Help for drug addicts

This month’s topic is prescription drug addiction. Just a brief reminder of the steps that you can take if you suspect that you or a loved one is addicted to pain medicines, stimulants or depressants sold over-the-counter or by prescription.

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Prescription drug abuse skyrocketing

Prescription drugs got big in the 90’s.  Researchers are still not sure WHY people are taking more pills, but think that this may be caused a trend initiated by doctors to prescribe medications for pain relief or mental/emotional conditions.  They’re still looking into it.   The fact remains that the use of prescription medications has steadily increased in the past years.

Consider this.

The numbers

How many Americans take prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, or sedatives for non medical purposes?  In 2006 and 2007, about 7 million people aged 12 or older reported non medical use of a prescription drug at least once in the year prior to being surveyed (National Survey of Drug Use), while this number jumped to 15.2 million in 2008 (National Institute of Drug Abuse page on prescription medications).  Some experts even estimate that up to 20% of all Americans use pills for non medical reasons (National Institutes of Health prescription drug abuse overview).  It seems that we have a growing appetite for pills.

What to do for prescription drug addiction

But what should you do if you suspect that you or someone you know is abusing prescription drugs?

1.  Talk about or address your concerns.
No loving relationship can exist without communication.  If you are worried about a friend or family member, talk to the person directly at the right time.  Take your friend out of his/her normal context and plan for more than a five minute “talk”.  Talking about difficult topics like drug addiction require time and sensitivity.  But be aware that denial of drug abuse is common among addicts.  However, it is important that you approach the topic with real concern and have some steps laid out so that you can make recommendations about what comes next if your friend is responsive.

2. Take a survey to analyse possible misuse.  
I could not find a current online self-report test that targets prescription drug use, so you will most likely see a doctor who can perform a professional analysis for addiction.  You might try the Drug Abuse Screening Test from 1982, in which you answer yes or no to 10, 20, or 28 questions, and then total your score to get an interpretation on the severity of problems or consequences related to drug abuse.  However, current medical standards for screening for prescription drug misuse include the following tests:

  •  Addiction Severity Index (ASI)
  •  Chabal 5-Point Prescription Opiate Abuse Checklist
  •  Chemical Use, Abuse, and Dependence Scale (CUAD)
  •  Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM)
  •  Drug Abuse Problem Assessment for Primary Care (DAPA-PC)
  •  Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST)
  •  Pain Medication Questionnaire (PMQ)
  •  Prescription Drug Use Questionnaire (PDUQ)
  •  Problem-Oriented Screening Instrument for Teenagers (POSIT)
  • Relax, Alone, Friends, Family, Trouble (RAFFT)
  •  RAFFT and DAST for Adolescents
  •  Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI)
  •  Two-Item Conjoint Screen (TICS)

3. Seek treatment.
No single type of treatment for prescription drug addiction is appropriate for everyone.  If you or a loved one is abusing prescription drugs, figure out which type of treatment is suggested by first consulting with professionals and then make a decision for yourself.  Here are some tips:

  • Call the SAMHSA telephone hotline (800–662–HELP)  to find prescription drug treatment centers.
  • Call the National suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-TALK) to talk about drug addiction issues.
  • Call your doctor or seek help from another health care professional.  You can locate doctors that specialize in addiction psychiatry by searching the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry or the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry doctor databases.
  • Get information about local resources through the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America These are nonprofits for patients and families with state and local affiliates that can help you where you are.

4. Support treatment
Family and friends can help a loved one with drug problems to enter and stay in treatment through encouragement and by seeking help themselves. Family therapy can address family models and can be especially helpful for families with addicted teens.  Family involvement in addiction treatment can strengthen and extend treatment benefits.

Reference sources:
Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network
Parents, the Anti-Drug website
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration website
The National Insitute on Drug Abuse website
Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. My husband been doing drugs for a longtime! Weed,drinking accessivly! but now I’ve noticed he’s been on dope(snorting)! & Xanax!!! (7) days a week! It started once every blue moon? But, now it’s full blown. I have had several talks with him!!??? But he’s in denial!!! He thinks cause he goes to work? He’s not a drug addict!!!?? I’m at my wits-end!!! Can’t take da stress im going thru with him. And i have MS for the last 5yrs. And the stress is slowly making my illness worse!! I need help!! For him; he definitely needs REHABILITATION!!! But he won’t listen to me!!! Can u help me. Thank you, mrs.crawley

  2. Hi . My usband of twelve yrs took up ice dissapeared with my 2 boys because i had no idea ot was commig i had a break vet put me on seraquil 50ml slow one and 2 25mg fast acting as well as valium. Due to anxiety attacks from not knowing where or if my children are safe the criminal system favoured him as he played the fact that i had a break drown.hes dangerous and no one will hear my kids nor my side. I used to have 1 valium n sleep n hr just to escape now 4 five mg has no svared to tell my vet as i think the court will find out im so desperate .what do i do. The only releaf I get is going to church.

  3. Hi heather this sounds like a classic case of Victoria Mental Health Services , I dare say what may of happened to your childrens father is he probably went to a hospital for help for a long time maybe a few years that have been supplying him with this medication and as he has became imune to the effects of long term use he started taking illegal drugs just to help with his pain , this a trick often used by the hostpitals mainly the bigger ones in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to get rid of patients , i believe they actualy have a number for you to call now to save you going to the hospital and they will offer to send you a pamphlet that will refer him to a drug rehab or some other useless advice it actualy leaves you feeling a lot worse because you have found out that the only people you thought may help you cant , then you will discover a realy bad illegal drug and become addicted to it then no docters or your own gp will help you , and if you do find one that does help you , you will inadvertantly tell some pharmacist who is spitefull and dobs him in to the pbs or what ever and now you will have nothing and all the other people who you use to talk to about this and have been thru the same thing have probably killed themselves by now , trust me we know what you and him feel like , but just hang in there because i hope one day they will actualy realize they have almost destroyed the lives of a whole generation and fix this very serious problem out before some bad person like maybe timmy mcviegh snaps and then they look for people to blame for it.

  4. Hi Heather. That’s a tough situation. But you are not alone. I’d suggest you look into either counseling or Al Anon or both. I’ll send you more details by email.

  5. The father of my child has became addicted to pain pills. He becomes mentally abusive. He has to have pillseveryday or he simply doesn’t function. He becomes mentally abusive towards me and doesn’t even realize it. He makes me feel worthless and alone. I need help! I try to explain and get help but he doesn’t listen. He calls me evryname under the sun if I don’t bring him a pain pill when he ask. I don’t want to say no bc that means complete hell for the family. He has even went as far as sayn he will leave. He makes me feel like im his mother he doesn’t have a job or even helps me around the house for example. If I go out with my friends he gives me curfews and has to even have a pain pill. I believe he has a lot of personal issues! I went shopping the other day with my mom when I came home early he asked if I was at work I said no and he completey flipped out. He began excusing me of cheating on him! He ended up leaving and the same night he left he was in contact with two of his exs! He came home once again hollering at me and blaming me. I just dunno how to handle this. He makes me miserable but I love him! When we are not together he’s even worse on pills and other drugs! He gets mad at mr if I try to talk to him about it! He’s falling so far and I can’t seem to pick him up it’s almost as if he doesn’t care! I have only told u a very small portion of our problems. But can’t someone tell me where to turn!

  6. I suggest that you check out a few medical and patient societies such as the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), the American Pain Foundation, the American Pain Society or the American Chronic Pain Foundation. They will have more information on resources and treatments for pain relief.

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