“This epidemic is harming too many Americans and their families. But we know – and your lives affirm – that treatment works and recovery is possible. That’s why my Administration is working to make sure that everyone who wants treatment can get it.”
~ President Barack Obama, the day before the National RX Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, in Atlanta, Georgia, March 28, 2016
As it is across the country as a whole and locally elsewhere in Colorado, prescription drug abuse in Denver has been described as an “epidemic”. It is a substance use disorder that knows no boundaries of race, age, gender, or income level – it can literally happen to anyone.
If you think that it may be happening to YOU, then here are some signs you should be aware of and some questions you should be asking yourself –
Sign #1 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – Long-Term Use
When prescription opioid painkillers were first introduced, the idea was that they were supposed to be dispensed only for acute, short-term pain, such as you might have right after surgery or an injury.
But during the 1990’s, they began to be increasingly prescribed for chronic, long-term pain, and is the root of the problem. Opioids are extremely-habit-forming, and a person taking prescription painkillers long-term will go through a predictable cycle – tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
If you have been taking prescription opioid painkillers for more than a month, and your doctor is not insisting on alternative pain management options – exercise, weight loss, massage, hydrotherapy, counseling – you may be at risk.
Sign #2 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – Your Usage Is Increasing
Over time, a person taking an opioid pain reliever will develop a tolerance – you will need higher and higher dosages of your medication in order to achieve the same effect. Not only does this put you at risk for dependency/addiction, higher dosages also increase the danger of overdose.
If your injury or condition hasn’t gotten any worse but you find that you need to take your pain medication more frequently or at a higher dose, you may be at risk.
Sign #3 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – You Have Multiple Prescriptions
At a certain point during the addiction process timeline, your focus will cease to be about your injury or pain, and start being about your pills. You spend an inordinate amount of time, thought, and effort making sure that you have a constant supply. For example:
- Do you obsess about having enough?
- Do you push your doctor to give you the maximum number of refills?
- Do you go to multiple doctors in order to have enough prescriptions?
- Do you exaggerate or make up other injuries/conditions to obtain more pills?
- Have you ever lied about losing your pills in order to get an “extra” bottle?
- Have you ever bought/been given/stolen someone else’s prescription?
Addiction specialists call this “drug-seeking behavior”. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about an illicit street drug or a prescription medicine – if you are constantly preoccupied about your pain pills or if too much of your time is spent acquiring them, you may be at risk.
Sign #4 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – You Hide Your Usage
Deception is one of the biggest “red flags” that there may be a problem. You hide your increasing usage from those around you, because, on some level, you know that what you are doing isn’t quite right.
- Do you hide your extra prescriptions – around the house, in your car, at work?
- Do you make doctors’ appointments without telling anyone?
- Do you take your medications in secret?
- Do you minimize or downplay your prescription usage?
Substance abuse is about denial, deflection, downplaying, and deception. If you find that you need to lie, then you may be at risk.
Sign #5 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – Your Personality Has Changed
This may be the hardest sign to judge for yourself, because the denial keeps you from seeing what everyone else already knows. However, if it seems as if absolutely everyone around you is reacting negatively to what you’re doing – the problem may be YOU and what you are doing.
- Do you get irritable when you’re out of your prescription medications?
- Does just the thought of running out make you anxious?
- Are you fearful that someone is going to discover your usage?
If how you cope with things or interact with people has changed, then you may be at risk.
Sign #6 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – You Withdraw Socially
Addiction is a lonely disease that slowly isolates you from everything and everyone that you care about. As the disease progresses, you find that you have less time, energy, and interest in activities that were once important to you.
- Are you avoiding going out with friends?
- Have you stopped attending family functions – dinners, get-togethers, school events?
- Have you lost interest in hobbies?
- Are you spending more time alone than you used to?
- Do you make excuses when people try to draw you out?
- Have you stopped paying attention to your personal appearance?
If you realize that days or weeks have gone by without any significant social interaction with others, then you may be at risk.
Sign #7 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – You Neglect Your Responsibilities
Addiction is also a selfish disease – that once all of your time, energy, and money, and you can exhaust all three trying to feed an active and growing problem. When you constantly focus on or are under the influence of your prescription drugs, it leaves very little for your other obligations in life.
- Do any of your bills go unpaid – rent, car payments, utilities, etc. – because you spent the money on prescription medications?
- Have you missed an important family function because you were impaired?
- Are the absences at work or school piling up?
When the effects and consequences of your prescription medications are taking away from the rest of your life, you may be at risk.
Sign #8 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – There Is a History
Addiction is a family disease – scientists have determined that the largest single causal factor – up to 50% – is a genetic predisposition. The other known causal factors are environmental, caused by exposure and personal behavior.
Always let your doctor know when any of the following apply, so safer alternatives can be discussed:
- Any of your parents, siblings, or grandparents abused alcohol or drugs.
- You personally have ever misused/dependent on/been addicted to any substance.
- You are in recovery.
- You’re suffering from any sort of mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
In short, if you or anyone in your close family has suffered from any sort of substance abuse order, you may be at risk.
Sign #9 That You’re Abusing Your Prescription Medications – Someone Else Is Worried about You
When you are lost inside your own addictive behavior, it can be hard to tell just how far you have strayed off-course. Sometimes, the people around you will have the clearest perspective.
- One of your loved ones suggests that you need to “cut back”
- People keep asking you if you’re “all right”
- Your doctor refuses to refill your prescription
- Your employer tells you that your performance is slipping
- Your family holds an intervention
The disease of addiction protects itself by deeply miring you in self-deception. If someone you know and trust thinks that your prescription drug usage is a problem, you may be at risk.
To help combat prescription drug abuse, Colorado is one of 37 states with a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which uses a database that can assist physicians and pharmacists catch people who are possibly abusing their prescriptions. That database is updated daily.
If you or someone you trust thinks that you may have a problem with your prescription medications, then hope and help are just a phone call away. Contact AspenRidge Recovery today and speak to someone about getting the support and treatment you need.
Conveniently located just a few miles outside of Denver, AspenRidge has established itself as the premier program for drug and alcohol rehab in Colorado. By offering a wide range of individually-tailored treatment strategies, the professionals at AspenRidge can help restore sobriety, sanity, and serenity to your life.