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Prescription Drug Addiction in Alaska
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Prescription Drug Addiction in Alaska

Psychoactive substance abuse takes many forms, from alcoholism and illegal drug abuse through to prescription drug abuse and addiction. Prescription drug addiction in Alaska is a huge problem, with thousands of people over using and misusing prescription medications on a daily basis. Commonly abused medications include opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, central nervous system (CNS) sedatives such as Valium, and stimulants such as Concerta. Extensive abuse of these substances often requires medical detox and rehabilitation in order to break the bonds of addiction.

What is prescription drug abuse?

Prescription medications are abused whenever they are taken in a different way than intended by a doctor or medical professional. The extensive abuse of medications often leads to addiction, with the rates of prescription drug addiction in Alaska highlighting the extent of this problem. Common means of prescription drug abuse include taking larger doses than prescribed, combining medications, purchasing prescriptions illegally, purchasing medications illegally, visiting more than one doctor in order to obtain medications, and crushing up tablets in order to snort or inject them for a more potent effect. While some people become dependent on legitimate psychiatric medications over time, others abuse prescription drugs on purpose for recreational reasons.

Prescription drug addiction statistics in Alaska

According to a report published by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) entitled ‘Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic’, Alaska scored five out of ten on strategies to curb prescription drug abuse. Alaska has the twenty-ninth highest drug overdose mortality rate in America, with the majority of drug overdose deaths coming from prescription medications. While prescription drug abuse is not as big a problem in Alaska as alcoholism, the rate of overdose deaths is worrying. Only 7.5 per 100,000 people in Alaska overdosed in 1999, a number than has increased by 55 percent in the last 15 years. According to a separate study published in Gallup’s annual “State of the States” series, 13.5 percent of Alaskan residents abuse psychoactive drugs almost every day.

Opioid abuse and dependence

Opioids are the most widely abused class of prescription medications, including codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and hydromorphone among others. All of these drugs are commonly and incorrectly referred to as opiates, a term that is correctly used to describe naturally occurring opioids such as codeine and morphine. Opioid medications are generally used for pain relief purposes, especially for the treatment of acute pain. Opioid drugs are widely abused and taken recreationally to induce feelings of euphoria and relaxation, with ongoing extensive use often leading to dependence and addiction.

Opioids are associated with a physical-somatic withdrawal syndrome upon cessation of use, with long-term and heavy users likely to experience significant physical and psychological symptoms when they stop drug use. Depending on the substance and extent of addiction, symptoms may include sweating, headaches, nausea, vomiting, cramps, insomnia, involuntary body movements, depression, and anxiety among others. A medical detox period is often recommended to help reduce the severity of these symptoms, including the prescription of opioid medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. Behavioral therapy and relapse prevention programs are then initiated to address the issues surrounding addiction.

Sedative abuse and dependence

Sedatives are the second most widely abused class of prescription drugs, with sedative medications also known as tranquilizers or central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Commonly abused sedative drug classes include benzodiazepines and barbiturates, with popular benzo trade names including Valium, Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Serax and many others. Sedatives are mostly prescribed for the treatment of sleep and anxiety conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These drugs may also be prescribed to treat alcohol withdrawal under certain conditions. A medical detox period is advised for sedative addiction, followed by psychotherapy and aftercare support services.

Stimulant abuse and dependence

Stimulants are the third most abused class of prescription drugs, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications such as Concerta, Adderall, and Ritalin. While stimulants are not abused as much as opioids or sedatives, extensive exposure to these medications can cause a range of health problems if left untreated. Stimulant medications are associated with an emotional-motivational withdrawal syndrome, with common symptoms including severe drug cravings, depression, lack of motivation, anxiety, and insomnia. While medications are not normally used to treat stimulant dependence, behavioral therapies and counseling programs can be very effective.

Medication treatment

Medications are widely used to treat prescription drug addiction, both during the early stages of detox and during the later stages of rehabilitation and aftercare. A medical detox period is typically applied when treating opioid and sedative addiction, with opioids and benzodiazepines both prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms. While it might seem strange to treat opioid addictions with opioid drugs and sedative addictions with sedative drugs, a slow and steady dose reduction is often needed in order to manage dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Even after detox, opioid replacement therapy may be applied over a long-term period as a form of harm management to help people avoid the dangers of illegal drug exposure.

Behavioral therapy and aftercare

Detox is an essential element of drug treatment, especially for physically addictive drugs such as opioids and sedatives. Detox does little to address the precedents of addiction, however, with rehabilitation programs also needed. Rehab programs are largely based around the principles of behavioral therapy and relapse prevention, with various measures initiated to help patients recognize their problems and avoid compulsive behavioral responses. Common methods of treatment during rehab including family therapy, contingency management, cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, motivational interviewing, 12-step facilitation and many more. If you or anyone you know needs help for a drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as you can. There’s no need to tackle your problem alone, with accredited detox and rehab centers located across the state of Alaska.

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