Preventing Overdosing on Pills

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each day about 130 individuals in the U.S. suffer an opioid overdose death, including prescription pain medications and heroin. Overdosing on pills has been an ongoing problem for decades, especially after the introduction of drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin. Initially, the dangers associated with these opioids were not clearly understood, which only became crystalized in the past decade. Overdosing on pills or illicit drugs like heroin or fentanyl has doubled since 2010, with more than 72,000 deaths in 2017 alone.

While overdose deaths may result from the recreational misuse of opioids, a certain percentage of victims are overdosing on pills due to the powerfully addictive nature of the drugs, or by not heeding the warnings stated on the labels, especially regarding alcohol use. Combining alcohol and pills is an often lethal combination. When discussing how to prevent overdosing on pills, including opioids, benzodiazepines, or any prescription pills, understanding how alcohol impacts the effects of the drug is key.

How to Prevent Overdose

Accidental overdose kills thousands of people every year. In most cases, these fatal events can be avoided by following precautions. Some of the ways to prevent drug overdose include:

  • Read medication labels carefully and heed them. This means to only take the drugs as prescribed and to not take with other drugs unless the doctor has prescribed certain safe combinations. Keep the packaging for future reference to the drug precautions.
  • Refrain from drinking alcohol while using prescription drugs
  • If you have a history of overdose or addiction, inform your doctor
  • Take any unneeded drugs to the pharmacy for safe disposal. Do not stockpile
  • Inform the doctor if you suffer from depression or anxiety
  • Keep all prescription and over-the-counter drugs out of the reach of children

What Are the Signs of a Drug Overdose?

Prior to actual overdose there will be signs that someone has taken too many pills. The symptoms of excessive dosing include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nodding off, in and out of consciousness
  • Scratching due to itchy sensation
  • Muscles are slack
  • Speech is slurred

Opiate (OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco, Demerol) and benzodiazepine (Valium, Ativan, Xanax) overdose symptoms include:

  • Shallow breathing or no breathing
  • Unresponsive
  • Severe disorientation if conscious
  • Snoring or gurgling sounds
  • Vomiting
  • Pulse is slow and erratic
  • Skin is pale and clammy
  • Blue finger tips or lips

What To Do in the Event of a Drug Overdose

If you suspect someone has overdosed on pills, it is imperative to take quick action. This constitutes a medical emergency so do not panic. Instead, take the following action:

  • If the individual is not conscious and breathing is shallow or not present, the first thing to do is to firmly rub your knuckles over the sternum (chest bone) and shout their name. If they do not respond, immediately call 911.
  • While awaiting the first responders, employ CPR (rescue breathing) on the person. This entails tilting the head of the individual back, lifting the chin, and pinching the nostrils. With your mouth over theirs, give two quick breaths and one long breath. Repeat every five seconds.
  • When first responders arrive they will likely administer Naloxone to resuscitate the individual.

What is Naloxone?

The opioid reversal drug, naloxone (brand names Narcan and Evzio) has been instrumental in saving hundreds of lives. Police officers, paramedics, and fire fighters are increasingly trained and equipped with naloxone injectables or nasal sprays for a rapid reversal of respiratory failure. Naloxone is a safe and well-tolerated drug that may induce nausea, vomiting, sweating, or tremors. Compared to the alternative, certain death, these adverse effects are inconsequential.

Getting Treatment for Drug Addiction

Opioids and benzos can quickly lead to addiction. This is a problem that many individuals, who simply took the drugs as directed, have realized when attempting to discontinue using them. Due to highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, the hallmark sign of addiction or chemical dependency, the individual may choose to continue using the medication to avoid the painful experience of getting off the drug.

The best way to avoid accidental overdose is to seek treatment for addiction once it becomes evident that a problem has developed. The sooner one reaches out to get help the faster and easier it is to overcome an addiction to opioids or benzodiazepines.

DETOX

Initially, the individual will need to undergo the detox process, during which a drug-tapering schedule will help ease the individual off the drug safely. As withdrawal symptoms arise, the trained detox staff will intervene with various medications to ease pain and discomfort. Detox can take 7-14 days depending on the length of time using the medication and the usual dosing levels.

TREATMENT

After detox is completed, the client will begin to address the various behaviors and underlying psychological issues associated with the drug use and addiction. They may have acquired certain thought patterns that have resulted in reflexive drug use behaviors, such as “I can’t handle this stress,” “I won’t be able to handle the pain,” or “I cannot sleep without the drug.” Through cognitive behavioral therapy, this negative self-messaging is shifted towards positive and constructive self-messaging. In psychotherapy, the client will examine any unresolved emotional issues that may be contributing to the drug use. The therapist will guide the individual toward expressing emotions about the issue and toward healing.

Other aspects of treatment for drug addiction include learning how to cope better with stress or difficult emotions, how to communicate more productively, how to resolve conflicts better, and how to avoid relapse back to drug use.

Quest 2 Recovery Offers Comprehensive Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

Quest 2 Recovery is a leader in the field of addiction recovery. Getting the individual into treatment is only the first step on a recovery continuum that will include medical detox, addiction treatment for making fundamental changes in behaviors, learning recovery skills to reinforce sobriety, and aftercare services such as outpatient rehab and sober living housing. For more information about our program, please connect with Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.

Self Medicating Depression With Opiates

People are depressed in this day and age. The prevalence of depressive disorder in the United States hovers around 16 million, or about 6.7% of the adult population according to the National Association of Mental Illness. Women are nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression, and young adults have the highest rates of all the age groups, with 11% affected by depressive disorder.

Sadly, a large percentage, about 37%, of individuals who battle depression, do so without getting professional help from a doctor. Barriers to treatment might include feelings of shame or stigma associated with mental health disorders, a sense that it would signify weakness in character to ask for help, and cost constraints for individuals without adequate insurance coverage.

Among those who chose to tough it out, a tendency to self-medicate the debilitating symptoms of depression with drugs or alcohol is common. By using a substance, the individual hopes to numb the difficult feelings that accompany a depressive disorder, such as feelings of despair, sadness, shame, and guilt. Self medicating depression with opiates is one such solution, while others may favor alcohol or another drug.

When it comes to self medicating depression with opiates, or any drug, it can be a two way street. Some individuals may have become addicted to opiates, such as OxyContin or Vicodin, following an injury or surgery where these prescription pain medications were used long enough to create a dependence on them. In other cases, the individual may have become addicted to an illicit type of opiates, such as heroin. Addiction to opiates can lead to depression, especially for individuals who use opiates for chronic pain for a certain duration of time. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine reported that about 12% of patients who used opioid pain medications for 30 days or more developed depression. As for heroin use, the life-altering consequences of the drug can result in major depression.

Effects of Self Medicating Depression With Opiates

For those who have existing depression but seek the use of a substance to help hide the highly unpleasant symptoms of depression, they may lean on opiates. The reason for choosing an opiate, either a synthetic opioid or heroin, is due to the deep relaxation and sense of euphoria that the opiate provides. The individual virtually escapes from reality, meaning they escape from their depression symptoms.

Sadly, the effects of self medicating depression with opiates are short-lived. As the individual develops a higher tolerance to the drug, their need for more of it increases. Over time, opiate addiction can develop, creating long-term effects that are much worse than the initial struggle with depression alone.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

When someone begins self medicating depression with opiates they may initially enjoy the effects of the drug on their mental health. Opiates can alleviate pain, anxiety, and enhance relaxation in addition to masking the depression. However, once the brain’s neurotransmitters are impacted, and brain chemistry shifts to accommodate the influx of the drug’s dopamine response, the individual will begin to experience negative symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of opiate addiction include:

  • Needing to take higher or more frequent doses
  • Constipation
  • Impaired vision
  • Slowed thinking, cognitive issues
  • Ignoring obligations and responsibilities
  • Insomnia
  • Drug cravings
  • Memory impairment
  • Anoxia
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Doctor shopping
  • Obtaining the opiates off the street or Internet
  • When attempting to quit using the opiate withdrawal symptoms commence

These symptoms of the opiate abuse or addiction only compound the distress caused by the depression, creating a complex dual diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Depression and Opiate Addiction

When someone has been self-medicating depression by using opiates, or any substance, that has resulted in a substance addiction, they will need expert dual diagnosis treatment. Successfully treating someone with co-occurring disorders requires a specialized program with both psychiatric and addiction professionals available to treat both disorders simultaneously.

Depression treatment follows a conventional protocol of combining antidepressants with psychotherapy. The antidepressants aim to regulate brain chemistry, namely serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, but the effects take about a month to be noticeable. Many times, the initial prescription, selected from about 25 types of antidepressants, may need to be adjusted or switched to another antidepressant if the individual doesn’t experience relief by the 6-week point.

Psychotherapy is useful in treating both the depression and the addiction. Psychotherapy is a core treatment element for both disorders, helping individuals communicate their underlying emotional issues, past traumas, or difficult life circumstances with an objective therapist. In addition to assisting the client in processing these sources of pain, a psychotherapist can also point out a client’s distorted thought patterns—“I can’t function without Oxy, I can’t handle life without it—that lead to a reflexive behavioral response to reach for the drug. Using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) the therapist can suggest replacement thoughts—“I am feeling sad today so I will take a brisk walk and feel better”—leading to positive and more constructive behavioral results.

To further treat the addiction piece of the dual diagnosis, there are various additional treatment elements provided in a dual diagnosis program. These might include:

  • Addiction education. Classes that teach clients how addiction develops in the first place can be effective in deterring future use of drugs, as well as assisting in relapse prevention planning.
  • Experiential activities. Because a dual diagnosis impacts all aspects of one’s being it is helpful to augment therapy with holistic therapies such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, yoga, and acupuncture.
  • Medication-assisted treatment. Some individuals may benefit from a drug that is designed to reduce cravings and improve recovery outcomes. For opiate recovery, this might include buprenorphine, Suboxone, or methadone.

Individuals struggling with both depression and opiate addiction can greatly benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, going on to enjoy a fulfilling and productive life.

Quest 2 Recovery Offers Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Los Angeles

Quest 2 Recovery is unique among addiction treatment providers. At Quest 2 Recovery, we have created a comfortable, intimate home setting for individuals struggling with depression and a co-occurring substance use disorder, including opiate addiction. Our dual diagnosis program is holistic in scope, treating all aspects of the client—mind, body, and spirit. Situated in a serene location, Quest 2 Recovery offers new hope to those who need a quiet respite from the stressors of daily life in which to heal and restore overall wellness. For more information about the program, please contact Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.