Has Your Prescription Drug Use Become A Problem?
For many of us, it can be extremely difficult to admit and accept that a prescribed medication, which may have helped ease our pain or improved our quality of life in the past, has now become a problem.
Feelings of shame and guilt are common, but if you’re struggling to stop the misuse of painkillers or other medications, or experiencing prescription medication withdrawal symptoms, you’re not alone.
The truth is prescription drug addiction can affect people from all age groups. It occurs when we lose the ability to control our prescription usage. It may start gradually and develop over time. We may tell ourselves that we ‘need it’ or provide excuses to others to keep the addiction going.
According to Diane Young, senior therapist and addiction specialist, addiction to prescription medication is a serious and rapidly growing problem in Australia and can lead to financial, relational and physical and emotional issues. She says paranoia, aggressiveness, impaired judgement, impulsiveness, loss of self-control, financial losses and trouble with social relationships and work life can all occur when we’re battling with drug addiction.
“Patients should seek help when they are continuing the ‘need’ for the medication, long after the GP believes it is necessary,” she says. “Patients know when they are wanting too much, focusing too often on when they are taking it, how much of it they have left and how their mood is affected when they don’t have the drug to take. The withdrawals from these drugs are painful and difficult to get through without help.”
The prescription drugs most commonly abused include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives and stimulants. Young says there’s a perception in the community that becoming addicted to one or more of these prescription drugs is not as serious as other addictions because the drugs are legal. However, the pattern of addiction is the same as alcohol, gambling and other addictions.
“At South Pacific Private we treat prescription drug addiction the same way we treat any other drug addiction, with pharmacological intervention to ease the withdrawal, and compassion and understanding to work through the addiction cycle,” she explains.
The team at South Pacific Private focuses on providing treatment and support without judgement.
“There is often a need for the client to understand how they have found themselves where they are so psycho-education is essential so their experience is normalised and they are not shamed in the process of recovery,” says Young. “Supporting patients who have this addiction is by understanding, suggesting they get professional help to ease the use and withdrawals from these drugs.”
Young says it’s also important to involve GPs in the conversation. “If a doctor prescribes a medication, without explaining the possibility of becoming addicted, the patient won’t know. That said, GPs now are prescribing a small amount of the drug to prevent any abuse by the patient,” she says. “For clients not aware of addiction, or the highly addictive nature of the opioid-based drugs, they believe they are ‘in pain’ and ‘need’ the drug,” she says. “They of course may become secretive and hide what they are taking.”