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Montana Prescription Drug Addiction

The Flathead Beacon reports that Montana has the third highest rate of prescription painkiller abuse in the demographic of teenagers, ages 12 to 17 years old. Montana prescription drug addiction claims the lives of 300 residents every year. This is often occurs when people who have a prescription to painkillers, offer their friends or relatives the medication. While Montana has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in place, it does not have mandatory participation for prescribers. In fact, in the New Policy Report Card of Promising Strategies to Help Curb Prescription Drug Abuse, Montana only scored a five out of a possible ten points. Thus, it still has a long way to go in instituting programs that help to reduce Montana prescription drug addiction by way of statewide policy changes. Montana prescription drug addiction from 2011 to 2013 accounted for 369 deaths and 7200 admissions in the state, according to the Montana Department of Justice. Painkillers may currently be the prescription drug that holds the most concern in Montana, but sedatives and stimulants might also become a problem if left unaddressed.

The Problem with Painkillers

Painkillers are prescribed under the brand names, Vicodin and OxyContin. They work to cause a numbing effect, which generates a euphoric feeling afterwards. This pleasurable high is what most individuals seek when they start taking prescription drugs from a relative or friend. They do not understand the dangers that are associated with taking a prescription painkiller, which has a similar effect on the brain as heroin. If abused, it can be very addictive, and even deadly. However, since most teenagers see them being prescribed to their family members and friends, they do not make the connection between painkillers and heroin. In reality, these drugs are both listed under the same class of drugs: opioids. When abused, these drugs can depress the respiratory system and lead to coma, and even death. Eventually, someone who is addicted to opioids such as Oxycontin, can end up not having access or the necessary funds for the drug. As a result, they move on to heroin. Heroin is a similar drug that is considerably cheaper, and much easier to acquire on the streets. At this current time, Montana does not have a large heroin problem, but there is evidence that heroin abuse is increasing and it could be because people taking prescription painkillers are now moving on to heroin.
Sedatives Are Another Hidden Danger

Opioids may be getting the most attention in Montana, but sedatives are not far behind. In the silent epidemic of Montana prescription drug addiction, sedatives are typically the second preferred drug to be abused. These come under brand names such as Ambien or Xanax, and are used for multiple purposes, especially their calming effects. Xanax is a drug formulated to treat people with panic attacks and anxiety. Ambien and Lunesta are used to help people sleep at night. These drugs are in Schedule IV, making them much easier to obtain than painkillers, which are Schedule II drugs. These Schedule IV drugs are not regulated as heavily, and therefore, when a person is unable to find painkillers, they might take a sedative instead. Sedatives can also have serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms. They can cause problems with memory and sleeping, and can also induce muscle control problems, vomiting, and even double-vision. Withdrawal can leave a person feeling depressed and suicidal.

Stimulants Are Also a Potential Danger

It is important not to rule out Adderall and Ritalin just because they are prescribed to children with ADHD. They are powerful stimulants, and people who enjoy the rush they get when taking crack/cocaine, often find these medications attractive. However, similar to crack/cocaine, these drugs can also cause heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular problems when abused. Panic attacks and seizures can also occur during withdrawal, requiring some medical supervision when detoxing.

Getting Help for Montana Prescription Drug Addiction

No matter the type of prescription drug, there is a way to manage the symptoms of withdrawal. Since some symptoms can be life-threatening, supervision will be needed during this time. For opioids, there is a medical detox available for people who might be experiencing an overdose of heroin or painkillers, which can stop this process in its tracks and help the person detox. However, there are no medical detoxes for sedatives and stimulants, but these symptoms must be managed until the substance clears the system. In the case of stimulants, this may require slow “tapering” of the substance so that a person does not end up suffering a panic attack or seizure. If they do experience a seizure, there is anti-seizure medication that can be used to help with these symptoms. People who are addicted to sedatives will need to be monitored for depression and suicidal tendencies when they go into withdrawal. They can be prescribed anti-depressants to help manage those symptoms, but again, they will need to wait out the final detoxing until the medication leaves the system.

Rehabilitation Is Necessary, Even for Montana Prescription Drug Addiction

It may seem like a prescription drug problem does not require rehabilitation because of the false perception that these are not “real, hard, drugs.”  In reality, the addiction mechanism is the same for heroin as it is for painkillers, and requires the same type of rehabilitation afterwards. People addicted to opioids, stimulants, or sedatives will need to go to substance abuse meetings and attend counseling sessions with their peers or individually. These individuals will need to learn the triggers that caused their addiction, and must find new behaviors for past stressor through cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is important for people to become educated on the dangers of Montana prescription drug addiction.

Find an addiction specialist to get information on Montana prescription drug addiction. At the very least, you can help someone understand that it is possible to become addicted to prescription drugs, and you may end up saving their life or your very own.