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North Dakota Prescription Drug Addiction


What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Although prescription drugs may be legal, they have the potential for abuse. When a person in North Dakota uses prescription drugs in a manner other than their intended purpose or instruction, they are said to suffer from a prescription drug abuse problem. Examples of North Dakota prescription drug addiction and abuse behaviors include:

  • Taking more of a medication than prescribed on a regular basis
  • Using medications to get high or for non-medical purposes
  • Using a medication other than as prescribed, such as through injection or snorting
  • Taking a medication not prescribed to you

It is important to remember that even though prescription medications are legal, they can be just as dangerous and deadly as illegal or street drugs sold in North Dakota. This is why it is important to take all medications as directed and also not to share medications with others if they aren’t prescribed to you.

Statistics Related to Prescription Drug Abuse in North Dakota

An estimated 5.3 percent of North Dakota residents have used some form of illegal drugs in the past month, including prescription drugs, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This represents a decrease from the national average, which is 8.82 percent.

North Dakota has a prescription drug-monitoring program, which generates reports on patients in an effort to reduce drug diversion and reduce “doctor shopping,” where residents attempt to gain pills from multiple medical professionals. While the state has a drug monitoring program, they do not have information on drug overdoses specific to certain medications or illegal drugs used, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

According to Fargo Fire Chief Steve Dirksen in an interview with the Tribune, suspected opiate overdoses in Fargo have remained at a steady rate over the past four years, typically between 23 and 32 deaths per year. The prescription drug abuse has unfortunately given way to an increasing problem with heroin, which North Dakotans turn to after they can no longer obtain prescription drugs.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t like prescription medications where you know how much of a drug is present and how much you should take,” said Lt. Joel Vettel, a Fargo police spokesman, told the Tribune.

According to the Prevention Status Report for North Dakota, the rate for overdose is 3.4 per 100,000 members of the state’s population. This represents a decrease from the national rate, which is 12.4 per 100,000 members of the state’s population. This overdose rate includes the rate of prescription drug overdoses, according to the report.

While any drug overdose of a North Dakota resident is one too many, North Dakota does have the lowest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, according to the Trust for America’s Health.

Common Drugs of Abuse

When a person abuses prescription drugs, there are three main categories of abuse. These include opiates, sedatives and stimulants. Below contains a description of each drug type, and how addiction to each substance is treated.

  • Opiates

Opiates are pain-relieving medications that a doctor may prescribe for short- or long-term pain relief. Examples of opiate medications include hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet) and codeine. These pain medications can be highly addictive and prone to abuse.

  • Signs and Symptoms of Abuse: When abused, pain medications can lead to euphoria, drowsiness, mental confusion, difficulty passing stool, nausea and slowed breathing.
  • Drug Category: Unless the dose is very small, such as of codeine, prescription opiates belong to the Schedule II drug category. This means opiates have a medical purpose, but are highly addictive.
  • Why Is This Drug So Addictive? Opiates are highly addictive because they are involved with the areas of the brain associated with reward. When a person experiences the euphoria or pleasurable rush associated with taking an opiate, he or she may begin to crave the drug, which can lead to abuse.
  • Health Risks: Taking opiates frequently or abusing opiates can cause changes in the brain that lead to craving the drug and/or requiring more and more of the drug in order to achieve the same euphoria as before. It is possible a person can overdose on opiates, due to respiratory depression that causes a person to stop breathing.
  • Treatment Options: A rehabilitation facility and/or doctor can prescribe medications to help a person overcome opiate addiction. Examples of medications used to treat opiate addiction include Suboxone and methadone.
  • Sedatives

Sedative drugs are those used to induce sleep and/or help to relieve anxiety. Examples of these medications include benzodiazepines, such as diazepam or lorazepam and barbiturates, which include secobarbital (Seconal) and pentobarbital (Nembutal). Barbiturates are not prescribed as often as they once were due to their addictive potential as well as potential for overdose.

  • Signs and Symptoms of Abuse: Signs a person may be abusing sedatives and/or barbiturates include slowed breathing, confusion, shortened attention span and speaking slowly. Breathing can become very slow and a person’s coordination can be affected, leading to dizziness and loss of balance.
  • Drug Category: The drug class of barbiturates depends upon the drug category and dosage. Some can be Schedule II (highly addictive) while others are Schedule IV, which is a less-addictive drug class. Benzodiazepines belong to the Schedule IV drug category, which means they have potential for abuse, but less so than typical pain medications.
  • Why Is This Drug So Addictive? Like many controlled substances, benzodiazepines cause changes in the brain that can lead to addiction and cravings. Abusers may often combine them with other substances, such as alcohol and/or sleeping pills, to increase their effects.
  • Health Risks: A person can overdose on benzodiazepines and/or barbiturates due to the medications causing respiratory depression.
  • Treatment Options: Addictions to sedatives and barbiturates can be treated with both therapy and/or counseling as well as tapering dosages of the medication to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
  • Stimulants

Stimulants are medications designed to increase a person’s level of alertness and energy. They are commonly prescribed to those struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as those with asthma, obesity and respiratory problems. Examples of these drugs include amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

  • Signs and Symptoms of Abuse: When a person abuses stimulants, he or she will experience an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. A person may find himself or herself feeling increasingly alert.
  • Drug Category: Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are considered Schedule IIN stimulants, meaning they are not narcotics, but still have a high potential for abuse.
  • Why Is This Drug So Addictive? Ritalin is a medication that increases the rate of dopamine release. Dopamine is associated with creating a euphoria or pleasurable response in the body. This release can lead to addiction as a person seeks to enjoy the high experienced when using the drug.
  • Health Risks: Health risks from stimulant abuse include difficulty sleeping, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, hair loss and appetite loss. It is possible to overdose on stimulants, especially if they are chewed, crushed or snorted.
  • Treatment Options: Creating a personalized tapering program is often a treatment for stimulant abuse.

You don’t have to struggle with addiction alone. Seeking treatment for drug addiction can help you turn your life around. Call an addiction specialist today.