Drug addiction: Every ninth to over 50 is at risk

If you have any side effects, ask your doctor or pharmacist - the awareness of what medicine is being taken has increased in recent years. An unwanted side effect that is less conscious is the dependence on a drug. All the more frightening are current figures: Every ninth over 50 is endangered, according to a study by the Institute for Therapy Research. Painkillers, hypnotics, sedatives, stimulants are on the list of addictive drugs besides appetite suppressants.

Women are more affected than men

Approximately 1.5 million drug users are estimated to live in Germany, two-thirds of whom are women. About the same number of alcoholics, according to the German Department for Addiction Issues (DHS). But while there are many self-help groups and good public relations work in alcoholism, drug addicts often lack the therapies and guidelines they need to support them.

The journal "Addiction" published in the spring of the current "representative survey on the use and abuse of psychoactive substances in adults in Germany, " responsible is the Institute for Therapy Research. Since 1995, systematic surveys have been conducted on the intake of medicines. In the current study, 8, 061 people aged 18-59 were interviewed. The danger of slipping into a drug addiction has increased in the last five years. At that time, the rate for problematic drug consumption of adult Germans was 3.3 percent, or 4.3 percent.

Problem consumers would be especially among the 50- to 59-year-olds. Almost one in nine is at risk in this age group - and women in all age groups are more affected at 5.5 percent than men (3.2 percent). 20.4 percent of the women surveyed had taken at least one drug with "addictive potential", in men, this rate is 13.3 percent. These clear differences justify the fact that women take medication for coping with life much more often than men.

Which medications are addictive?

The German Department of Addiction Diseases distinguishes five addictive drug groups:

  • Painkiller,
  • Cough Medicine,
  • Sleeping pills,
  • Sedative and
  • Stimulants.

In addition, the appetite suppressants are added. About 80 percent of those affected are dependent on the prescription benzodiazepines, which treat anxiety and sleep disorders. These preparations become a risk if taken regularly for more than six months. Like alcohol, medications can lead to addiction and to physical and mental disorders. A first step towards dependence on drugs is often shown by the dose increase.

The symptoms of drug dependence are rather inconspicuous:

  • loss of appetite,
  • Forgetfulness and
  • indifference

are signs that are often not taken seriously.

Addictive potential of drugs

Painkillers: Of the centrally acting strong analgesics, the so-called analgesics, the most well-known are the morphine. All such analgesics have a high addictive potential, ie after a short-term ingestion can arise a dependency. Low-potency drugs of this group are mainly as mixed preparations in the trade.

Main ingredients are acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol and propyphenazone. They are considered problematic when combined with caffeine, for example. After all, painkillers are not always taken for pain: combined with caffeine, in addition to the analgesic effect, it has an invigorating effect. Their stimulating effect increases the risk of getting used to the drug.

After stopping caffeine-containing drugs, headache can appear as withdrawal symptoms, but this effect occurs with a time delay. Often, the symptoms are not considered as withdrawal symptoms, but taken as a reason to continue the use of painkillers with increased dosage. Combination preparations pose the risk of kidney damage.

Cough Remedies (Antitussives): These are medicines that contain codeine. Codeine is an opioid and is individually converted in the body differently into morphine (5 to 20 percent). For this reason, codeine is also taken as a heroin substitute. Abuse may result in opiate dependence. There are also other side effects such. Confusion, hallucinations and psychosis in taking certain medications from this group.

Sleep and tranquilizers (tranquilizers): "The most effective sleeping pills are prescriptive only." Benzodiazepines, which have a medium-acting effect, are also suitable, as are benzodiazepine-like drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone, which help sleep.

Disadvantage: The sleeping pills make you addicted. "This is what Stiftung Warentest says in a corresponding test: If you take these remedies for a longer period of time, then you can become addicted after just seven to fourteen days If the body is used to sleeping pills, the pills must be slowly discontinued.

Stimulants (Psychostimulantia): Psychostimulants are agents that contain amphetamines. They are also called "weckamine". Representatives include Captagon, Reactivan, Katovit. These medicines are used to overcome fatigue, primarily for boosting. As they also suppress the feeling of hunger, they are also used as an appetite suppressant (Recatol, Ponderax).

They are often popular with working people who constantly have tight deadlines and want to permanently provide above average performance. The remedies contain amphetamines and are therefore particularly risky because consumers tend to overestimate themselves. But if the effect of the drug subsides, suddenly a sleep attack can occur. In chronic abuse, the initial euphoria turns into irritability, tension and moodiness.

Appetite suppressants: They are based on the same chemical structure and show similar effects as stimulants. With long-term use, they can cause strong side effects, according to information from the German Nutrition Society (DGE). These include

  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Irritability,
  • Inefficiency,
  • Sleep disorders,
  • Heart problems,
  • Sweats,
  • Circulation problems,
  • Pulmonary hypertension and
  • euphoria

Therapy and self-help needed

Like drug addiction or alcohol addiction, dependence on medication leads to long-term mental and physical decline. These include memory disorders and reaction delays as well as liver, stomach and kidney damage and vascular changes. The therapy depends on the type of medication.

While headache medications should be discontinued in one fell swoop, sedatives often cause severe side effects that can only be alleviated by slowing out of the body. "With such a massive withdrawal is recommended a stationary therapy, " advises Professor Andreas Heinz, Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Berlin Charité. This one- to four-week therapy should be completed if possible in a psychiatric ward.

Dr. Schröer, head of the health department of the BKK Bundesverband in Essen, wants to make it possible for company health insurance companies to establish themselves among those who are dependent on medication, which is already proven practice among alcoholics: self-help. A first step towards this is the guide, titled "Do not swallow everything ... women, medicines, self-help." specifically aimed at affected women. It contains a lot of practical tips for setting up and leading a self-help group, information on drug abuse as well as numerous references and contact addresses.

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