You are wondering whether or not your loved one has an addiction problem. Substance abuse treatment professionals are always looking for the patterns of opioid use and abuse that will point them toward newer and better methods of treating addiction. If you are coping with a loved one’s substance abuse in Savannah GA, then you will be interested to know of a recent study that proved intermittent pain pill use can be more dangerous than chronic pain pill addiction.
Intermittent pain pill use for the purpose of the study described those who did not take the medication regularly, and in fact took less than 50 mg of pain medication per day. Chronic opioid users were those who had prescriptions for pain medication written or renewed to cover at least 90 days of medication.
This study was conducted in Washington State and was reported in the August 2015 issue of Medical Care journal. Researchers wanted to determine if opioid guidelines put into effect in that state back in 2007 were effective or not. Several Washington-based researchers collaborated to study the percentages of overdoses associated with either chronic opioid use or from methadone.
They found cases to study by reviewing filled prescriptions for opioids paid for by Medicaid between April 2006 and December 2010 as well as emergency department claims for treatment of opioid overdose likewise paid by Medicaid. Whenever they found a person who had both types of claims, they were included in the study. If that person was taking doses in excess of 120 mg per day, the researchers’ interest perked up to an even higher level.
You’ll want to know, as the person who is coping with a loved one’s substance abuse in Savannah GA, participates in a state-wide prescription drug monitoring program, and it would be easy to determine if your loved one fell into that category. We’ll have more on that later.
Data for Coping with a Loved One’s Substance Abuse in Savannah GA
The results were surprising. The researchers discovered that overdoses occurred more often among people taking smaller doses of pain pills for intermittent periods of less than 90 days. If you’re worried and coping with a loved one’s substance abuse in Savannah GA, you’re asking: How could that possibly be?
Some people get into trouble with addiction because they slowly build up a tolerance. They need more and more of their pain pills just to maintain the same effect as the original dose. So they go doctor shopping, visiting several medical or dental offices in order to get multiple prescriptions. But the study showed people also get into trouble because they don’t take a lot of medication and they don’t take it often. They underestimate the effect of the medication on them, or they don’t take it properly.
It’s easy to understand how taking increasingly higher doses can send a person to the emergency department. But it’s even scarier to be coping with a loved one’s substance abuse in Savannah GA, if the person gets into trouble from minimal or intermittent use. That’s what the researchers discovered was happening.
Of the patients who overdosed on opioids excluding methadone, only 44 percent of them used prescription opioid medication chronically, as defined above. Approximately 28 percent of the non-methadone patients overdosed while taking lower doses of pain pills, less than 50 mg per day. But a whopping 48 percent of them were also taking hypnotic sleep medications. In fact, the percentage of people taking sleep aids was the same in both the methadone and non-methadone groups.
What Does This Data Mean For You?
It’s difficult living with a loved one’s substance abuse, in Savannah, GA, or anywhere. This study means that the person in your family who is taking prescription pain medication could fall victim to an overdose even if they’re taking less than 50 mg per day. We’ll help you with the math to figure out how the various doses add up.
Many pain pill prescriptions are written so that the patient can take one or two every four to six hours for pain as needed. So if the doctor writes for 10 mg Percocet, for example, that person has the doctor’s permission to take up to 20 mg at a time and to take it as often as every four hours. That could mean six 20 mg doses per day or 120 mg. Even if the doctor writes for just 5 mg tablets, the person could take atotal prescribed amount of 60 mg per day.
If you’re coping with a loved one’s substance abuse in Savannah GA, or if you have a family member who is simply taking his pain pills and liking them a little too much, he is in danger if he is taking one 7.5 mg tablet four times per day, because he’s at 30 mg daily. And the researchers discovered that almost half of the patients who ended up in the emergency room fit that profile.
Why are those patients at such a greater risk? It could be a variety of factors. First, they do not know the strength and danger of the medication they’re taking. Maybe they take it faithfully, but then comes the time when they forget they’ve taken their dose—so they take it again.
Some people who have prescriptions for pain medication might tell the doctor they can’t sleep because they’re so worried about missing work while they recover from their painful injury. So the faithful family doctor simply writes yet another prescription—an order for something like Ambien or Lunesta so the person can get their sleep, or they get a benzodiazepine for anxiety. Mixing opioids and these drugs can be a dangerous cocktail of not taken as prescribed.
In Washington State, where this study took place, the opioid prescription guidelines established in 2007 were reviewed and rewritten in 2010 and again in 2015. If you’re coping with a loved one’s substance abuse in Savannah GA, know that Georgia began tracking such prescriptions since the summer of 2013. If you suspect the worse, you can ask your family doctor if they’re checked how many prescriptions your loved one has filled. The doctor won’t be able to discuss the results with you without a written release, but they can look into it.
In the meantime, continue monitoring how your loved one takes their pain medication. Make certain they do not accidentally take double doses. Do not allow them to drink alcohol or take sedative hypnotic sleep medications at the same time. Anxiety medication poses yet another danger, although those types of medications were not included in the Washington study. Hopefully you can keep your loved one safe until he no longer needs prescription opioid medication.
If the person you’re worried about continues to take pain pills or complains that the doctor is refusing to write additional prescriptions, don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions. Call your local methadone treatment center and talk to someone who can give you some guidance.