Welcome to Healthy Exchange ...your quarterly online newsletter from Employee Assistance Service (EAS), your Employee Assistance Program. Each issue provides information to help you better deal with personal, family or work-related concerns.

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Winter 2021 Edition

Safe Use of Prescription Drugs

Prescription Drug Abuse – Do You or a Family Member Have a Problem?

Prescription drugs can promote healing and well-being if taken for the right reasons and if used properly, but some can be addictive and dangerous when misused. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14 of the 20 most abused drugs in the U.S. are prescription drugs.

Many people become “unwitting” addicts. These are often individuals with no prior history of drug abuse, who begin using prescription drugs for a legitimate medical problem. Then, at some point they start increasing the dosage on their own because the drug makes them feel better. Gradually, the abuse becomes a real addiction.

There are also an alarming number of people who are abusing these types of drugs without a prescription to get high or change their mood. When prescription drugs are taken with other drugs or used recreationally, the consequences can be deadly. Drug overdose has now overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Fueling the surge in drug-related deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma.

Which Prescription Drugs are Most Abused?

PAIN MEDICATIONS – Used medically to treat moderate-to-severe-pain. Common drug names: Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Demerol, Diluadid, morphine, fentanyl, codeine.

STIMULANTS – Used medically to treat attention deficity/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy or short-term treatment of obesity. Common drug names: Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Focalin, Dexedrine.

TRANQUILIZERS OR SEDATIVES – Used medically to treat anxiety, severe stress, panic attacks or sleep disorders. Common drug names: Mebaral, Nembutal, Valium, Xanax, Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta

Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Dependency

Prescription drug abuse occurs when a person uses a prescription drug outside of the normally accepted standard for its use (i.e. not used for its intended purpose). When misused or abused, prescription drugs can have very serious adverse health effects and can easily and unknowingly turn into a physical dependence. Do you know the warning signs of prescription drug dependency?

1. Increased usage – Increase of one’s dose over time, as a result of growing tolerant to the drug and needing more to get the same effect.

2. Ongoing use – Continued use of the prescribed medication even after the medical condition it was meant to relieve has improved.

3. Going to great lengths to obtain the drug – Secretive or deceitful behavior in order to obtain the drug. Using multiple doctors or pharmacies to cover up the amount and frequency of drug use. Spending large amounts of time driving great distances and visiting multiple doctors to obtain drugs.

4. Physical withdrawal symptoms - Experiencing flu-like symptoms such as joint and muscle aches, night sweats and insomnia when doses are missed.

5. Change in personality – Shifts in energy, mood and concentration as a result of everyday responsibilities becoming secondary to the need for the drug.

6. Change in daily habits or appearance – Decline in personal hygiene; change in eating and sleeping habits, including significant weight loss; a constant cough, runny nose or having red, glazed eyes.

7. Social withdrawal – Withdrawal from family, friends, co-workers or other social interaction.

8. Neglecting responsibilities – Neglect of household chores, bills or other responsibilities; calling in sick to work or missing school more often.

9. Blackouts and forgetfulness – Forgetting events that have taken place or appearing to suffer from frequent blackouts.

10. Defensiveness – Most often a person abusing prescription medication will attempt to hide their use, become defensive when confronted, rationalize their use, and often deny that it is a problem. They might respond to simple requests or questions by lashing out.

Do you Have a Problem?

Upon realizing that they are “hooked” on a prescription drug, many people are reluctant to tell their doctor or are afraid their medication will be discontinued, so they do not seek the help they need. Admitting that you have a problem with drugs takes courage. Whether you have reached the “addiction” stage or not, recognizing and admitting that your abuse of prescription drugs is negatively impacting your life is the first step toward overcoming it. The next step is seeking professional help.

The Epidemic of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

A recent University of Colorado study reported that adolescents today are abusing prescription pain medications like vicodin, valium and oxycontin at a rate that is 40 percent higher than previous generations. According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org:

  • 1 in 6 teens has used a prescription medication in order to get high or change their mood
  • Each day, 2,000 teens use a prescription drug to get high for the first time
  • Two-thirds of teens who abuse pain relievers get them from family members or friends

Many teens think taking prescription medications are safe because they have legitimate uses, but taking them without a prescription to get high or “self-medicate” can be as dangerous – and addictive – as using illicit drugs.

What Parents can Do

1. Educate yourself about the prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines that kids are abusing.

2. Communicate with your kids:

  • Discuss the subject with your teenagers. See what your kids know about peers using medications without a doctors’ prescription.
  • Warn your teenagers that taking prescription medications without a doctors’ supervision can be just as dangerous and as potentially lethal as taking illicit drugs.
  • Set clear expectations with your teenagers, letting them know that under no circumstances should they take any medications without your knowledge.

3. Safeguard medications at home and other places.

  • Take an inventory of prescription and over-the-counter medications in your home.
  • Pay attention to quantities.
  • Keep medications out of reach – and out of easily accessible places like the medicine cabinet.

Note: If you suspect that your child is using or has a problem with drugs, it is important that you face the situation promptly and get whatever help is needed to stop your child’s use. For professional counseling, referrals or additional assistance, contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for help.

How to Avoid Prescription Drug Misuse or Abuse

Follow these guidelines for using prescription medications safely:

1. Educate yourself about any prescribed or over-the-counter drug you may take, in particular the drugs that can be addictive. The most frequent offenders are pain and nerve medications, tranquilizers, diet pills and cold medicines. Before taking any medication ask what is in the medication and what effects can be expected.

2. Keep your doctor informed about all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications.

3. Be sure to use medication only as prescribed. If you have questions or concerns, contact your doctor.

4. Get a second opinion before going on a medication for any length of time. Long-term use for more than 27 consecutive days can be addictive (This does not apply to medications that simply provide what the body is deficient in, such as insulin, thyroid, and antidepressants).

5. Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and feeling of isolation and detachment are the most common problems associated with drug dependency. Seek professional help or other resources to help you solve these problems, instead of covering up the symptoms with medication. Make yourself a priority and take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Your EAP is Here to Help

If you or a dependent needs help to overcome a problem with prescription drug abuse or addiction, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can assist you with CONFIDENTIAL counseling, referrals and information. EAP Professionals are specially trained to help people get the right help for a problem with prescription medications or other drugs, and can help you determine the extent of your problem and what treatment is needed. If you need help, why not call an EAP Professional today? We’re here to help. All EAP services are free and strictly confidential.



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Disclaimer: This newsletter is not intended to provide medical advice on personal wellness matters. Please consult your physician for medical advice.