Personal Responsibility for Prescription Drug Addiction

Personal Responsibility for Prescription Drug Addiction

GPs are now rarely responsible for someone becoming addicted to prescription drugs

GPs are far more diligent these days than they were even a few years ago and will not continue to renew a prescription beyond what would be clinically seen as a safe amount of time for that particular drug to be prescribed.  This does not apply to medications such as anti-depressants and other medications that are proven, through extensive testing, to be appropriate and intended and prescribed specifically for long term use. Long term use is deemed to be a period of longer than 3 months.

Concerns about stopping taking prescription medication

The problem with getting addicted to prescription drugs stems from the fact that the medication has been prescribed for a reason, it has been effective and now its being stopped and we immediately go to thinking how are we meant to manage without it. This could be worries about coping with our emotions and feelings, dealing with returning pain, or to be able to get a normal night’s sleep again, for example.  A few of the common medications that are effective for short term use only are Benzodiazepines (eg diazepam), Codeine, which is an Opiate and Sleeping tablets that invariably have their name ending in pam, for example Temazepam, but also including zopiclone.  These drugs interact with the brain and body to alter moods, emotions, and behaviours by changing brain chemistry and a person’s perceptions, and by impacting how individuals then interact with the world around them.

We are responsible for developing an addiction

So it is difficult for anyone, these days, to develop an addiction to prescribed medication as, for the most part, prescriptions are monitored far more closely than before.  How then does anyone get or become addicted? The very simple answer to that is by the actions that the individual takes to ensure that they can obtain medication. At The Haynes Clinic we have admitted people for a prescription drug detox whereby their prescription has been renewed for years. Now, that has changed, the reason they are needing to be admitted for a supervised detox from the medication is because they have either been able to buy it off the internet and extended the period they were prescribed the medication for a much longer period of time (without a  prescription) or because they have not managed to get hold of the medication as their doctor has said they will not prescribe it any more, and they have gone into withdrawal.

Risks of sourcing medication from the internet

Therefore, a diagnosis of someone as having a prescription drug addiction is often self-inflicted by their own actions and the addiction has developed due to the individual taking steps against clear medical advice.  The fault, in this case, would not be with the GP, but with the individual accessing a supply of medication from the internet.  In most cases the prescribed medication will have ended and the individual is waiting for the non-prescription drugs to arrive in the post.  So sometimes there is a period of time when an individual could change their mind and not restart taking a drug.  Also, as any medication that is ordered off the internet is invariably not what we think it is, it is amazing that we are prepared to subject ourselves to a very real health risk in swallowing a drug from a non-identified source that in essence could be made up of anything and endanger our lives.

Anxiety from stopping prescription medication

The problem stems from the fact that our GP has prescribed a medication that has proven to make a change, for example, to ease anxiety, help with pain or get a night’s sleep again. If the drug was initially effective, coming off it will, for some, create high levels of anxiety created from how to manage without it. This is generally the driving force in mentally taking us to make decisions that are not rational but that we will start to justify.

This change in our thinking and behaviour is a pre cursor to the start of our addictive thinking and behaviour. We are lying to ourselves that the action that we are taking is all right when clearly it is not.

The longer period of time we use prescription medication, the more tolerance we will get

The longer the period of time a medication is used, the more it will impact on the brain’s chemicals and circuitry, which will lead to dependence. We will also start to develop a body tolerance and we will then begin to take more of the medication to try and get it to achieve the same effect as it originally had. We will also start to feel the effects of withdrawal if we try and make changes to our behaviour such as cutting back on the daily dose. These are all signs of addiction. Eventually, the prescription drugs will have little or no effect, except to hold off withdrawal symptoms. It is very common to become resistant to the drug’s effects with long term use. The effects of the drug on the brain, when used for prolonged periods of time, can damage the pleasure/ reward system. This will result in the individual becoming depressed and anxious as there is now an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry. 

Prescription medication and depression / lack of engagement with life

Some prescription medications, prescribed for pain and opiate based, affect brain function by attaching to receptors which control how the brain sends, receives and interprets signals. By attaching to the receptors, the medication prevents the body’s own neuro transmitters from attaching to the receptors.  Over time, the brain will reduce the number of these dopamine receptors in the brain to adjust for the  increased dopamine in the system. This will have a straight forward impact on us not enjoying  the simple activities that we used to enjoy and for some the start of isolating away from others including our family.   

Eventually, the medication will cause the very symptoms it was prescribed to relieve

The long term effects on the brain of Benzodiazepines such as Diazepam are similar to alcohol. Effects include depression, anxiety, psychosis and sleep disorders when used inappropriately. Basically, the symptoms for which the medication was initially prescribed have returned, after long term use, with the original symptoms now escalated and with the addition of other side effects such as rapid mood swings and depressive episodes.

Addiction clinics can help

Where can we get help?  The simple answer to that is quite possibly  only at an addictions rehab or detox clinic because even if we pluck up enough courage to go back and see our GP there will be very little they can do to help. We will need to detox off the medication slowly over  a period of possibly around 6 weeks for a Benzodiazepine and for an Opiate based medication it is usually 2 weeks, using another drug to help with the effects of withdrawal. To try and “cut back” without controlled supervision and in our own environment is almost impossible and, by being in residential rehab care, there is the critical add on of a daily structured therapy programme which is so vital in helping us to change our addictive thinking and behaviour.