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The Most Popular Drug

What abuse looks like and how to help

By Marianne Powell, Program Manager, Outpatient Services
Leigh Farmer, Communications Associate

In 2017, the drugs you as a parent, as a brother, as a sister, as a friend, must be most educated about are opiates.  It is, BY FAR, the most popular category of drug among recreational users.  Why?  Because it’s easy to get.  Check your medicine cabinet right now.  You might have some you have forgotten about.  In fact, 60% of users get their fix from family and friends (whether you know it or not).  Who is using them the most? 18-25 year olds.  Coming in a close second is the 12-18 year old population.  Last month alone 4.6 million people abused opiates. 

Do I have your attention?

The use of opioids is on the rise but we can all do our part to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction in order to help those we love.

First less address the why?  Why are opiates so popular? 

There is less stigma.  Many people justify their use by simply saying “I only took what the doctor gave me.”  Pain patients become addiction patients.  Alcoholics and street addicts contribute to the growing number of patients who, after interacting with medical systems through acute and chronic injury and illness, begin to prefer controlled substances.  Also, the dosing is more reliable than with a street drug.  And, as we’ve already said, it’s easily accessible.

The consequences of not getting help for addiction can be deadly.  But beyond the risk of overdose, there are also several other dangers.  Many opiate addicts turn to street drugs when they are no longer able to get a prescription.  Addicts also face criminal charges including felonies and jail time.  DUI charges and the loss of his or her driver’s license is also a real possibility.  These consequences can destroy relationships, self-esteem and jobs. 

Here is how we, as loved ones and concerned friends, can help.  We can look for signs and symptoms of this drug use, such as:

  • Frequent doctor visits, multiple injuries, complaints of pain, over-reporting or manufacturing of symptoms.
  • Taking medication in a manner that is not prescribed in doses or frequencies not intended, “playing around with the script.”
  • Manipulative, demanding behavior to obtain medications to ensure an adequate supply.
  • Taking handfuls of pills, forgetting how much was taken, accidental ODs
  • Drinking or using other drugs with prescription meds.
  • Changing doctors, seeking prescriptions from other doctors after warned to stop, altering a prescription.
  • Not complying with treatment/ referrals
  • Demonstrating deterioration in everyday roles, inattention to hygiene, appearing intoxicated.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Horizon’s Admissions Services at 434-477-5000 (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 434-522-8191 (after hours emergency).  It could make a lifesaving difference. 

Source:  RoseEd Academy, J. Scott Nelson MA NCC LCPC CRADC, Staff Education Coordinator