This article was found at Priority Health.com.
If you use some prescription medications long-term, you can become physically dependent on them. A person who is dependent on a medication has a physical need to take it in order to function.
Signs & Symptoms
People who are physically dependent usually need progressively higher doses of a medication in order for it to maintain its effect. This condition is called drug tolerance. If the medication is suddenly reduced or stopped, it causes withdrawal symptoms, which can include:
- Body aches
Who's at Risk?
There are addictive and non-addictive medications that can cause physical dependency. Three kinds of prescription medications most often associated with medication dependency are:
- Opioids (narcotics), prescribed to treat pain
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
- Stimulants, prescribed for the sleep disorder narcolepsy and to treat attention deficit hyper
- activity disorder (ADHD)
Being physically dependent on a medication doesn't necessarily mean you're addicted to it. In fact, people often confuse dependency with addiction, which is a compulsive, uncontrollable use of drugs despite the harm they may cause.
If you're taking a medication that results in physical dependency, do not stop taking it suddenly or on your own. When it's time to discontinue or change your medication, your doctor will advise you on how to reduce your dosage gradually. This helps your body adjust so you can avoid symptoms of withdrawal.
If you're taking an addictive medication such as a painkiller, follow your doctor's instructions exactly on how to take it. He or she knows how much medication to prescribe for you so that you'll get relief without becoming addicted.
Priority Health members can check here for information on getting substance abuse assistance.
What You Can Do
- See your doctor regularly. Your doctor will monitor you to adjust dosages or change medications as needed. Some medications need to be stopped or changed so that you don't become addicted.
- Tell your doctor how medications affect you, physically and emotionally, especially during the first few days while your body adjusts.
- Read all instructions from the pharmacy carefully. Pay attention to any other medications or activities you should avoid. If there's anything you don't understand, ask your pharmacist about it.
- Don't take other peoples' prescriptions and don't share your own. These are specifically prescribed and may be harmful to someone else. It's also illegal to give prescription medication to someone it's not prescribed for.