Imagine you’re standing next to a person who pulls out a vial of cocaine. You’re taken aback. It’s not something you see every day in public. It would be well within the realm of logic if you were to assume this person must be addicted. However, if this same person pulled out a prescription pill bottle and tossed back a couple of pills, you wouldn’t even think twice.
About half of all people in the US use at least one prescription drug each month. Taking medication is considered very normal.1 Most people have prescriptions for drugs to control chronic diseases or to combat temporary illness or pain. But for many, ongoing use of medication leads to dependency and then to addiction. It is important that friends and family understand the warning signs of problematic use.
Gaming the System
An estimated 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for recreational purposes—a rising trend in recent history.2
Prescription drug misuse often begins with behaviors such as:
- Faking injury or illness
- Making up illnesses for their children or their pets
- Doctor shopping
- Using multiple pharmacies
People who are addicted are often very manipulative. They will say and do most anything in order to make sure they have access to drugs. Manipulation can take many forms, like faking an injury or making excuses for or denying objectionable behavior, but when someone begins lying to get more medicine, they need help.
Many people have access to drugs through friends and family who have kept old prescriptions in their medicine cabinets. About 50 percent of people who abuse opioids begin in this way.3 Many family members share medicine without thinking about it because they love their family. However, taking a prescription written for someone else is always misuse of the drug.
Others may find the same medicine on the street. This is always illegal and almost inevitably more expensive. Dealers who sell drugs can inflate the price. OxyContin pills sold on the street can cost $50 to $80 apiece, while Vicodin pills can cost $5 to $25.4 When the habit gets too expensive, people may behave in the following ways:
- Steal from family members
- Sell their possessions
- Drive up credit card debt
- Skip mortgage or utility payments
- Steal from strangers
All of these behaviors are signs of addiction.The financial fall-out can follow people for many years, to say nothing of the criminal payback. If and when you recognize these signs, it is time to reach out for help.
Difficulties at Work
People who are addicted to prescription drugs will likely start to show signs in the workplace. They may miss deadlines, make mistakes, fall asleep, get into arguments or just behave erratically as a result of their drug use. They could be either reprimanded or terminated for their behaviors. Some people never get noticed as a result of their addictions, but those who do may face serious consequences.
Addiction in the workplace also results in accidents on the job. Accidents lead to injuries — to both the addict and to co-workers —and job loss. Anyone who is in a workplace accident and fails a drug test should be evaluated for an addiction, for the help he needs and for the protection of those around him.
Prescription drugs can sometimes cause changes in a person’s personality or behavior, and those subtle signs can be deeply troubling and instantly noticeable to family members. In some cases, the personality changes seem transient, such as when a person flies into a rage at one moment, followed by calm and ease in the next. If the person doesn’t have an underlying psychiatric disorder that could account for these sudden shifts, it could be a sign that they are struggling with an addiction.People with addictions may go to great lengths to hide their problems from the people they love, and as a result, they might do the following:
- Demand privacy
- Withdraw from family activities
- Keep odd hours
- Hide drugs
They may be overly emotional and prone to anger or tears very easily, especially concerning sensitive subjects like drug abuse. Sometimes, families give up on holding an addiction conversation altogether since past conversations ended so terribly.
How to Help
When people abuse drugs for long enough, their bodies adjust to the presence of the drug and cannot function normally without it. This is called dependence. When they continue to use despite negative consequences to their lives, they have become addicted. If you or someone you love is in either of these situations or you suspect they may be, they need professional help. Even if your loved one claims to be able to stop on his own, it can be very dangerous to try to do so. Depending on the medication they are addicted to, withdrawal symptoms can become dangerous and even life-threatening, and the process needs to take place under medical supervision.
Once detox is complete, real healing can begin. Dealing with an addiction like this means getting serious about finding the root of the addiction and learning more about why he began abusing prescription drugs. It gives people struggling with addiction the chance to develop the skills to live a healthy life apart from addiction and fight the temptation to relapse.
At Michael’s House, we offer a stabilization program that can help people to stop abusing prescription drugs without enduring medical complications, and our inpatient and outpatient therapy programs can help people to develop a clear understanding of their addiction issue and the steps they’ll need to take to get better. We can even help families to find an interventionist who can help them talk about addiction with the person they love. Our customized approach can deliver healing, and the help starts with just one call. Please call us at our 24-hour, toll-free helpline today to find out more.
1 “Therapeutic Drug Use.” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 3 May 2017.
2 “Misuse of Prescription Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. January 2018.
3 Dengler, Roni, “Almost half of all opioid misuse starts with a friend or family member’s prescription.” PBS News Hour. 31 July 2017.
4 Kavilanz, Parija, “Prescription drugs worth millions to dealers.” CNN. 1 June 2011.