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Prescription Drug Overdose

Table of Contents

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2010 alone, physicians prescribed enough prescription drug painkillers to medicate every adult in the United States each, four hours for an entire month.  Although many people rely on prescription painkillers for legitimate medical purposes, they also represent one of the largest contributors to drug abuse in the country.  Millions of people use prescription pain pills for recreational purposes, leading to consequences for the individual and society at large.

How the Prescription Drug Epidemic Has Affected Our Society

Over the past few decades, the number of prescriptions written for opiate painkillers has continued to rise.  In addition to placing individuals at risk of health problems, overdose, and death, prescription drug abuse affects the wider society.  Experts estimate that prescription drug abuse, most of which includes opiate pain pills, costs society over $70 billion per year.
When first using prescription drugs, many individuals find that the medications help regulate their pain and improve their ability to perform everyday activities. Over time, however, many people begin struggling to control their use of pain pills.  Eventually, this leads to problems meeting work responsibilities, attending family functions, engaging in hobbies, managing finances, and meeting other obligations.
Additionally, using pain pills in quantities greater than instructed has a negative impact on thinking abilities and mood.  People struggling with addiction to painkillers often experience depressed mood, anxiety, and other psychological problems.  They also find themselves having difficulty with concentration, memory, and problem solving.

When Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to Overdose and Death

One of the most common characteristics of addiction to prescription painkillers is a need for increasingly large doses of the drug.  People struggling with addiction often see multiple doctors to get additional prescriptions, purchase drugs illegally from friends or dealers, and take pain pills more frequently or at higher doses than medically advised.
Unfortunately, taking prescription medications for non-medical purposes is fraught with danger.  Everyday, 44 people in the United States die from prescription painkiller overdose.  The most commonly implicated drugs are hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxymorphone (e.g., Opana), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin), and methadone.  These drugs are particularly dangerous when combined with benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax, which can lower central nervous system activity to dangerous or even lethal levels.

What Is the Definition of an Overdose?

An overdose is an event in which too much of a drug has been taken.  This could include swallowing, inhaling, or injecting illicit drugs in excessive amounts that injure the body.  Overdoses may be intentional or unintentional.  Sometimes, people use excessive amounts of prescription drugs in an attempt to kill themselves.  At other times, recreational drug use gets out of hand, leading to an unintentional overdose.
An overdose is a serious event that requires prompt medical attention.  Medical providers may provide an opiate antagonist drug, which counteracts the effects of the pain pills.  Additionally, health care providers will work to stabilize the patient and ensure his or her continued health.
Following an overdose, many patients decide to enter treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers.  The first stage of treatment requires the patient to undergo detox to cleanse the body of opiates.  Many people in recovery consider this withdrawal phase the most challenging part of treatment for opiate addiction.  The Waismann Method center specializes in an advanced form of detox called rapid opiate detox.  In fact, the Waismann Method medical director Dr. Michael Lowenstein is a pioneer in the field of opiate addiction and rapid opiate detox.  Dr. Lowenstein has nearly 20 years of experience treating prescription painkiller abuse and side effects.  Importantly, Dr. Lowenstein creates an individualized treatment plan for every patient entering the Waismann Method treatment center.  This maximizes the opportunity for a safe, successful recovery from prescription painkiller addiction.

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