Prescription drug abuse and addiction problems have reached epidemic proportions in our country, with many teenagers making them their drug of choice. The fact that these drugs are FDA approved, doctor recommended and usually easily accessible in home medicine cabinets have made them appealing to individuals who honestly don’t understand just how dangerous they are.
The Scary Truth Behind Prescription Drugs
Whether they are legal or illicit, over-the-counter or prescription, all drug substances are chemicals that interact with the body in order to change certain patterns or functions. One could reasonably argue that no drug substance in existence is “safe”, simply because every drug substance is a chemical and every drug substance has the potential to lead to abuse and addiction. However, there can be some limited usefulness to certain medical drugs, such as painkillers that allow doctors to perform necessary surgeries that would otherwise be absolutely unbearable for the patient to undergo. That said, no individual should ever assume that it is either normal or safe to take prescription drugs over a long period of time, as they can easily fall into the trap of abuse and addiction. This is especially true of opiate painkillers–which are often just as or even more dangerous than illicit opiate substances. Unfortunately, many individuals believe exactly the opposite–that prescription drug substances are safe to use and even abuse since they are approved for medical use.
Spotting a Family Member’s Prescription Drug Addiction
While it is often true that drug addicts are aware that they have a problem and they need help, it is also true that they are usually unable to help themselves. Family members who reach out to help them can therefore quite literally save their life. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for drug addicts to hide their addiction problems from others around them, and so it becomes important for family members to know the five key signs of prescription drug addiction problems:
1. Secretive and private behavior. Normal, healthy adolescents can often seem secretive and private as they work through some of the challenges and difficulties of growing up, but they usually act merely bored and irritated about intrusions on their privacy. Adolescents who are struggling with prescription drug addiction are even more private and secretive about their lives, and they normally act very aggressively angry about intrusions on their privacy. They may also give vague, evasive responses to questions regarding where they have been, who they were with and what they have been doing.
2. Missing medications. Pain medications, stimulants and sleeping pills are highly popular among prescription drug addicts, and will usually therefore go missing from your home. This may be quite subtle, like coming to the end of your prescription a few days earlier than planned, or it may be quite obvious, like finding an entire bottle of medication missing. It’s important to recognize that if your teenager is addicted to prescription medications, he may be hanging out with others who are also addicted. This means he could be stealing from others’ medicine cabinets or accepting stolen medications from those he hangs around with.
3. Physical changes. When an individual is addicted to prescription drugs, their body will suffer greatly as a result. Your family member may seem unusually drowsy, unusually energetic, have abnormally small or large pupils, slurred speech, rapid speech, confusion or some other uncharacteristic physical sign of prescription drug addiction.
4. Declining performance in school. It is not unusual for a prescription drug addicted individual’s every thought, decision and action to revolve around obtaining and using more prescription drugs. The discomfort they experience from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep is only dulled by further drug use, so it occupies all their time. This means that their school attendance and performance will be adversely affected, as they will have a reduced ability to concentrate, focus, pay attention and learn.
5. Neglecting responsibilities. Prescription drugs become such a central preoccupation to the addict that other responsibilities, such as chores at home and part-time jobs, become entirely neglected. It can happen that the individual is actually unaware of these changes and will become quite defensive if they are pointed out to them, or it can be that they simply don’t care about anything else anymore.
If you suspect that a family member is struggling with prescription drug addiction, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. Even sitting down with your family member and calmly letting them know that you know about their problem and would like to offer them help can be a step in the right direction. It can take a lot of persistence, support and encouragement to help an addicted family member recognize that their drug use is damaging their own and others’ lives, but it will all pay off when they decide to take back control of their life and establish the firm foundation necessary for a sober future.