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Prescription Drug Detox

A drug being available in prescription format does not necessarily decrease its addictive nature or its danger. Some prescription drugs[i] can be hazardous when abused or used outside of their prescribed formats. As with any other addictive substance, the consequence of trying to break the addiction is the process of withdrawal. Detoxification, or “detox,” is the body’s natural process of trying to purge toxins. When it comes to powerful substances (like those we get addicted to), the detox process can be disruptive and difficult.

Types of Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs can be separated into at least three classes: antidepressants, stimulants, and opiates. Some common antidepressants include:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Remeron (mirtazapine)[ii]

Some common stimulants include:

  • Amphetamines (such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, ProCentra, and Benzedrine)
  • Methylphenidates (such as Ritalin Concerta, Daytrana, and Methylin)
  • Ephedrine (such as Brokaid, Mudrana, matrix, Primatene, and Quadrinal)
  • Caffeine (such as Migergot, Cafergot, Fiorinal, Fioricet, and Norgesic)
  • Methamphetamine (very rare as a prescription, often only as Desoxyn)[iii]

Some common opiates include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycontin
  • Hydrocodone[iv]

Although these drugs are not generally considered illegal or illicit, they are dangerous and have significant addictive properties. For various reasons, these drugs have medicinal purposes where the price of their use is considered to be less than the problem they are being prescribed to address. However, if these drugs are abused, the door is opened to numerous physical, mental, and physiological problems.

The Process of Prescription Drug Detox

When it comes to prescription drug addiction and recovery, detox is generally the first step. Some various methods and options can be used to begin a detox. What method is best often depends on the individual and the drug that has been abused. The most significant problem of detox is often overcoming the process of withdrawal. For this reason, the withdrawal symptoms associated with the drugs being removed from the system are crucial to understanding how to manage detox.

In many cases, medically assisted detox will be the safest route to pursue. This is especially the case for prescription drugs, as there are significant withdrawal and health risks associated with all prescription drugs.[v] When medical professionals oversee the detox process, it will include the use of other drugs in a process known as medication-assisted treatment.[vi] This is usually very important for the process of withdrawal management.

One of the amazing things the body does is to adapt. When different stressors or stimuli are presented, the body adjusts for the new stimulus, seeking to figure out how to function optimally as possible given the new input. This means that new stimuli such as drugs of any sort change the body on a physiological level. The brain is rewriting neural pathways, and the body is adjusting to accommodate the drug. There is only so much the body can withstand; however, the long-term effects can be quite severe or even deadly for many of these drugs. The body adjusts as much as possible, but it can be overwhelmed by the drugs used, especially if other things are complicated, such as the effects of stimulants on the heart.

Given these things, it makes sense that the removal of the drug is also going to have side effects. Because the body has tried its best to adjust to the presence of the drug and pathways in the brain have been rewritten, the removal of this new substance or stimulus can throw the body into shock. The body had been adapting, and now the thing to which it was adapting is gone. Withdrawal is a natural process the body undergoes to revert to a functioning state now that the substance is gone. Depending on how drastically the substance had impacted and changed the body, the withdrawal process can be more or less severe. It is for this reason that other medications are sometimes used. These medications used in medication-assisted detox are used because they can mimic some of the signs of the abused substance to the body and thereby lessen the withdrawal symptoms. This allows a medical professional to oversee the process, help taper off the addictive substance, and make it through the withdrawal process successfully.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Prescription Drugs

As noted above, one of the most important aspects of detox is managing the withdrawal symptoms. So it will be useful to briefly cover the most common withdrawal symptoms for each of the prescription drug classes noted earlier.

For those who have become addicted to antidepressants, some common symptoms include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Loss of coordination
  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nightmares
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Muscles spasms[vii]

For those who have become addicted to stimulants, some common symptoms include the following:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Intense dreaming
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Tremors
  • Stomach pains
  • Sweating
  • Fever[viii]

For those who have become addicted to opiates, some common symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches and spasms
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Aggression
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate[ix]

Seeking Help for Prescription Drug Detox

Substance abuse and addiction are serious and complicated issues, especially true with those addicted to prescription drugs. Difficulties with the possibility of withdrawal or co-occurring mental disorders serve only to compound the difficult nature of substance abuse. The last thing that any of us wants is to miss an opportunity to get the needed help.

Because of the dangers involved in addiction and substance abuse, it is of great importance that helps in the form of treatment is sought out as soon as possible. At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to come alongside those struggling with various addictions and withdrawal symptoms to help transition into recovery. We can offer 24/7 on-site medical help and supervision, counseling, and consistent care to facilitate the process of healing. Please review our various programs[x] to see what meets the situation or need. It is also recommended to review our accreditation,[xi] staff,[xii] and facility,[xiii] so that you can be confident Cycles of Change Recovery is the right path for you or your loved one.