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The Science Behind Pharmaceutical Addiction & Young Adults

It is good news that young adult drinking and tobacco use continues to drop all over the United States, according to a report published by the Associated Press.  However, the bad news is that young adults are still looking to get “high.”  Many will say that abusing pain killers and other prescription drugs is a safer way to feel good.  This information is very false.  Tobacco and alcohol may not be safe to engage in, but prescription drugs are worse.  Smoking one cigarette or having one beer most likely will not end in a serious injury, but by taking one pill, especially when you do not know where it came from, can end in death.  Emerging or young adults (ages 18-25) in the bigger New Mexico cities of Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces are partaking in this dangerous pastime, thinking that it is safer than other drug addictions.  Drug treatment may be necessary for many of the young people as their addiction becomes worse.  Prescription drug addiction has been said to be similar to heroin addiction.  They are both in the “Opioid” category.

Anyone, not just college-aged adults can become addicted to prescription drugs, even if the drug is being prescribed to them.  Generally, oxycodone and hydrocodone are the major pills that drug rehab facilities would report as “highly abused.”  You may recognize the drug names: OxyContin, Vicodin, Tylenol 3 and Percocet (to name a few). These drugs produce a euphoric feeling.  The addiction can happen quickly and spin out of control before the abuser has the chance to realize there is a problem.  Opioid painkillers are so desirable because they basically flood the body with Dopamine.  Dopamine is something our body creates normally and makes us feel good.  The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse is Dr. Alan Leshner.  He stated that most people who have an addiction to pain killers most likely were not prescribed the drug in the first place. Not everyone who takes Vicodin for pain management should be labeled as an addict. Many people who are prescribed pain pills after an injury or surgery take them as directed and never have an issue.  New Mexico is susceptible to obtaining pills like Vicodin with ease, because Mexican pharmacies do not require a prescription to purchase them.  They are bought and plainly transported across the border and sold for hefty prices. 

The emerging adult population of New Mexico, as well as the rest of the United States are at a higher risk for becoming addicted.  It is not just because they are so close to the drugs in New Mexico, but they have additional factors, like peer pressure and the general stress of learning to be an independent adult.  Low self-esteem and feeling inadequate can trigger a drug addiction easily.  Also, they do not have to rely on Mexican drug-runners to feed their habit.  They can simply look in the medicine cabinet of friends and family and often find left over pills. 

Because opioid pain killers so closely resemble heroin addiction, drug treatment similar to what a heroin addict would receive may be beneficial.  Talking with a counselor at a drug rehab facility is a wise decision if drug treatment is being considered.  Addiction to prescription pills is very serious and incredibly unsafe.  Though blame should be placed on the person with the addiction, we must not overlook that many physicians as of late are ready and willing to hand out prescription pain pills for little reason at all. 

Drug treatment for prescription pain pills is a sensitive matter indeed.  Emerging adults from age 18  through mid-twenties can be in a place where they may require additional therapeutic supports and guidance.  Drug rehab should be carefully planned and implemented.  An Extended Care program and outpatient continuing care is incredibly important.  Emerging adults can fall back into their comfort zone and relapse into addiction without proper after-care.  Keeping them away from the triggers that led them to their addiction is one of the keys for success. 

The science behind prescription drug addiction is pretty simple: it makes users feel good or at least better than they felt before starting them.  It is difficult to let go of something that makes a person feel good, and the detoxification process from opioids can be a rough road.  However, there are many ways to make the process more comfortable.  Vista Taos Renewal Center is a New Mexico drug rehab center that believes there is more to beating addiction than just a simple treatment program.  There are holistic measures to help people through the drug treatment process that boost the chances of success.  We must remember: if recovery is a more positive experience, addicts will have a greater chance of achieving sobriety.  They will realize that there is life outside of their addiction and may work harder to obtain it.

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COVID-19 update: The health and safety of our clients at Vista Taos is our top priority. Each person admitted to our program will be given a PCR Covid screen upon entry and subsequently will follow our isolation protocol as we await the results.
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