this monstrous narcotic. YOU CAN DO IT.
For every person that just dropped to the floor dead, there is another who just decided to get help, who just made that first phone call to the person that will save their life, to the family member they thought they had lost. They are now on their way to the treatment center that will give them their life back, their future back, themselves back. Now another phone rings, and another…
Recovery starts with acknowledging that you need help. Please know that support is available for you if you truly want it, but nobody else can make you want it. Please, want it!
Those with problematic drug abuse to substances like marijuana or cocaine who get treated at the beginning of their substance use disorders, are much more likely to avoid relapse and other health care issues in the future.
Substance abuse and early intervention
The days of waiting for an addict to hit ”rock bottom” and realizing the severity and helplessness of their addiction have become more of an antiquated albeit unhelpful treatment method over the years.
Evidence suggests that early interventions have proven to be incredibly advantageous to individuals with a drug use problem.
When a person receives treatment early for their addiction, whether it be drug abuse or other substance use disorder, it prevents the likelihood of other mental health consequences.
Delayed intervention encourages the body to build a high tolerance to a substance (such as drugs and alcohol).
It also allows addictions to create mental, emotional and physical footers, all of which makes treatment and recovery incredibly challenging and relapse much more likely.
The consequences of delayed intervention have proven to be costly for many countries across the globe.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that for every two dollars of American government spending that goes toward addiction prevention, over ninety-six dollars gets spent on addressing the consequences of the countries that fail to prevent and treat drug and substance use disorders.
Drug abuse prevention
Detecting and addressing behavioral problems at the outset is just one way in which substance use disorders get prevented or reduced, particularly in adolescents.
Research suggests that many behavioral health issues can get spotted up to fours years before they become disorders.
Programs such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) help to fund sobriety programs for young children and adolescents by teaching them essential principles around substance use that can get adapted for addicts of all ages.
Importance of early intervention
As mentioned earlier, the benefits of early intervention are bottomless.
Whether someone has a marijuana or cocaine addiction, specific therapies and interventions can help control chronic addiction symptoms and improve an individual’s overall quality of life.
Some of the advantages of early intervention include:
Intervening early sets the stage for positive long-term effects, particularly when the long-term feels endless
Intervening at the outset catches the addict while they are still in frequent contact with healthier influences and environments
Early intervention alters the person’s life-course trajectory before it drifts too far out in the distance
Early intervention ensures that the long-term physical side effects of drug abuse and alcohol get minimized
Early intervening allows an addicts’ family members and friends to correct any unhealthy behaviors of their own that may be contributing to a loved ones’ problem with drug use
Intervening at the start also gives an addict the chance to shift their overall life focus toward healthy factors (before the addiction grabs hold) including, resilience, healthy environments, supportive relationships, positive mental health and adequate coping skills
Lastly, early intervention makes things generally that much easier for the addict.
It is much less challenging to break a substance use habit if the substance abuse pattern hasn’t yet established an integral role in the person’s life.
What are formal vs informal interventions?
The term ”intervention” often strikes up terrible images in a person’s mind, among many things, an intervention ”mob culture” where parents, family members, and friends get viewed as interrogators and the addicted, the prey.
Social media often sensationalizes drug use intervention programs with frightening images of addiction recovery settings within primary mental health.
Painting an inaccurate depiction of early intervention programs can be conducive to substance misuse recovery.
Addicts require the full support and understanding from their school, work colleagues and communities, all of which are critical components to treating underlying trauma, behavior and problematic drug use.
People who may be wondering about formal drug intervention must consider all the facts before making their first move.
For example, suppose parents or loved ones already have frank conversations with someone they love about their drug use issues.
In that case, a gentle conversation might be enough to get them to consider treatment to address their addiction problem.
Formal – intervention principles
However, even the most informal approach to early intervention will benefit from using the formal -intervention principles, all of which get stated below:
Prepare the intervention script way ahead – a rule of thumb is to practice in advance as a group and agree among yourselves not to get distracted by arguments or anything else that may take you off your schedule.
Constantly express your respect, empathy and concern for the addict throughout the intervention, letting them know how much you value your relationship with them and instilling the belief that they can overcome their addiction.
Ensure that the intervention team is no larger than six people. Consider how difficult and upsetting the situation already is for an addict without the added pressure of feeling bombarded and outnumbered. The aim is for the addict to remain as logical and non-defensive as possible.
Ensure that you understand the substance used and the specific concerns related to the drug. You must also know how long your loved one has been experiencing substance abuse and why. It also helps to know what other issues have developed as a result of substance abuse.
Always summarize the intervention by issuing the person with a sturdy ”next step”, such as an immediate call to action like professional treatment that they ideally commit to there and then. It’s also helpful to prepare for any harmful consequences that may arise from the intervention, mainly if they refuse treatment.
It’s normal to be concerned
Another area of importance in early intervention is understanding and addressing the common concerns associated with the intervention process.
An individual may worry about losing their relationship with the addict and fear that the addict is angry at them for approaching the issues surrounding their substance use disorder.
Developing a sense of trust
People must come to terms with the possibility that the addict may very well be angry at them. Let’s face it; it’s never easy being told that ”you’re messing up your life” or having to admit to an addiction to substances like marijuana or cocaine.
Anger and resentment are likely to occur at the outset since few people will get geared toward instant gratitude.
Parents and family members must appreciate that although the initial intervention phase will be challenging, your loved one won’t end up hating you for it.
The key is to remain supportive, empathetic and understanding. Before long, your loved one will begin to demonstrate appreciation for your concern, and your relationship will end up being a lot stronger for it.
What to do if the intervention process fails
It’s common for people to refuse addiction treatment.
Regardless of how well the intervention process got implemented, your loved one may not be ready to face their substance abuse problems.
People need to remind themselves:
Not to be discouraged or give up hope – Often, setbacks are merely a setup for a comeback.
To consider what might have gone wrong with the intervention, and if there was another attempt, what principles would get included the next time. Common mistakes made at interventions often include people going off subject, the addict being under the influence during the intervention and interveners getting defensive.
To stick to the consequences – when the addict refuses to get treatment, people MUST adhere to the effects they presented to the addict; if people back down, it puts them in a much weaker position and back into the enabler role. All this makes future intervention a lot harder.
Continue to be active within your support network – addicts’ loved ones’ need support too, and continuing to receive this level of support can be very empowering. It may even encourage an addict to follow this example in the future.
Getting in touch
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, then perhaps it’s time to consider getting treated.
Withdrawal is a term that refers to the physical and mental effects individuals experience when they reduce the intake of a substance such as alcohol or drugs or stop using it altogether.
The signs and symptoms of withdrawal typically vary depending on the substance that has been discontinued. The intensity and duration of the symptoms can also vary widely, depending not only on the type of drug you are taking but also on your genetics.
In many cases, withdrawal comes with a wealth of unpleasant symptoms that can also become dangerous in some situations. Withdrawal symptoms may develop whether a person quits a substance suddenly or reduces the amount they are using gradually. The body is attempting to reach a state of homeostasis as it dispels the substance, resulting in large fluctuations in brain chemicals that lead to significant physical and mental health repercussions.
What are the main symptoms of withdrawal?
Drug withdrawal typically includes a combination of mental, physical, and emotional symptoms, but some of the most common of them including the following:
Hot and cold flashes
Muscle cramps/body aches
Nervousness or anxiety
In some cases, more severe symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, or delirium may also occur. There are multiple factors that determine the type and severity of the symptoms someone experiences in withdrawal, ranging from the type of how long does drug they were taking to the dosage and the amount of time they were taking it.
How long does withdrawal last?
The duration of the withdrawal is influenced by the type of substance someone used and the level of dependence they had on the substance. It may take days, weeks, or months in some cases for all the withdrawal symptoms to disappear, depending on individual circumstances.
Below you’ll find a general overview of the expected withdrawal timelines for some common substances.
Alcohol — The first signs of alcohol withdrawal typically appear within several hours after consuming the last drink, and they generally peak in the next 24 to 48 hours. There is a risk of seizure for 12 to 48 hours after the last drink. Other risks such as delirium tremens may occur for as long as 72 hours after the last drink.
Short-acting opioids (some prescription painkillers and heroin) — Withdrawal symptoms start between 8 to 24 hours after the last years and may last for up to 10 days.
Long-acting opioids (methadone) — It typically takes 2 to 4 days for withdrawal symptoms to begin, and they may last for up to 10 days.
Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, etc.) — withdrawal starts within one to four days and peaks in the first two weeks.
Marijuana — most users experience mild withdrawal symptoms when quitting marijuana, and they typically last for a couple of days. However, the withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant enough to make them go back to using.
Nicotine — nicotine withdrawal symptoms are not as debilitating as those resulting from withdrawal from alcohol or drugs. Still, they may last for weeks or even months, which is what makes it very difficult for many people to give up cigarettes.
The duration and severity of withdrawing from substance dependence vary according to many factors, including the amount of substance someone used and the period of time for which they used it.
Detoxing from a substance may result in various health risks and symptoms that evolve over different time frames when compared to other types of substances. With some substances, withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable but not dangerous, whereas the symptoms may be severe and even potentially life-threatening with others.
What causes withdrawal symptoms?
When someone takes a substance for a prolonged period of time, the body begins to build a tolerance and dependence on it. These two issues are not the same, with tolerance meaning that it typically takes larger quantities to achieve the same effects. Dependency refers to the fact that the body requires continuous amounts of the substance to avoid experience withdrawal effects.
When someone decreases the intake of the substance or stops it altogether, the body is thrown off balance, which results in withdrawal symptoms. These are typically the opposite of the effects of substance had on the body. For example, someone who stops consuming alcohol, which is a depressant, may experience various symptoms of overstimulation, such as restlessness or anxiety.
What are the treatment options for withdrawal?
Treatment from substance withdrawal typically includes supporting medications to prevent possible complications and ease symptoms during the period of withdrawal.
You may need medical supervision for safe withdrawal, which is why it’s important to discuss your options with your doctor before going cold turkey or reducing the amount of substance you’re using gradually.
This is not required for all substances — people can stop using caffeine or nicotine abruptly without needing medical help. In many cases, this is simply a matter of coping with any unpleasant symptoms until they pass.
However, quitting substances such as alcohol or heroin abruptly can be potentially dangerous, which is why it’s important to consult with a medical professional and go on a detox plan. With these substances, medical assisted withdrawal can help alleviate symptoms and ensure that you are safe during the withdrawal process.
What are some common medications prescribed for withdrawal?
Your doctor will come out with the detox plan that includes medications that help alleviate symptoms, and they are different depending on the type of substance you were using.
Medication makes it easier for recovering addicts to remain sober. Most people who try to give up alcohol or drugs on their own relapse mainly because they can’t cope with the withdrawal systems without help.
During the detox period, which happens in the initial stages of recovery, the purpose is to eliminate drugs from the body. Different medications are used to treat withdrawal symptoms during this time, with some of the drugs commonly prescribed in detox including:
Benzodiazepines — benzos reduce irritability and anxiety, which are common symptoms of withdrawal from many drugs, including heroin and cocaine. These drugs are also used for alcohol withdrawal because they have a sedative effect. Many doctors are often cautious about prescribing benzodiazepines because even though they are efficient at easing withdrawal symptoms, they can also be addictive.
Clonidine — a drug often used to treat opiate and alcohol withdrawals, clonidine reduces cramps and muscle aches and also helps with anxiety. It’s also a medication prescribed for stopping seizures and tremors.
Antidepressants — many people rely on drugs to experience happiness, which is why many of those in detox experience depression in the absence of said drugs. Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft can help ease the feeling of depression until the brain can produce happiness-inducing chemicals on its own.
How to cope with withdrawal symptoms?
Seeking medical support is the first step to go through withdrawal safely, but there are also some other things that you can do on your own to make yourself feel better as you go through the process.
Pay attention to your diet — make sure you eat nutritious meals every day and avoid foods that are high in sugar and fat because they may make you feel worse.
Exercise every day — it’s essential to try to get at least some physical activity every day, even if it’s just a short walk, because it can help you boost your mood.
Stay hydrated — don’t forget to drink plenty of water as you’re going through withdrawal because these could lessen symptoms such as vomiting and nausea.
Get eight hours of sleep every night — for most patients, withdrawal may result in sleeping difficulties, but it’s still important to try and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. It always helps to establish a regular sleep schedule and keep to it.
Use over-the-counter medications — if you experience physical symptoms such as an upset stomach, headache, or diarrhea, you can alleviate them with over-the-counter medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the recommended dosage.
Engage in relaxing activities — yoga or meditation are relaxing activities that can also help you cope with withdrawal symptoms. Try to get at least a session every day to help you get through the process.
If you have decided to quit alcohol, smoking weed, or other substances such as opioids, chances are you’ll experience at least some withdrawal symptoms. It’s essential to understand that you don’t have to do it on your own. To go through withdrawal safely, seek help from your doctor or another healthcare provider to help you deal with the mental and physical symptoms of withdrawal.