The Danger of Prescription Opioids

Prescription drug abuse impacts all Americans. Statistics show that prescription abuse costs Americans billions of dollars per year. This amount includes health care costs, lost job wages, traffic accidents, and crime and associated criminal justice system costs.

Even though most people take prescription drugs responsibly, prescription drug abuse, particularly prescription opioid abuse, is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States.

Opioids are a kind of drug that is often used to control pain. You can become addicted to opioids if they are not taken as directed by your doctor. A few popular opioid prescription drugs you may have heard of are codeine, morphine, oxycodone, Fentanyl, hydrocodone. Heroin is an example of an illegal opioid drug that is not prescribed by a doctor.

You might be addicted to prescription or illegal opioids if you keep craving and using them even if they are causing problems in your family life, at work, with money, at school, and so on. You may experience withdrawal (restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movement) when you stop using or try to reduce the use of the drug. Your family, friends, or co-workers may be aware of your addiction problem before you realize it because they may notice changes in your behavior before you do. Another sign of addiction is tolerance of the opioid. When you develop tolerance for these drugs, increased doses are required to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses.

Prescription drug abuse often begins with a visit to the doctor or emergency room for treatment of pain. The original intent of the drug use was to relieve pain symptoms. People who have never taken an illegal drug in their lives come to rely on or do not follow their doctor’s prescription of this drug to remove pain very well. Before they know it, they can be abusing opioids. Unfortunately, opioid addiction is difficult to detect until it becomes life threatening. Often friends and family can spot addiction by the drug addict’s physical appearance and outward behavior. An opioid addict may appear drunk even though he/she has not been drinking.

Heroin addicts may have constricted, pinpointed pupils, a nose that appears raw and red, needle marks in arms, behind knees, or ankles, wear long sleeves even in hot weather to cover up their arms, appear very pale, are often sweaty and extremely thirsty. In addition to behaving intoxicated, the opioid addict may have slurred speech, droopy eyes, may fall asleep easily, and be listless. The opioid addict may have bottles of prescription medication, pills, blister packs around or hidden in the house, bedroom, etcetera.

Heroin addicts may also itch and scratch frequently, seem very sick one day (withdrawal: muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes) then be perfectly find the next (using again). Heroin addicts also may have little baggies with white or brownish residue, empty bottles of prescription medicine for Percocet, Oxycodone, Darvocet, etc., used or new hypodermic needles, and have spoons that look like they have been burned on the bottom, are bent, or look like they have been used to crush pills.

If you think you or someone you know has an opioid addiction, with prescription drugs or heroin, contact Scottsdale Mental Health and Wellness Institute.

Ehab Abdallah, M.D.

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