For some people taking combinations of prescription drugs is like playing Russian roulette--take enough turns and it can be deadly. The prevalence of prescriptions, the lack of knowledge and the mixing of drugs all combine to make this a deadly practice. Prescription drug addicts should seek help immediately in a treatment center especially if they are taking multiple drugs.

Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith all died from mixing prescription drugs. These are the names you know. Thousands more, names you don’t know, people like you, die every year from fatal combinations of prescription drugs. Like Jeffrey Mottershead.

Jeffrey, a 20-year-old Californian, died from an “accidental overdose of a half-dozen different painkillers and anti-anxiety medications.” He saw a doctor once and was prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. Among the drugs in his system were Oxycontin and Valium.

Here’s what killed the celebrities:
Michael Jackson- Valium, Klonopin
Heath Ledger- Oxycontin, Vicodin, Valium, Restoril, Xanax, Unisom
Anna Nicole Smith- 7 prescription drugs including Klonopin and Valium

All legal prescription drugs. All potential killers when combined.

Are you addicted to a combination of prescription drugs? Someone you know? Call one of the prescription drug treatment centers on Recoverycorps.org.

Why Is Combining Drugs a Problem?
Take two commonly abused, powerful drugs: Vicodin, an opiate pain reliever that depresses the central nervous system (CNS) and Xanax, a tranquilizer that also depresses the CNS. These two drugs affect the part of the brain responsible for breathing, essentially they slow breathing down. A large enough dose of both drugs could tell your brain to tell your body to stop breathing.

Anytime you combine drugs that could impair your thoughts, you risk overdosing because you simply don’t remember what you took, how much and when.

And people in these situations, many times are also drinking alcohol which is also a depressant. This combination further heightens health risks.

What Not to Combine?
This is a question that has as many answers as there are people taking the drugs. It depends on doses, your individual body chemistry, your tolerance, how much you took, over what time period, and if you ate anything.

That said there are commonly abused drugs that don’t mix well: opioid painkillers and tranquilizers.

Opioid pain relievers are brand names such as: Oxycontin, Fentanyl, Methadone, Vicodin, Lortab, Endocet, Percocet, Roxicet, and Tylox.

Tranquilizers or depressants are brands such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril, Thorazine, Haldol, and Compazine.
These combinations are usually found in overdose deaths. Speaking of deaths, let’s look at some numbers.

The New Drug Epidemic
In the 70s it was the cocaine that made you boogie into the morning hours. In the 80s crack cocaine heated up the streets. Club drugs raged in the 90s. Then methamphetamine slithered into the 21st Century. Over the last decade, prescription drugs make their predecessors look like candy.  

A University of California at San Diego study of more than 50 million U.S. death certificates from 1983 to 2004 yielded the following statistics:

  • In 1983, 92 people died at home from the combination of medications, street drugs and/or alcohol. In 2004, 3,792 died.
  • Fatal medication errors went from 3,954 in 1983 to 22,770 in 2004.
  • In this period 200,000 people died from accidental medication mistakes.
  • Per capita prescriptions issued increased by nearly 74 percent.

More general prescription drug abuse numbers…

  • Almost 50% of all Americans take a prescription drug.
  • One in five Americans misused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime.
  • In 2006 and 2007, 7 million Americans were abusing prescription drugs.
  • In 2008, 15.2 million Americans 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior.
  • In 2008, prescription drug abuse (25.8%) was the second leading cause of admissions to treatment centers just behind cocaine (26.2%). 

The easiest way to avoid being a statistic: get help from a prescription drug treatment center.

What’s Causing It?
The change in medical treatment is a big factor. Patient stays in hospitals are shorter. Many procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and consequently, more doctors are likely to prescribe drugs with less follow-up. It’s easier and cheaper to write a painkiller prescription and send you on your way. Quality control is then placed on the patient.

Also, today’s medications are more powerful and addictive than those of 20 years ago.

Insurance companies are less likely to pay for expensive pain treatment plans leaving the patient with a $10 bottle of painkillers as the only option.

With prescription drug abuse there is not the same social stigma that goes with illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, or meth. Prescription drugs are legal. Doctors prescribe them. You’re less likely to buy them on the street corner. They’re not messy. No needles. No pipes. And the drugs are not usually associated with violence.

Prescription Drug Rehabilitation and Therapy
If you’ve read this far you know the deadly dangers of prescription drug combinations. And you are also probably serious about getting help. Prescription drug treatment centers offer a variety of treatment options from pharmacological to behavior therapy.

Behavioral therapy can be one or a combination of treatment options including individual and group counseling, contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy modifies attitudes and behaviors associated with drug abuse teaching patients to recognize and avoid situations where drugs will be involved.

Contingency management is a reward system that has proven to be very effective. Patients are given financial incentives for negative urine samples. This reinforces positive behavior.

Drugs like Buprenorphine, Naltrexone and Naloxone have to shown to be effective for prescription drug rehab patients.
Prescription drug addiction is hard to battle alone. Get help from one of the treatment programs listed on Recoverycorps.org.

Sources:
http://www.sptimes.com/2008/02/17/Worldandnation/Deadly_Combinations.shtml
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25886212/ns/health/
http://www.everydayhealth.com
http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/doa-p.pdf