The scale of painkiller addiction in many parts of the world is causing many people to re-evaluate their views about prescription drugs.
Traditionally, most people might think that pharmaceutical medications such as painkillers are less harmful than street drugs. However, in many cases prescription pills can be just as addictive, often with catastrophic results.
Painkiller addiction is a significant risk factor for early death. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US, with over 50,000 fatalities annually. More than one-in-three of these cases is related to prescription painkillers.
Which prescription drugs are addictive?
Prescription medications that are often abused include opiate painkillers such as OxyContin or Vicodin, sedatives such as Xanax or Valium and stimulants such as Dexedrine, Adderall or Ritalin.
Dean Gustar is Head of Clinical Operations at The Kusnacht Practice, the world’s most exclusive addiction treatment centre with unrivalled expertise in this field.
He said: “Addiction to prescription medication can begin with an innocent visit to the doctor for legitimate use of a medication. We are all familiar with prescription drugs, and we implicitly trust the process.
“Unfortunately due to a range of factors this can spiral out of control. People can become addicted to painkillers and other medications such as sleeping pills. We have also recently seen an increase in the use of Lyrica – an anti-epileptic drug also used for nerve pain or anxiety.”
Why do people become addicted to painkiller?
People often misuse medication as a way of easing some form of distress, either physical or emotional. This may mean they take it medication greater doses than prescribed, or seek out multiple prescriptions or buy substances over the internet or elsewhere.
Addiction then occurs when the individual repeatedly uses the prescription drug in a compulsive manner, despite negative consequences. Patterns of use may vary enormously from person to person, but a common factor is typically that the drug is used to self-medicate, either consciously or subconsciously.
Therefore, the misuse of the drug or painkiller is often just a symptom of a much deeper underlying problem, which requires substance abuse treatment.
What does substance abuse treatment involve?
The Kusnacht Practice looks beyond symptoms to tackle the underlying causes of addiction, which is often due to a combination of factors that can be genetic, psychological or physical.
Dean Gustar explained: “Everything that we do is highly tailored to the client’s individual needs, and we adopt a truly holistic approach in order to treat the whole person. We use a combination of one-to-one interventions that includes psychotherapy, Bio-R and complementary therapies. We also recognise that spiritual programmes such The 12 Steps can play a significant role in recovery.”
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