As you head to the bathroom this morning to brush your teeth, give your medicine cabinet a quick once over. Are your prescription drugs outdated or some you simply don't use?
The Illinois Poison Center says calls are down to its hotline, but most of its 80,000 calls stem from prescription drugs.
The center says painkillers are the number one reason for a call for help.
Jessica Wiegmann of Recovery Resources in Quincy says there are a number of reason why prescription drugs are becoming more commonly abused.
"It's definitely becoming a bigger issue. In the residential unit we've encountered a lot of people that are coming in more and more on prescription painkillers or anxiolytic things like that that help with symptoms that doctors prescribe for," said Wiegmann.
She says some addicts go "doctor-shopping" until they find a doctor who will give them the drug they want. And, she says many people become addicted without even meaning to.
"I think more and more people are seeking help but then as time goes on it just becomes so easy to get addicted to the drugs that you're being prescribed," said Wiegmann.
Wiegmann also says people abuse prescription drugs because they feel like its harder to get caught.
"Prescription drugs are obviously maybe not as easily obtainable but you can go down to the hospital and complain of back pain or whatever kind of pain and it becomes very easy just to go and get them. Whereas with illicit drugs, if you're caught with them you can get arrested. You can get in big trouble," said Wiegmann.
Wiegmann stresses prescription drugs can be just as dangerous than street drugs, so if you do have to take them make sure you follow the label exactly or as your doctor orders.
"You kind of get in your mind that if you're in pain or maybe you have anxiety and your taking Xanax or Ativan and you see what one can do then you try the two. And sometimes you have what we call a 'rebound effect' where maybe they were taking one and it was working and now it's not working as well," said outpatient counselor Becky Haskins.
Haskins says it's not just accidental addicts. She says some street drug users take sedatives and anti psychotic drugs like Ativan and Xanax as well.
"They're using these substances to help them come down from another substance, whether it be an upper such as methamphetamine, any kind of stimulant that will kind of help counteract that they'll take it, they'll take a sedative," said Haskins.
Haskins says that this is not something people can just stop cold turkey. She says they are weaned off the narcotic using other drugs to lessen the side effects of the withdrawal, which can be quite strong. And when the person is ready, they are given a non-narcotic prescription.
Haskins warns these seemingly safe drugs can actually cause seizures or death if taken outside the doctor's orders.
"Because they're prescribed by a doctor, people trust their doctor," said Haskins. "They're supposedly safe. And if a doctor says take them they're gonna take them and then once they see the symptoms subside and get better then a lot of times they'll think, 'Well if one makes me feel better what can two do?'"
What you can do to recognize a problem what you can do about it?
Wiegmann says there are several things to watch for and certainly things you can do to help someone in this situation.
She says to watch out for your meds disappearing. Keep a good count in your head or at least know when you are running out of a prescription early. Keep the medications in a lock-box. Sneaky behavior, change of friends, and withdrawing from loved ones are some things to watch for in a child, spouse, or friend who may be addicted to pills.
"Look for changes in behavior. Especially with teenagers," Wiegmann said. "They're probably going to change their circle of friends. They're not gonna be able to hang out with the good kids anymore because they're gonna gravitate towards the people that are using that as well."
Wiegmann says ultimately it has to be the person with the problem who seeks out help to get weaned off those medications and onto a non-narcotic form. But, she says, they might not even know they have a problem. You can give them flyers to help them recognize signs and symptoms.
Wiegmann says you can give Recovery Resources a call. You can get help you need from them or they can point you in the direction you need to go.
You might be asking yourself, "If they have non-narcotic forms of these drugs, why are people still getting this addictive prescription form?"
Wiegmann says the affects are different. The narcotics have a more immediate affect and she says are very effective for those who need them, but people might not wait the full time period before taking another pill or they might take too many thinking they're not working, which can cause them to be addicted before they know it.
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