Millions of Americans struggle with drug addiction. While there are thousands of medical detox centers to treat such disorders—and that’s certainly a blessing—the best way to escape the damage addiction does to health and to everyday functioning is to avoid developing addiction in the first place. That isn’t as simple as it sounds: in an age when many addictive drugs are easily obtained, even from doctors, “it won’t happen in our family” often falls into the “famous last words” category.
Here are our top tips for avoiding drug addiction:
1. Learn better ways to cope with problems than “throwing a pill at them.”
Perhaps the biggest contributor to addiction is the demand for instant and easy relief, whether from physical pain, low self-esteem or perceived inability to cope with the stresses and challenges of life. Taking a drink or a pill seems an easy way to numb pain, forget your problems and even induce euphoric happiness—until you reach the point where you can’t get the same pleasant effects with the same size dose, but you suffer decidedly unpleasant effects when you try to do without the drug. If you’ve been experimenting with self-medication (or overdoing prescribed medication) in an attempt to “solve your problems,” consider that not only are those problems not going away by being ignored, but you could wind up with a new and worse problem—one that can only be solved by a painful and time-consuming drug detox, and even then will probably leave you with cravings and relapse tendencies that never go away completely.
All competent drug detox programs teach their clients alternate ways to deal with whatever problems the drug was originally intended to “medicate”—but fewer people would become addicted to begin with if they learned healthy coping methods before drugs became a temptation. Here’s a Top Ten list of problem-solving-and-prevention skills everyone should learn, the younger the better:
- Take care of your overall health: no matter how busy you are, make daily time for physical activity and healthy eating.
- No matter how long your to-do list is, don’t rush through life. Go at a steady pace and stay mindful of the moment.
- Practice daily physical relaxation and meditation/prayer.
- Don’t get all your input from CNN. Make space for inspirational reading and hopeful news.
- Spend time with optimistic and hopeful people.
- Stay consciously grateful for the good things in life.
- Know your own life purpose—the aspirations and dreams that call to your deepest soul—and don’t be afraid to set audacious goals for yourself.
- Appreciate yourself even when no one else seems to.
- Be helpful and kind to others, but don’t center your whole life around pleasing them at your own expense.
- When you feel angry, anxious or in physical pain, that’s a sign something (if only your own attitude) needs adjustment. Instead of dwelling on your discomfort and wishing things would change to suit you, take time to figure out what the core problem is and what you can do about it.
2. Know any special risks you may face genetically or medically.
Even if you diligently follow all the above suggestions, you may be biologically sensitive to certain situations or chemical formulations—and that could put you at risk for addiction even from a medical prescription or daily “social drink” the average person has no problems with. If any of your close relatives have ever had addiction or drug-problem issues; if mental illness, especially clinical depression, is in your family or you’ve been treated for it yourself; or if you’ve ever had a bad reaction to a “normal” dose of prescription or recreational drug—think long and hard before taking anything besides a limited-time prescription for any reason. If you’re really worried about the possibility of becoming “another family drunk,” consult a therapist who understands addiction and prevention.
3. Know that addiction risks can come from unexpected places.
Although medical providers and pharmaceutical companies are getting smarter about the dangers of indiscriminate prescriptions, a considerable number of addictions still start with something coming in an “RX” bottle. Drug detox programs themselves can lead to new addictions, as anyone in methadone or suboxone rehab knows. Just because a medication comes with doctor approval, don’t assume it couldn’t be addictive.
4. If you get a medical prescription that doesn’t seem to be doing its job, never go outside official instructions without consulting your doctor first.
This can’t be emphasized enough. The majority of prescription-drug addictions start when patients aren’t satisfied with results and try to solve that problem by taking extra pills on their own. Especially if your prescription is for opiate painkillers, or the even more dangerous benzodiazepines, take it strictly according to directions and call your doctor back immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms after a missed dose.
(Side note: Alcohol, the world’s primary and largely legal recreational drug, also comes with “medical instructions” for healthy consumption: a maximum of two drinks a day for men under 65, and one a day for women and older men.)
5. Use a primary-care doctor who is easy to talk to and keeps up with addiction-risk news.
While the responsibility for many prescription-drug addictions rests on patient misuse, some blame does fall on doctors who get over-busy, preoccupied or overly sure of themselves, and start automatically dispensing identical prescriptions for (seemingly) identical problems—without taking time to consider individual patients’ needs and concerns. If your doctor tries to rush you through appointments, and gets impatient when you ask about risks and alternatives, look for another doctor.
6. When in doubt, skip it!
People never end up in medical detox centers for things they never take. Again, if any type of substance has caused problems in your family, you’re safer avoiding that, and probably all intoxicating substances, completely. Even if no one in your family has ever been addicted, there’s no rule that says you have to drink socially (or accept refills) just because “everyone else” does, or that pain pills have to be a first line of defense rather than a last resort. Think about what you want for your life—hopefully including long-term self-confidence and good health—and do what’s right for you.
RehabinNYC, top drug rehab center in NYC provide alcohol, benzodiazepine, cocaine, heroin, prescription-opiate, methamphetamine, methadone and suboxone rehab. If you or a loved one are already struggling with addiction and need treatment, contact us.