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Iowa Prescription Drug Addiction


Iowa prescription drug addiction is an increasing concern across the state. While there are many measures in place to try and reduce the level of Iowa prescription drug addiction, the number of people experimenting and abusing prescription medication continues to increase.

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is classified as taking any medication for non-medical or recreational purposes, or for the purpose of getting high or stoned. Taking drugs that were prescribed for another person is also considered drug abuse.

Even if you do have a prescription for medication from your doctor, taking higher doses than were prescribed or taking them in any way other than what the doctor specified is also considered drug abuse.

Statistics for Iowa Prescription Drug Addiction and Abuse

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that prescription opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, were responsible for 75 percent of all prescription drug overdose deaths in Iowa in 2010. Across the U.S., deaths involving opioid painkillers have more than quadrupled since 1999.

According to a report released by the Trust for America’s Health, the number of deaths caused by accidental overdose in 2013 of prescription medications outnumbers the overdose deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined.

Research released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows a definite link between abusing prescription opioid painkillers and heroin use. A survey conducted among intravenous heroin users revealed that a large percentage began their drug use by experimenting and abusing prescription opioid medications before turning to heroin as a cheaper alternative.

Common Drugs of Abuse

There are literally thousands of different types of prescription medications available. However, the most commonly abused drugs fall into three distinct categories.

Opiates: Opioid painkillers can be very effective when used exactly as prescribed. However, abusing opioid medications can quickly lead to tolerance, dependence and addiction. The most commonly abused opioid painkillers include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and fentanyl (Duragesic).

Many people believe that prescription medications are somehow safer than illicit street drugs because they were prescribed by a doctor. In reality, oxycodone is almost identical to heroin on a molecular level and is just as addictive.

Opioid painkillers act directly on the brain’s neurotransmitters, triggering them to release a flood of dopamine into the body. Effectively, the drugs create an artificial short-cut to the brain’s reward pathways that are normally triggered by life-sustaining actions.

The experience is stored into long-term memory as a highly effective way to produce artificially stimulated reward responses, which cause the user to feel intense cravings to take more drugs to repeat the experience.

Abusing opioid painkillers over a period of time can lead to the user developing tolerance to the drugs, which means the user needs to take higher doses in order to achieve the same effects that used to be reached with smaller amounts. Taking higher doses of any opioid medication significantly increases the risk of overdose.

Sedatives: Sedative/hypnotic medications are commonly used to treat epilepsy, seizures, anxiety or sleep disorders, so they’re also sometimes known as tranquilizers. The most commonly abused sedatives are benzodiazepines (Valium or Xanax) and barbiturates (phenobarbital).

Abusing sedative medications can slow down brain functions. Tolerance and dependence on sedative/hypnotics develops quickly, so the user needs to take higher doses to experience the same effects.

In an effort to try and restore a level of chemical balance, the brain releases higher-than-normal levels of hormones. Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of drugs in the system, so when usage stops suddenly, the user may experience potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that could require emergency medical assistance.

Stimulants: Stimulant medications, such as Adderall, Ritalin or Concerta, are commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, when used for non-medical purposes, stimulant drugs act directly on the central nervous system, causing the brain to trigger a flood of dopamine into the system.

Stimulant medications also block the brain’s ability to re-uptake, or recycle, the dopamine circulating in the system, which causes the intense rush and euphoric feelings users strive to achieve.

Abusing stimulant medications causes a devastating dependence very quickly. The drug burns up the body’s resources, causing irregular heartbeat and elevated blood pressure, both of which can increase the risk of heart attack, seizure or stroke.  

As the drug’s effects wear off, the user crashes and experiences the exact opposite effects. Users may feel profoundly depressed and experience suicidal thoughts. Some will display aggressive or violent behavior, delusions, hallucinations and psychosis.

Users feel the only way to stop the terrible psychological symptoms of coming down from abusing stimulant drugs is to continue taking more drugs, sparking an addiction.

Treatment Options for Iowa Prescription Drug Addiction

Opiate Treatments: Treating an addiction to opioid painkillers is almost identical to treating heroin addiction. The recovering person may require medically-assisted detoxification using replacement medications, such as methadone or Suboxone. Intensive counseling and behavioral therapy are also required to help correct self-destructive addictive behaviors and replace them with healthy new habits for living a drug-free lifestyle over the long term.

Sedative Treatments: Many people don’t realize the importance of detoxing from sedative medications under medical supervision. Trying to quit taking sedative drugs suddenly can cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that require emergency medical assistance, including seizures, irregular heartbeat, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

Treating an addiction to sedative/hypnotic medications involves tapering the person off the drug of addiction carefully over a period of time. Treatment also needs to integrate a combination of counseling and behavioral therapies to address the psychological side of the addiction.

Stimulant Treatments: Treating addiction to stimulant drugs is extremely complex, due to the severe psychological grip the drug has on the user. Many people struggling with stimulant addiction attempt to quit “cold turkey” at home, only to relapse into addictive drug use when the psychological withdrawal symptoms become too overwhelming. The risk of accidental overdose is highest when a user relapses during the detox process.

Treatment for stimulant addiction requires a combination of intensive counseling and behavioral therapy. Many users may also be given prescription medication to treat any physical or psychological symptoms that arise, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and anticonvulsants.  

Individualized Treatments

Every person has different triggers behind their addiction, so it’s important that the right combination of treatments and therapies are tailored to suit each person’s individual characteristics.

Medically-supervised treatments may be similar for the type of drug being taken. However, the individual counseling and behavioral therapies used to treat each person’s addiction triggers may differ, depending on a variety of factors.

Many treatment facilities will also incorporate strong relapse prevention strategies designed to help the recovering person maintain sobriety over the long term. Regular attendance at group support meetings also provides an ongoing level of peer support and guidance through the recovery process.

Why Seek Professional Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse?

You don’t have to struggle with prescription drug addiction alone, especially when there are so many professionally accredited drug treatment centers that offer help. With the right combination of treatments and therapies, it’s possible to regain control of your life and break free from drug abuse. You really can return to living a healthy, productive life without drugs, but the first step to recovery is reaching out and asking for help.