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Prescription Drug Addiction in Massachusetts


Prescription drug addiction in Massachusetts is a serious problem that government and health officials are faced with on an ongoing basis. Many drugs that are commonly prescribed by physicians, dentists and psychology professionals have the potential for abuse and must be carefully administered to avoid detrimental effects on the patient’s life and health. Treatment programs for addiction to prescription drugs are seeing growing admissions as individuals try to overcome dependence on these powerful medications.

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

The pharmaceutical industry has provided many medications that are effective for treating pain from surgery, dental procedures, back pain and other problems. However, these drugs often have powerful effects on brain chemistry that make them highly addictive and subject to abuse. Many individuals with prescription drug addiction in Massachusetts must enter treatment programs to help them break their addiction and regain control over their lives. Along with the pain relief, patients may experience euphoria, relaxation, increased energy, greater focus and other effects that are pleasurable and seductive. The individual then repeatedly uses the drug to continue experiencing these feelings.

Why Are Prescription Drugs So Addictive?

Once the neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain are altered, the stage is set for addiction. Brain chemistry becomes less able to produce dopamine and norepinephrine that are associated with normal experiences of pleasure. The individual begins to rely on the drug to provide these feelings. The person may spend more time acquiring and using the drug. Individuals often begin to “doctor shop” to keep a supply of prescription drugs available. He or she may steal a prescription pad to write a prescription or may steal money to pay for the prescription. The spiral of addiction begins to cause the person to descend into chaos, with legal problems, alienation from friends and family and greater risk of overdose and death.

Statistics on Prescription Drug Addiction in Massachusetts

Experts on drug abuse note that the prescription drug problem in Massachusetts has gone on for years. However, recent years have seen an uptick in prescription drug abuse and increasing numbers of overdose victims seen in emergency rooms. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sales of prescription drugs have quadrupled since 1999, and fatal poisonings from prescription drugs have also quadrupled. Opiate and stimulant prescription drugs are among the most commonly abused prescription medications. Massachusetts state health officials reported 976 deaths from opiate medications in 2013, which was a 46 percent increase over the previous year. Prescription drug addiction in Massachusetts is causing an increasing need for treatment facilities in the state to prevent these deaths.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

  • Opiates – Opiates are derivatives of opium that are often used to relieve pain or treat cough. These drugs include oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and codeine.
  • Stimulants – Stimulant drugs increase energy, mood and feeling of confidence. These drugs include Ritalin, Adderal and Concerta.
  • Sedatives – Sedative drugs are used to calm anxiety and enable sleep. These drugs include Xanax, Librium, Valium, Halcion and Ativan.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Individuals who are addicted to prescription drugs may exhibit a number of signs that indicate addiction has occurred. The signs of the addiction can vary, depending on the type of drug being used:

  • Dosage and frequency increases – The individual will begin to use more of the drug or use it more frequently than it was prescribed.
  • Personality changes – The individual may show more anger, more irritability, lack of interest in activities or confused thinking.
  • Withdrawal from normal contacts – The individual may isolate himself or herself to engage in drug use without detection or interference.
  • Mental blackouts and forgetfulness – The individual may have periods of blackouts, forget appointments or suffer mental confusion.
  • Neglect of personal care – The individual may neglect everyday grooming or have a runny nose, cough or bloodshot eyes.
  • Neglect of responsibilities – As the addiction takes over, the individual may become disinterested in academic pursuits, work duties or family responsibilities.
  • Defensiveness or paranoia – The individual becomes defensive when questioned about their change in behavior or may feel loved ones are working against them.
  • Heightened sensitivity – The individual may be unusually sensitive to sound, light and emotions.

Health Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse

The most serious risk of many prescription drugs in the narcotics category is the potential for respiratory depression that leads to death. Addiction causes increasing tolerance to the drug, and many people succumb to deadly amounts of these medications. Sedatives can also have this effect. Long-term use of stimulants can cause heart rate irregularities, heart attacks and strokes. These drugs can also cause cognitive impairment and memory problems. Seizures from overuse of these drugs can cause coma and permanent brain damage.

Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Detoxification from opiates can be physically taxing, causing joint pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and seizures. Medical support in an inpatient treatment facility can reduce the severity of symptoms and help patients resist cravings. Therapy sessions can provide insights into the reasons for the addiction and how behavior can be changed to prevent drug use in the future. Aftercare referrals for mental health care and support groups can be critical to staying sober after treatment.

Treatment for Stimulant Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms from stimulant addiction can include anxiety, agitation and depression. An inpatient treatment facility can provide medications to reduce these reactions, so the patient can begin the process of therapy to understand the motivations behind the addiction. Group and individual therapy can provide insights on the behavior and how to short circuit negative thinking patterns. Relapse prevention techniques can be helpful for managing cravings after the treatment program is completed.

Treatment for Sedative Addiction

Withdrawal from sedatives can cause nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremor, insomnia and delirium. These symptoms can be treated in an inpatient facility that offers 24-hour monitoring and medical support. Individual and group therapy, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help patients learn new ways of thinking and reacting to overcome their addiction.

Inpatient treatment facilities are available to offer individualized programs to get their lives back on track. Call today to learn more about treatment programs that can help beat prescription drug addiction in Massachusetts.