Painkillers and Addiction


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In 2003, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that over six million Americans had used prescription medications for recreational purposes. Painkillers like OxyContin and Percoset are popular on the black market and are often acquired through forged prescriptions and theft. Sadly, a good percentage of these thefts, and illegal use of these drugs, are committed by professionals in the medical field.

There are various factors that lead physicians, nurse, and other medical workers to become dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. The pressures of the job mount and release is sought. That prescription meds are easily accessible only feeds the desire to abuse drugs for that fleeting sensation of numbing euphoria. It is a habit that can spiral out of control if not treated, and damage one's relationships, finances, career, and health.

Prescription medications fall mainly into three categories. While these medicines are useful, and at times necessary, to treat various illnesses, illegal use and overuse is akin to abusing drugs like cocaine and heroin. A drug is a drug, and as such should be utilized with utmost care.


Opioids are narcotic analgesics, prescribed to treat severe pain. When taken as prescribed, opioid medications can effectively block pain messages to the brain and induce sleepiness in patients suffering from insomnia. Opioids also influence sensations of euphoria and may heighten pleasure, and may become highly addictive if taken improperly. Common opioid painkillers include OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Morphine, Methadone and Demerol.


People who suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia are often prescribed medications that affect the central nervous system. These depressants slow brain function and induce a feeling of calm in the patient, encouraging relaxation, better rationalization, and sometimes improving mood. Overuse of such meds can lead to a prolonged sensation of drowsiness or feeling “stoned, " and can contribute to dependence. Common prescription drugs in this category include Valium, Nembutal, Xanax, and barbiturates like Seconal and Phenobarbital.


On the opposite side of the spectrum, stimulant drugs are prescribed to people needing treatment for naturally slow abilities, chronic fatigue, and narcolepsy. These medications increase alertness and energy by boosting brain activity and heart rate. People seeking an extra kick may be tempted to abuse such stimulants, and excessive use can cause heart problems, insomnia, and irregular mood swings. Drugs like Ritalin and Dexedrine are commonly prescribed stimulants.

There are rehabilitation centers and clinics that specialize in treating addicts for prescription medicine abuse. If you are prescribed medicine to treat an illness, it is important to know the risks in order to prevent addiction. Consult a doctor before taking any type of medication. If you suspect a loved one of abusing medication, consult with a professional to learn about intervention and recovery.

Stephanie Loebs is the executive director of Williamsburg Place, one of the top drug rehab clinics in the nation. Williamsburg Place aids those who suffer from drug and/or alcohol addiction, and specializes in caring for health care professionals. For over twenty years Williamsburg Place and its joint rehabilitation center, the William J. Farley Center, have helped thousands of people from all walks of life take back their lives and overcome substance abuse.


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