Abusing prescription drugs.

By David Joel Miller.

Almost 24 million Americans abuse prescription medication each year.

The majority (87%) of the people who get Rx’s use the meds responsible. The abuse is

Drug Abuse

Abuse of Prescription Drugs.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

the result of misuse by the other 13%. Many people underestimate the risks involved in using prescription drug incorrectly.

Abuse of a prescription drug can result in addiction, permanent health damage, or even death.

Just because you get your drugs with a prescription doesn’t make them safe, particularly when you don’t use them as prescribed.

What meds are abused?

The national survey on drug use and health tracks the abuse of four types of prescription medication. Besides prescription pain meds many other prescriptions meds get abused. The other big abuse culprits? Tranquilizers (5.7 million) and RX stimulants (4.8 million, and sedatives (1.4 million.) Many other medications can be misused. Prescriptions don’t work well when you take them some days and not others. I’ve learned in working with mental health clients not task them if they are taking their meds. They almost always say yes. If I asked them how many days, they took their meds last week, I get answers like two or three days. Most prescriptions will be effective if you take them sporadically. You can’t make up for missed doses by taking extra on other days.

Pain medication abuse.

One-third of the US adult population, almost 92 million people, use prescription pain meds. Of those 92 million about 11.5 million abused their prescription pain meds. The majority of people (63.4%) who abuse prescription pain medication do so because of physical pain. Given the current publicity the people abusing prescription opiates, this is significant. The main reason people with a chronic pain condition abuse meds is because they are still in pain.

Approximately 40% abuse prescription pain meds for mental or emotional reasons, to relax, to sleep, to get high or to simply see what it would be like to experiment with the drug. I think it’s important to note that much of the high-powered opiates being abuse are being manufactured or brought into the US illegally.

Even over-the-counter pain meds, while not included in many studies, are subject to abuse. People with emotional pain may experience this as pain in the body. Over-the-counter pain meds are not effective for treating depression or anxiety. Taking excessive amounts of over-the-counter pain medications can result in damage to your liver or kidney.

Abuse of prescription tranquilizers.

About one-third of the people prescribed tranquilizers abuse them. Of those abusing tranquilizers, two-thirds were using them for the reasons they have been prescribed but not in the way the doctor had prescribed them. The remaining one-third of abusers do so for emotional or recreational reasons.

A very dangerous way of abusing tranquilizers is to take them while consuming alcohol. This combination can result in death.

Abuse of prescription stimulants.

The primary legal use of these medications is to treat ADHD. About 30% of those taking prescription stimulant medications abuse them. Weight loss, to help study, or to get high are some of the reasons people reported abusing prescription stimulants.

What are some of the ways prescription meds are abused?

  1. Taking meds prescribed to someone else.
  2. Taking more pills or taking them more often than the doctor prescribed.
  3. Using prescription meds in a way other than the way the doctor recommended.

Over the counter medications were not included in the government’s survey of drug misuse despite the serious health consequences of abusing over-the-counter medications. I’ve tried to highlight some of the issues involved in abusing over-the-counter meds in the paragraphs above.

For more on this issue see SAMHSA report at https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3210/ShortReport-3210.html

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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One preventable disease killing seniors up 1100%

By David Joel Miller.

One disease has resulted in an 11 fold increase in accidental deaths among seniors.

Elderly

Elderly
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

When we think of the illnesses plaguing seniors we tend to think of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, diseases that have long been associated with the process of growing old. As the population of the elderly, and almost-elderly, has risen, one disease has taken off in unprecedented numbers.

Drug use and abuse among seniors are out of control.

Past generations left drug use and abuse to the young people. As people age across the lifespan, they tended to give up bad habits and settle down to more responsible lives. The current generation of aged has pioneered a new trend in this as in so many other areas. Seniors are abusing more drugs and dying as a result of that abuse at alarming rates. This is a trend that is not likely to abate any time soon.

Seniors deaths from accidental drug overdoses are rising rapidly.

Government statistics report large and rising rates of drug use among seniors. The “baby boomer” – “old hippy” age group has held onto their drugs of choice while adding to the drugs they use. Large studies take time to complete but the more seniors enter the statistics the more startling the trend becomes. Some of these drug-related deaths are obvious, some are more hidden.

Being an almost-senior puts you at risk also.

CDC reported recently that 12,000 baby boomers in the age range 45 to 64 died in one year (2013) from accidental drug overdoses. That is more than the total number of deaths from car accidents, influenza and pneumonia combined.

Seniors have held onto their drug of choice longer than past generations.

Many baby boomers have held onto their drug of choice as they have aged. Up to 50% of all hospital emergency room admissions of senior citizens is the result of an overdose of drugs and or alcohol. In the year 2015 seniors age 60 to 65 are three times more likely to be using illicit drugs that those who were in that age group in the year 2000. Old hippies are still getting high, sometimes with life-threatening consequences.

Prescription drug deaths predominate.

Just because the drug comes from the doctor or pharmacy does not make it safe. More and more drug abusers, particularly seniors, are moving from questionable street drugs to prescription medications as their drug of choice.

Two groups of drugs account for the bulk of these drug overdoses, painkillers, and anti-anxiety drugs. Overdoses can be the result of people taking the medication and then before that med has time to act taking more. Certainly, confusion and forgetting what was taken can play a role. Still, the overwhelming conclusion is that many of these drug overdoses deaths in seniors are the result of intentional abuse rather than accidental overdose. Recreational use of these drugs by seniors is the dominant problem.

Some of these overdose deaths come from the cumulative effects of multiple drugs take together. One study found that among seniors, those taking eight or more prescribed medications had a 100% chance that two of them were interacting and causing an unintended result.  It is recommended that anyone taking medications carry a list of those medications with them and let their treating professions see what they are taking. It also helps to get all your prescriptions filled at one pharmacy. That list should include over the counter and street drugs also. Your doctor and pharmacist need to know about all the drugs you take.

Sometimes suicide is the reason for senior drug overdose deaths.

It seems possible that some of these reported “accidental” drug overdoses are in fact deliberate. We know that older people have increased rates of suicide attempts. The older a person gets the more the chances that they will attempt suicide. Before we alibi this as somehow related to incurable diseases or right to die issues, we need to also consider the way in which seniors are routinely hidden away and marginalized. Society’s discard of the elderly has resulted in a great national resource that is being wasted as the elderly have progressively less of a role in society.

Accepting high rates of addiction, alcoholism, and suicide among the elderly as inevitable diminishes us all. Loss of hope fuels drug use, as well as suicidal thinking at all ages and particularly so as the years, add up.

For the record drugs as a way to end one’s life is neither a reliable or painless alternative in many cases.

Alcohol is the lubricant that facilities senior drug abuse.

A large proportion of drug overdoses at all ages are the direct result of having alcohol in the bloodstream. One study reported that binge drinkers are fifty-five times more likely to attempt suicide. Many drug overdose deaths are facilitated by having alcohol in the bloodstream.

V. A. reported that half of their hospital beds are attributable to alcohol-related health problems. Among the seniors, one drink per day may be way too much given the other medications and health-related problems.

As we age the percentage of water in our bodies tends to decline. Less water results in a higher blood alcohol content. With age, the blood flow through the liver declines. If you drink the same amount each day, at age 90 your blood alcohol will be 50% higher than it was at 20. The amount of alcohol that used to be tolerable now results in intoxication.

Alcohol abuse by seniors often goes unrecognized, the symptoms attributed to dementia. Alcohol abuse makes the symptoms of cognitive decline worse.

As little as one drink per day results in an 800% increase in the rate of serious falls.

Growing need for senior-specific drug treatment.

There is a rapidly growing need for drug treatment for seniors. Treatment programs are having to modify themselves to meet this need. Seniors often abuse different drugs than younger people. They have been abusing drugs longer and have more health problems as a result. They have mobility issues, can’t get into bunk beds or may need the program to be wheelchair or handicap accessible.

Abuse of drugs and alcohol by seniors is not something we should accept. If you or someone you know has a problem with substances, please talk with your doctor or seek out professional help. Abusing substances reduces the quality of life at any age and the older we get the more that drug will steal away what is left of your life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

When Mindfulness makes you feel worse – about pain.

By David Joel Miller.

What are you doing to avoid feeling pain?

avoiding pain

Feeling Emotions – Avoiding pain

The question came up in a discussion of mindfulness about people who feel unable to be mindful, to meditate, because every time they do they become overwhelmed by extreme pain.

What do you do if you would like to use some of these introspective self-examinations approaches but when you stop what you are doing, even for a moment, you begin to suffer from painful memories of the past?

Here is the dilemma.  I am not one to think that to have a happy life we need to excavate every trauma and pain you have experienced. I do in fact see times when cross-examining clients about past trauma can be harmful. The last thing I want to do in therapy is to re-traumatize someone who is suffering. But there is value to cleaning out the wreckage of the past.

One recovery saying that often rings true is “we are only as sick as our secrets.” Lots of dysfunctional behavior, substance abuse, excessive spending, sexual addictions and other compulsions are ways of trying to avoid having to feel those feelings which are so unpleasant.

Depression, PTSD, anxiety and a whole host of mental and emotional problems are also maintained by wounds from the past that have not healed.

We know that if you are feeling physical pain, just ignoring that pain is not a good idea. Athletes can sustain long-term injuries if they do not listen to their body and stop playing when they are in pain.

My take on this is that if when you try to meditate or be mindful and all that comes up is an overwhelming pain, you need to seek professional help to process and work through that pain. Otherwise, you are at high risk to keep running from the pain until one day your escape mechanism stops working.

Plenty of alcoholics and addicts will tell you that one day their drug of choice stopped working. Any effort to deny the pain can only work for so long and then eventually you will have to face the problem you have been running from.

Drugs and alcohol are common ways of trying to escape feelings but there are others. Using drugs in this way is a very dangerous habit. The relief from the pain is short-lived. When the drugs wear off the pain returns, only now it feels even more overwhelming. So you use again. The intervals between uses get shorter and the amount you need to use gets larger and there you are one day at you upper limit and still feeling the emotional pain.

Most of us are not good at reading our body sensations. We humans often confuse thirst and hunger, resulting in consuming excess calories and weight gain. We also confuse physical and emotional pain. Physical pain may be managed by medication but emotional pain, most of the time you need to feel it, in a safe environment, in order to heal it.

pill abuse

America is currently facing an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

One reason for this abuse is that people are using prescription pain medications, designed to treat physical pain, for treating emotional pain. The short-term relief results in long-term addiction. If you describe your pain to the doctor as all over in your body he may prescribe medication. If you tell the truth that you have felt this way since you lost your job or partner, the prescription will be some counseling.

The technical term for this is prescription drug abuse. It is easy to get addicted. Pills are quick and easy. They work for a while, then the pills create other problems like addiction. Counseling takes time but it helps you recover.

Mindfulness is meant to help with this, but it can be hard to just sit and stay with a pain for a while and really find out what this pain is all about. Sometimes we need to work on this emotional pain a little at a time.

I have heard this approach to reducing emotional pain described as “peeling the feelings onion.” You peel off a little, tell your helper about what you are feeling and why, then you cry. When the crying is done go back to the peeling. Repeat until all the pain is peeled away.

If you find that when you are alone or you try to clear your mind the only things that race in are those old memories of pain and hurt then you need to start healing those old wounds.

We humans have a bad habit of continuing to hold onto negative emotions long after those emotions have had any benefit. Not being able to release stress or regret can keep the torture of the past alive long after the incident should have been forgotten.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.