Addicted to prescription meds?


Addicted to prescription meds?


your avatar   Renae, 29-year-old woman

I am a 29 year-old female. As far as my personal life goes, I am married and have one daughter who is 8 years old. I have experimented with drugs in my teen years, but quit them when I gave birth to my daughter and disapprove of them because they are illegal. I am a smoker and am very addicted to cigarettes. I don't have a problem with alcohol simply because I can't stand the taste of it. I do not work and basically stay home most of the week. My life on the whole is pretty boring.

I have had a variety of health problems that have been treated with pain medicine and other types of medicine that I think I may be addicted to. I've had 2 cesarean sections, my gallbladder removed, a tubal pregnancy, and have a few times been in therapy for depression. My top choices of medicine are Lortab or Tylenol with Codiene and Xanax, but I'll take almost any medication that says it may cause drowsiness (including Tylenol PM or Benadryl). When I had the trouble with my gallbladder, it took about a year for the doctors to diagnose the pain in my lower back as gallstones, so I was taking Codeine off and on for a year. Then, I was given Lortab after both c-sections, after my tubal, and subsequently 3 or 4 times for tooth pain (most recently last week). I was given Xanax 3 years ago to help me sleep when my youngest daughter passed away due to SIDS. I still have about 10 of them left. I have no medical insurance at the current time and no way to get anymore Xanax. But, I recently went to the ER for a migraine that lasted all weekend and was given Lortab for the pain. They gave me 15 of them and I have 3 left.

My problem is how do I know if I am really addicted to these meds? I know I like the way Codeine makes me feel. It gives me a feeling like I'm high, but I can still control myself (unlike when I used to smoke marijuana and could not control my actions very well). I get very stressed when I know I'm almost out of medicine. I tend to think it's ok for me to take all this medicine because it is not illegal and it WAS prescribed to me. However, I have on occasion gotten medicine from friends.

Due to my smoking, I get bronchitis fairly often and I can down a big bottle of cough syrup with Codeine in it in a week flat... I'll take it when I'm coughing, when I'm grumpy, when I'm tired (it gives me energy), etc. I DO NOT go to the ER just to get medicine, I don't want you to think that, but I'm always a little glad when I get sick and I know that I'll get Codeine. It just makes my day so much better. I don't have insurance for any type of drug programs.

I thought about telling doctors to not give me Codeine in my treatment plans when I do end up sick, but how am I supposed to say "don't give me the one medicine I really, really want?" Is there a way to get myself to not like it so much on my own? How do I know that I'm really addicted to it? I only use it when it's around, I don't look for drug dealers or anything like that. I feel like since I don't go out and buy the drugs off the street that it's perfectly fine. Do I need help with this? If so, where do I go?


    Thomas H. Schear,

You may not have to look for a drug dealer or buy your drugs off the street but the way you describe your use you indeed may be addicted. At the very least, you are making lifestyle choices that may someday lead you to that drug dealer or street drug.

I have several causes for concern. Your health problems from the caesareans to the tubule pregnancy may have started you on this road as you found the drugs prescribed to you took away the pain. Add to this the treatment for depression, a sense of boredom that can be an offshoot of the depression, and losing a child due to SIDS all suggest ongoing grief and loss issues that you have not resolved.

Additionally you keep tabs on how much drugs you have left and of what kind, and you create circumstances (i.e. smoking leading bronchitis) that put you in a position where you can gain access to your drugs.

The criteria for dependency are as follows:

  1. Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you don't use your drug? Withdrawal symptoms can include being irritable, depressed, more easily angered, etc. Or do you need to use more now than you did in the past to get the same or desired effect.
  2. Do you neglect social, occupational or family obligations due to your use?
  3. Do you take a great deal of time planning, using and recovering from your use?
  4. Do you use more than you intended or at times that you had not intended?
  5. Have you made attempts to abstain or cut back but failed?
  6. Have you done something like drive a car, operate equipment, or engage in other potentially dangerous activities while under the influence?
  7. Do you experience physical and/or psychological problems as a result of your use?

If you can say YES to four of the seven according to the DSM-IV you are dependent.

You are making choices about your lifestyle that may have a great impact over the next few years. You are only 29 years old and it would be much easier to begin to make different choices now than when you have lost your marriage and other support systems. Under the influence, whether you are addicted or not, you can cause an accident were you and your daughter get hurt or worse. This would leave you with another loss to use over.

I would suggest that you deal with two perhaps three things at the same time. First, the problem with pain from the past surgeries if that is still an issue. Interestingly, pain medication can actually cause pain (they don' t know why) if they are used in great quantities for a period of time. Many patients find that once they stop taking the medication the pain goes away. Second, you have issues of depression and grief/loss to deal with. Finally, you need to have a face-to-face assessment of your substance use. You must begin to use your doctor as a resource to figure these things out rather than as a your drug pusher. Go to your doctor a come clean and get help.

Thomas H Schear

This question was answered by Thomas H Schear. Dr. Schear has over 20 years experience as a front line counselor, clinical supervisor, program director and college instructor. Currently he provides online and telephone counseling service as well as home-study and online course for the helping professional from his website.For more information visit:


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