Last Updated on by Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley
Given that more than 23 million people face addiction in this country, there are 23 million different ways addiction can manifest. However, there are a few common warning signs when dealing with prescription drug abuse. If you can name these warning signs and step in when you see them, you might save a life.
If you worry about your friend or a loved one, look for these five common signs.
1. Constant Conversations About Medication
With the current state of the medical and insurance industries, people are talking more often and more openly about medical needs than ever. To hear someone talking about their medication is fairly normal given that so many people struggle to navigate the system. Even if it’s easy to afford and obtain medication, there’s a lot to understand and to commiserate about with other people taking medication.
However, people who are more likely to become addicted are going to be particularly preoccupied with their medication. They’ll be worried constantly about when they can take their next dose. They’ll also be paranoid that they’ll run out or that they don’t have enough of a supply.
When this is the case, make sure that you ask the right questions. Before your own radar starts to go off, make sure that you’re hearing them right. Ask about their current doctor and pharmacist situation.
Perhaps the insurance is running out or they’re going to be worried about medication while they’re between jobs.
Dependency is common because often we become dependent on these medications for our health. Addiction is different because then you’re talking about emotional or social changes that happen because of a drug. If the conversation symbolizes a change in personality, there could be a problem.
2. The Amount Prescribed Isn’t the Amount Taken
When the amount taken doesn’t match the amount that’s prescribed, that should raise a red flag. Some doctors will recommend that patients take more if their symptoms become hard to deal with.
When a doctor prescribes an amount of medication, they usually try to prescribe safely. However, when a patient calls them to complain about pain, they might recommend an additional half dosage added on.
The problem is that the body can become tolerant to medication after a while and start to make it harder to get relief.
One sign to look for is when someone stretches out the time between doses or shrinks some dosages so that more can be taken later. This is the sign of addiction because the person taking the medication clearly wants to feel some additional effects.
Doctors’ instructions are vital to getting the most out of medication safely. Failing to listen to their recommendations means that you could end up becoming addicted or ill taking the medication. If your loved one is failing to follow directions, recommend they listen to doctors.
3. Look out For “Doctor Shoppers”
One of the most common things that people who are addicted to prescription medications will do is to shop for doctors. They’ll be looking to have multiple doctors to serve their prescription needs. After they stop working with their PCP or the doctor they’ve trusted for years and start looking for someone to write an additional prescription, step in.
A second opinion is a reasonable and healthy thing to look for when seeking out serious medical treatment. If the goal is to boost the supply of painkillers or medication beyond what the original doctor prescribed, that’s when a problem is afoot.
The original doctor may have ordered a safe supply of medication be administered. This is a reasonable and responsible way of treating a problem. However, if the doctor who is sought is the type to overprescribe or to run a “pill mill”, then that’s an issue that will turn dangerous quickly.
Some patients even go so far as to lie and say that they lost their prescription. If you know your loved one has lied to their doctor or pharmacist, then that’s where things get hairy.
4. Seeking Out Alternative Supplies
Buying drugs online has become a way for people with expensive treatments to get generics from abroad. While it’s in a nebulous legal territory, it’s helped a lot of people get the treatment they need without ending up bankrupt. However, there are ways to take things too far.
Another way that people get painkillers they shouldn’t have is to buy leftovers from friends or relatives. They might even turn to stealing them. If someone who doesn’t own a pharmacy is selling pills to your loved one, then you need to step in because you never know where they’re coming from. Lots of people either rip off others with fake pills or sell pills that are cut with unhealthy additives.
Other more serious issues are stealing prescription pads, trying to get into the emergency room on purpose, or buying drugs from street dealers. These all need to be taken seriously.
5. Your Loved One Can’t Talk About It
When you want to talk about this issue with your loved one, and you know that you can’t without it turning ugly, that’s when there’s a problem. It’s not easy for a friend or a loved one to step in to talk about prescription drug issues, so if they do, then the person taking them is in too deep.
The amount of anger is actually a predictor of how effective treatment could be. The angrier they get, the harder it’s going to be to treat.
Prescription Drug Abuse is a Serious Issue
As prescription drug abuse is now finally getting the attention that it deserves, it’s important that we take the epidemic seriously. We can’t get rid of prescription drugs because they’re vital to help people survive and live after a trauma. What we need to do is be as informed as possible so that we can avoid common pitfalls.
If you need to stage an intervention for a loved one, follow our guide for tips.
Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley is the CEO and Founder of Revive Detox, a Joint Commission Accredited and Legit Script Certified Addiction Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in Los Angeles in 2007 and has extensive experience working in the addiction and recovery field and the LGBT community. To learn more about Dr. Calvert-Conley click here.