Prescription Drug Abuse: A Long-Running Addiction Affecting Millions

Opioids have been around in various forms for thousands of years. In the early days, drug abuse wasn't a widely recognized issue, and help wasn't available for those who needed it. Times have changed, and Lake Wellness Center is here for you. If you're battling addiction to prescription drugs, contact us now to learn more about our wide range of treatment options.

Going Back to the Beginning

Opium use dates back as far as 3400 B.C. according to historical accounts. During those early years, it was largely used as a mood enhancer and sedative. Over the centuries, its usefulness in the medical community grew and expanded, eventually leading to the discovery of morphine.

By the 1800s, opium and its derivatives were being used to treat insomnia, anxiety, respiratory issues and pain from a wide range of conditions. Back then, no one fully understood the full scope of its potential harm.

Bringing Opium into the Modern Era

Morphine became a commonplace treatment for pain and other conditions during the 1800s. Though it was an incredibly effective medication, its addictive nature quickly became apparent especially among soldiers during the Civil War.

By the late 1800s, heroin entered the picture. It was originally developed as a painkiller and cough suppressant and advertised as a non-addictive alternative to opium and morphine. Heroin was even used to treat morphine addiction and recommended as a better option than its predecessor by the American Medical Association in the early 1900s.

In time, several synthetic versions of the drug were developed. Some of the most common include fentanyl, tramadol, oxycodone, hydromorphone and hydrocodone. These are known as opioids because they're derivatives of opium and act on receptors in the brain to produce an effect much like that of opium and morphine.

These newer variations are readily prescribed today as treatments for everything from tooth extraction and C-section aftercare to arthritis and cancer pain. They're effective at alleviating pain and certainly have their place in the medical world. Despite being far more heavily regulated than in years past, they're also just as addictive as opium, morphine, heroin and other earlier forms of the drug; in fact, they're among the most commonly abused drugs in use today.

What Causes Addiction to Pain Pills?

Not all addictions and abuse disorders start out in the same way, but many converge on a single path. In most cases, pain really is the instigator whether it's a chronic long-term medical condition or something as simple as a sprained ankle. Opioids are effective at getting rid of the pain, so taking them seems like a harmless gesture. Though it sometimes is, it's also often the beginning of a potentially harmful journey.

Painkillers work by either blocking pain signals in the brain or causing the body to produce an excess of chemicals designed to mask discomfort rather than taking away the cause of the pain. For many, pain begins to subside over time, but they continue to take the opioids just in case. If there's less pain to alleviate, the drugs have a more extreme impact. This is where the well-known euphoric effect comes into play.

When the time comes to stop taking the painkillers, withdrawal kicks in and causes its own level of pain. It's often indistinguishable from the original issue, so it tricks the mind and body into believing the opioids are still necessary. This cycle continues and even accelerates, and dependence takes hold.

Taking a Deeper Look at Opioid Addiction

Other factors are often at work as well. In many instances, painkiller addiction starts out with peer pressure and the desire to fit in. This element has always been an issue, but it's undoubtedly getting more serious these days. When taken without any pain present to be relieved, opioids bring about a strong sense of exhilaration and emotional well-being.

For those suffering from anxiety and depression, this euphoric impact certainly seems helpful. Since opioids are often more readily accessible than antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, they tend to become a go-to source for relief. And some people are simply born with a genetic predisposition to dependence.

Either way, the mind and body eventually become dependent on these prescription painkillers. Without them, there's no release from physical, emotional and even perceived pain. Stress in any form further increases the need for these medications. Breaking the cycle becomes nearly impossible, and addiction is the result.

Drug Abuse by the Numbers

Based on the most recent information made available to the public by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 26 million people ages 12 and older struggle with addiction in the United States. These reports also point out that underlying medical or mental conditions often fuel drug use. At the same time, drug and alcohol abuse go hand in hand in almost 10 percent of reported cases. Heroin use alone has been found to double the likelihood of alcohol abuse.

Well over 2 million Americans suffer from prescription drug addiction each year at this point with heroin and other opioids being the most common substances on the list. This addiction seems to hold no bounds as men and women are equally effected, and it even spreads to those as young as 11.

Countless people also battle addiction in silence. Keep in mind that drug abuse can be deadlier than most people realize. More than 70,000 deaths were attributed to substance abuse during the last year for which information is available. Of those, well over 47,000 involved opioids.

Problems with the Common Misconceptions about Addiction

For those on the outside looking in, addiction seems to be pretty cut and dried. They believe it's a choice. They insist quitting is nothing more than mind over matter. In their opinions, only the weak and undetermined can't simply decide to break an addiction and stick to it.

Anyone who's ever been on the other side of the fence is aware none of those lines of reasoning are true. Yes, taking that first painkiller was a conscious choice whether it was born of mild curiosity or sheer desperation to be free from pain. If it made you feel better, of course you were bound to be drawn to it afterward. This could be said of almost anything from caffeine and nicotine to alcohol, marijuana or cocaine.

Still, no one chooses to become addicted. Drug use starts out small, but it slowly grows to the point where it's out of control. Addiction tends to creep in without its victims even realizing it's there. By then, the body physically requires those pills to function the way it should. What's more, you must increase the dosage or frequency just to get the results you need.

Sure, strength and willpower are crucial to the healing process. In order to break the cycle, you need to decide to do so, but those factors alone often aren't enough to overcome addiction. Plenty of other elements must be at work.

Though it's no secret addiction is dangerous, far too many people fail to look beyond the basics. Trying to overcome dependence by yourself isn't just difficult, it can cause plenty of problems as well. In some cases, it can even be deadly.

What Are the Dangers of Facing Withdrawal Alone?


By nature, opioids can generate a sense of calm and relaxation, which is why people often use them to self-medicate for anxiety. Whether anxiety was present before the addiction developed, taking away prescription painkillers has been known to cause it.


Even if pain wasn't your reason for taking opioids initially, removing these chemicals from your system could bring about joint pain, stomach and muscle cramps, abdominal discomfort and other severe aches.


As mentioned, opium was once used to treat insomnia. Once you become dependent on opioids, purging your system of them can also cause sleeplessness. To make matters worse, being unable to sleep gives you more waking hours to dwell on the ongoing cravings and misery of withdrawal.

Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea

Drugs of any type alter body chemistry, impact the nervous system and lead to hormonal fluctuations. When those agents of change are no longer present, readjusting to the new norm causes physical distress, which can lead to severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In turn, this can cause dehydration, malnutrition and an entirely new set of physical dangers.

Rapid Heartbeat

Withdrawal symptoms often include tachycardia, or a rapid heart rate. In addition to generating a sense of panic and heightening many of the other side effects, this also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and death. This is true for those of any age regardless of their overall health.


Removing virtually any substance the body needs can lead to depression as well as its telltale feelings of hopelessness and guilt. Irritability, nervousness, mood swings, excessive crying, lack of interest in normal activities and obsessive thoughts also come into play. These symptoms alone have driven people to suicide attempts while facing withdrawal alone.

Depending on the type of drug in question and how long it has been at work in a person's system, withdrawal symptoms can begin as little as four hours after the last dose and drag on for 10 days or more. Though they do taper off, some issues can resurface for several weeks following the detox period. Without medical supervision or, at the very least, close observation by a friend or loved one, those strong initial effects can cause permanent health issues and even lead to death.

Benefits of Opioid Treatment Centers

To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty ..." Although this is true, accomplishing anything is all but impossible without some level of backing. One of the main benefits of treatment centers is the widespread support system they provide throughout the process, but that barely scratches the surface.

  • Managing Withdrawal Symptoms: Withdrawal can be severe and potentially deadly, but addiction treatment facilities offer several ways to help control the symptoms and forge ahead. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone can be used to combat the relentlessness of withdrawal if needed. Plenty can also be said for simply having someone by your side during the worst of it.
  • Medical Supervision: Since some of the side effects of withdrawal can be particularly dangerous, having trained medical personnel on hand is an advantage. Should something go wrong, they can quickly intervene to provide life-saving care.
  • Digging Deeper: Every addiction has an underlying cause, so treating the addiction itself isn't going to be effective without digging deeper into the matter. Treatment centers like Lake Wellness Center have a staff of psychologists available to help unearth what led you to your substance abuse to begin with and pave the way for true healing.
  • Transitional Care: Just like medications can help wean you off prescription painkillers, treatment facilities help with transitioning from a protected clinical environment to life without opioids. It's a gradual process known to be more effective than jumping in head first.
  • Coping Mechanisms: Hundreds of thousands of people have worked their way through the recovery process only to relapse after the fact. Opioid treatment centers offer education on ways to cope with everyday issues without needing to fall back into those old habits. Thy also provide ongoing support for those times when stress tries to take over.
On top of all these benefits, treatment facility staffs are aware there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction recovery. What works perfectly for one person could easily fail another at every turn. For this reason, they offer a wide range of options and tailor recovery plans to each person's unique needs.

What to Expect During Opioid Addiction Treatment?

Realizing addiction has taken over your life is the first step toward recovery, and seeking help is the second. Once you've decided to reach out for assistance, it's time to contact Lake Wellness Center. From there, you'll meet with one of our clinical personnel. He or she will ask you several questions to better understand your prescription drug addiction, like:

How long have you been taking painkillers?
Do you regularly use any other types of drugs? (Alcohol and other substances can have an impact on the safety and effectiveness of withdrawal management medications and alter the type of treatment plan needed.)
Do you have a family history of substance abuse or addiction?
Have you ever been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other conditions?

These are only a few of the questions we'll need to ask. Some of them may seem a bit invasive, but their purpose is to find the best course of action for you. After those questions, Lake Wellness Center professions will perform a full medical exam and urinalysis to determine if any illnesses or medical conditions are affecting you. Again, these steps are designed to help develop a safe, effective treatment plan.

Following the initial assessment, we'll begin the detox process. Once we've gotten your withdrawal symptoms under control, more in-depth care will enter the mix. Since every person is different and so many options are available, detailing your entire specific course of treatment would be impossible before speaking with you. Some of the opportunities we offer are:

Holistic Inpatient Treatment

Substance Abuse Education

Intensive Outpatient Care

Cognitive Testing and Therapy

Flexible Program Schedules

Holistic Inpatient Treatment

Individual, Group and Family Counseling

Overall Healthcare

Weekly Family Nights

Ongoing Addiction Management

We take biological, genetic, mental and emotional aspects into consideration to provide the best possible care for each of our patients. Our goal is to treat not only addiction, but the individual. Contact us for a consultation and let us help you find the right path to recovery.

Lake Wellness Center: Your Partner in Overcoming Addiction

At Lake Wellness Center, we're proud to say we're not like other addiction treatment centers. Our proprietary treatment methods are designed to help you break the chains of addiction holding you back from a healthy, happy life. If you're searching for drug treatment centers near me, you've already taken to first steps. Contact us through the form we've provided, and find out for yourself what sets us, and you, apart.