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Self-Medicating Anxiety 101: Prescription Drugs

Pam hurriedly finished up her work so she could take lunch early. She didn’t want to be late to her appointment. Seeing the doctor was too important. Seeing the doctor meant getting a refill on her pain mediation, which was absolutely essential. Before she left, she reminded her co-worker of the appointment and explained she’d be back as soon as she could.

Pam made sure to spread out her doctor’s appointments, choosing early morning, evening, and weekend appointments so no one got suspeicous of how many she had. Pam didn’t have one doctor; she had three. One of the doctors thought she was reducing her pain medication. Before long, she’d need to stop seeing him, allowing thim to think she didn’t need the medication anymore. Then she’d have to find someone new to replace him, but she was getting pretty good at that. The doctors she used were kept carefully segregated from one another so Pam could continue to get what she needed, in the quantities she needed, without having to explain or argue. She was, of course, willing to lie.

She rarely had to lie to this doctor anymore. Her visits were perfunctory, just so the doctor could show he’d seen her before givng her a refill. A box checked off, a requirement filled along with the prescription, and Pam was on her way. She’d come up with this system when she’d started to use her medication at a much faster rate than prescribed. Pam found that the time-release tablets she’d been given were much more effective if she crushed them up, disturbing the outer coating and allowing the drug to enter her system rapidly. It took effect more quickly, but that effect then wore off more quickly, requiring more drugs. Good thing there were more doctors willing to prescribe them.

There was a time when Pam had been a little in awe of doctors, adhering to their insutructiosn to the letter. But that was before the surgery and the pain that followed. Even after the pain was gone, the concern and worry remained. Pam was terrified of dealing with the aftermath of her health crisis unsupported by the medication she’d come to require. After all, it was her need, her body. Shouldn’t she be able to determine what she took and why? She needed the medicaton and was going to continue to make sure she got it, whatever it took. It wasn’t like she was doing anything wrong. These were her drugs, prescribed for her by licensed physicans. It was her name on the bottle.

Illicit drugs aren’t the only ones with the potential for abuse. In our society, with advanced medical technology and pharmaceutical breakthroughs, people have access to a dizzying array of prescription medications. When used properly, in conjunction with a reputable physician, these drugs  can be a true blessing. They should, however, be approached extremely carefully. It can be so easy to use daily instead of as needed. It can be so easy to look for another doctor to get another presciption. It can be so easy to neglect informing one doctor of what another has prescribed. This is the danger of using prescription drugs to self-medicate. When you become your own doctor, determining your own usage and your own combinations, you enter a highly dangerous arena.

Not every drug lends itself to self-medication. Certain categories have been shown to represent the greatest risk. These are pain relievers (such as Percoset, Demerol, Vicodin, or OxyContin), tranquilizers (such as benzodiazepines), stimulants (such as Ritalin) and sedatives (such as Seconal). If you want to know the latest drug that’s joined the abuse category, just ask a police officer what is found at the local high school.

While we’re still in the realm of prescription drugs, I’d also like you to consider the potential for self-medicating through over-the-counter medications. After all, these can be obtained in any grocery or drugstore. No need to answer to a physician. With self-checkout stations, there’s no longer any need to answer to a store clerk. Just scan your cough syrup or cold medicine or antihistamine and be on your way, with no one the wiser to what you’re really doing. Often, these products are used to self-medicate anxiety, especially at night. Taken in large enough doses they have the ability to produce an altered sleep state, a drugged sleep state, all perfectly legal. When anxiety attacks in the evening and robs you of sleep, sending you into hours of panic and fear, going beyond the recommended dose or purpose seems a small price to pay.

If you use prescription drugs to self-medicate your anxiety, explore your options for getting help today.

SOURCE: Chapter 4 in Overcoming Anxiety, Worry and Fear: Practical Ways to Find Peace


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