5 Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
Do you realize how fast prescription drug abuse and/or addiction can occur?
A woman we interviewed, we’ll call Jenny, was in her late twenties and told us the sobering story of her one and only encounter with prescription pain killers.
Jenny described herself as about as “straight-laced” as you can be, having never tried any drugs, and really didn’t much like the taste of alcohol – she only consumed alcohol if it was offered at dinner with friends. She grew up with parents who worked in the psychiatric field, specializing in drug and alcohol addiction, and was able to witness the devastating effects drugs can have on people. It helped curb her curiosity when friends were experimenting in college.
However, when she was around 22, Jenny had surgery to remove all four wisdom teeth. Two of the four had grown in sideways in her jawbone, so the procedure was a little more involved than the norm. It meant some considerable pain and a little longer recovery time, so the doctor sent her home with Percodan (a prescription narcotic). Her friends told her she was lucky to get the drug and jokingly said they were jealous.
The first day after the surgery, she took the medicine as prescribed: every four hours for pain. She didn’t notice anything fun, cool, or amazing about the way she felt after taking the pills. In fact, she felt lousy, and by the time the four hours were up, she was already in pain again. She was staying with her parents and told them that she didn’t know why her friends made such a big deal. A couple of days later, as she healed and the pain subsided, her mom said it was time to wean her off of the medication.
Jenny disagreed. She had gotten quite good at watching the clock while she was laid up, and as four hours passed, she would remind her mom it was time for another dose. She remembered her mom asking if she was feeling pain at that point, and she wasn’t yet. But she also insisted that she didn’t want to get to the point of feeling pain and that she should be taking the medicine every four hours just like it said on the bottle. That’s when her mom realized the pain killers were no longer simply addressing the pain, and began spreading out her doses until soon, the medication wasn’t necessary and she flushed the remainder down the toilet.
A week later, when she talked about it with her mom, Jenny realized that while she wasn’t experiencing anything remarkable on the drugs, “trippy” or euphoric in the way she had imagined, she WAS craving it when she didn’t really need it. She explained that it became apparent to her how easy it would be to get “hooked”, and after that realization, she decided not to take any chances with drug experimentation.
It can be easy to misuse painkillers, even when you try not to. If you are concerned about your prescription drug use, consider these 5 warning signs that your use is taking a turn toward abuse and addiction:
1. You think about your medication a lot.
According to Debra Jay, co-author of Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention, one of the first warning signs of addiction is that you become preoccupied with two things:
i. When you can take your next dose, and
ii. Whether or not you have enough of your medication.
2. You decide to take it differently than what the doctor prescribed.
Someone with a problem may take matters into their own hands and decide to change doctor’s orders thinking they know best how to manage their pain with the prescribed medication.
3. You consider “shopping” for new doctors.
If your current doctor won’t continue your prescription, you consider looking for someone else who will, even if your original reason for the painkillers has improved or even disappeared. Some people rationalize their actions by telling themselves they don’t want to be without the medication if the injury or ailment returns.
4. You get angry if others question your use of the medication.
If you notice that others are concerned about your use, and you get defensive or irritated when they bring up the subject, then you may be getting in too deep.
5. You try getting painkillers from other sources.
If you run out of your own prescription, or are worried you will, and “borrow” painkillers from others with a prescription, or acquire them by stealing, or buy pills illegally, that is a huge red flag that your use is out of control.
Do you need help?
Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic heights in the United States. There is no shame in asking for help. If you are worried that you or a loved one may have a problem or want to prevent addiction, open up to your doctor, trusted friends, or other addiction professionals.