FAQ

Prescription Drug FAQ

Answers to commonly asked questions about substance abuse and treatment.

Opioids usually come in pill form and are prescribed to reduce pain. Medical doctors and dentists prescribe them after surgery or to help patients with severe pain or pain that lasts a long time. When opioids are taken as prescribed by a medical professional, they are relatively safe and can reduce pain effectively. However, dependence and addiction are still potential risks when taking prescription opioids. These risks increase when these drugs are abused. Painkillers are one of the most commonly abused drugs by teens, after tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.

Listed below are common types of opioids:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone

It isn’t always easy to know if you or someone you care about are dependent on alcohol or drugs. Many people don’t believe they’re addicted even after it’s clear to those around them, and there is no single determining criteria. Addiction is a combination of factors, and only a trained counselor can determine if someone is alcohol- or drug-dependent.

Addiction counselors look for behavior patterns that point to substance abuse. Patterns typically include:

  • Negative consequences of alcohol or drug use
  • An inability to quit or control alcohol or drug use
  • Increasing amounts and/or frequency of use of alcohol or drugs

Detox is a process of managing the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal. Detox may be medically managed in an inpatient facility or hospital. It may also occur on an outpatient basis. Detox is a short-term process, usually lasting less than a week.

Treatment addresses the biological, psychological, and social aspects of addiction. It should last longer than detox. Research tells us that most addicted people need at least three months in treatment to really reduce or stop their drug use and that longer treatment times result in better outcomes.

Depending on the type of treatment, detox may be the first step in a drug treatment program. But detox alone with no follow up is not treatment.

Detox treats withdrawal. Treatment treats addiction. Treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.

Twelve Step support groups are a form of peer support. They are the most widely available mutual support groups for people trying to break the cycle of addiction and those in recovery. In addition there are other peer support options including: Women for Sobriety (WFS), SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), and Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves (SOS).

Although they are not professional treatment, Twelve Step groups can complement and extend the effects of professional treatment.

Professional treatment involves a structured program over time that includes credentialed counseling for substance abuse which is often accompanied by closely supervised medication. This can occur in a treatment facility for in-patient or out-patient clients. Out-patient treatment can also be received in a variety of community based locations.

Prescription opioids and heroin affect the brain and body very similarly. Therefore, people who misuse or become addicted to prescription pain relievers may also develop problems with heroin. In interviews, people who switched from painkillers to heroin said they made the transition because painkillers became unavailable, because heroin is cheaper, and because they were desperate for relief from opiate withdrawal.

There is evidence that, as prescription painkillers become less freely available, heroin use is increasing. There has been a worrying rise in heroin deaths over the last few years. Nationally, heroin-related overdose deaths have increased by 425% since 2010.

We encourage Pennsylvanians to take steps to prevent non-medical use of prescription painkillers and, in so doing, to break the connection between heroin and prescription painkillers. Together, we can stop opioid addiction before it starts.

Not everyone who uses prescription painkillers does or will use heroin. However, a survey of opioid users in Philadelphia indicated that more than half of the respondents reported using pills before heroin.

In interviews, people who switched from painkillers to heroin said they made the transition because painkillers became unavailable, because heroin is cheaper, and because they were desperate for relief from opiate withdrawal.

There is evidence that, as prescription painkillers become less freely available, heroin use is increasing. There has been a worrying rise in heroin deaths over the last few years. Nationally, heroin-related overdose deaths have increased by 425% since 2010.

We encourage Pennsylvanians to take steps to prevent non-medical use of prescription painkillers and, in so doing, to break the connection between heroin and prescription painkillers. Together, we can stop opioid addiction before it starts.

All medications carry risks. Pain medications that contain synthetic opiates (also known as opioids) are no exception.

If you are prescribed opioid medications by your doctor, thoroughly discuss the risks and benefits of the medication. Use the medication only as prescribed and do not share it. This significantly reduces the likelihood that you will develop an addiction.