In a recent entry, we looked back to some previous blog entries that provide details about the dangers of different kinds of drugs. Last time out, we considered cocaine, PCP, and opioids. Of course, those are far from the only drugs that can lead to a substance use disorder. In this entry, we will highlight a few more—including a common cough suppressant, a class of drugs frequently prescribed to treat anxiety, and a prevalent sleep aid.
As is true with many different drugs, codeine starts to become more problematic as a user develops a tolerance to it. Building up a tolerance for the drug means that you have to take ever-increasing amounts of it in order to get the same results.
As the amount of ingested codeine increases, so does the risk. Indeed, at high doses codeine can lead to respiratory failure, coma, or even death. All of these dangers are heightened if the user is also taking other drugs like additional opioids and/or alcohol.
Now, you may be scratching your head trying to figure out why anyone would be tempted to take too much of a cough suppressant. Sure, they sometimes taste reasonably good, but not good enough to risk, say, falling into a coma. So what gives?
That is a fair question and the answer has to do with the sense of relaxation—or even euphoria—that the drug can provide. A person can easily come to enjoy those pleasant, relaxing feelings and seek to enhance them by taking the drug in larger doses or long after the prescription ends. To procure more of the drug, they may attempt to get prescriptions from multiple physicians or even buy the drug illegally.
As tolerance increases, a person may seek a stronger drug. That is how codeine becomes a gateway drug and can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
Benzodiazepines work by reducing the amount of activity in the brain. If you think about the last time you were agitated or anxious, you might remember a sense that your thoughts were racing and you couldn’t slow them down. Benzos act as central nervous system depressants (in this case, “depressant” means a type of drug that slows activity, not one that makes you feel depressed). …
It might seem ridiculous to suggest that something that provides feelings of calm can have a downside. But for some people, that wonderful feeling can tempt them to misuse benzos in dangerous ways. The desire to hang on to—or intensify—those feelings of calm can lead to poor decisions. And those poor decisions can quickly lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
Some of the psychological symptoms of a substance use disorder are examples of these poor decisions. For example, a person who wants to keep taking a benzo after their prescription has run out has to figure out a way to maintain a supply. They might try a number of different ways to make sure they don’t run out of the drug, including:
- Doctor shopping: Making appointments with multiple doctors in the hope that you can get multiple prescriptions.
- Forging prescriptions: Stealing a prescription pad requires less legwork than doctor shopping so some people attempt to forge their own prescriptions.
Ambien can be a true boon to someone for whom insomnia has become a way of life. Getting some much needed rest can allow you to reset, reevaluate, and restart your life without the terrible weight of exhaustion.
But it is, unfortunately, easy for things to go wrong—especially if you deviate from your doctor or pharmacist’s strict instructions for use of Ambien. Here’s a sketch of how quickly you can trade chronic insomnia for a substance use disorder:
- You decide to take a little more than the prescribed dose in the hope of a deeper or longer period of sleep. …
- If you find a way to acquire a larger or ongoing supply of the drug, you might start taking more and more of the drug—especially if you have grown to like the hypnotic high Ambien can provide.
- You might start taking Ambien in combination with other drugs or alcohol in the pursuit of new, exciting experiences.
Many Different Drugs, One Consistent Message
This series of blog entries has already brought quite a number of drugs and their dangers into focus. Even so, there are plenty more drugs to consider in future entries.
But no matter how many different drugs we write about, one key message applies to each and every one of them. If you are in the grips of a substance use disorder, you need to seek out treatment right now.
At Bel Aire Recovery Center in Kansas, we offer personalized treatment that includes medically supervised detoxification, a rehabilitation program that provides strategies for maintaining your sobriety (and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders), and a continuum of care designed to support you in the early days of your recovery journey. When you are ready to reclaim your sobriety, we are ready to help.