Around the world, humans have a long history of non-medical use of prescription drugs, evident across many sectors of society. Today we understand that addiction is far more widespread than just poor communities, and even our upper echelon individuals suffer quietly.
No one is immune to addiction’s wide grip, and we have seen that by the epidemic of drug abuse in the 21st century. The most common prescription drugs that are abused are opioids and benzodiazepines, but that does not mean others cannot be misused.
The last 20 years have shown a trend of non-medical use of an increasing spectrum of medications, including newer hypnotics, methylphenidate, and antidepressants. Those who partake in non-medical use of prescription drugs possess a background in poly-drug abuse, and it means these medications are being used without a valid prescription from a medical practitioner.
Antipsychotics are among the medications most commonly prescribed by psychiatrists, but evidence has emerged showing non-medical use of these drugs like olanzapine. One such study shows psychiatric patients appear to have become dependent on their antipsychotic medications.
A study out of Ireland backs up this report and focuses on how antipsychotic drugs are outpacing that of stimulant medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These reveal that if medicines give off euphoric effects, despite what they are designed for, they have the potential to cause addiction. The drugs boast anxiolytic properties and are frequently used to counteract the “come” down from cocaine.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted a study on 92 individuals that took olanzapine, and the respondents were primarily male at 65 percent, and they had all been taking methadone for five years with an average age of 31. Thirty percent of them reported a lifetime history of non-medical use of olanzapine, and these statistics did not differ from those without a history of application based on gender, age, or duration of methadone treatment.
Of those who reported a lifetime history of non-medical use of olanzapine, two reported being prescribed the medication and using it as the doctor intended. Nine people said doses of 30 milligrams or higher on a typical day of use, and three more stated they were using 100 milligrams. The three heaviest users consumed 900 milligrams, 1200 milligrams, and 1800 milligrams in the month before the interview.
It shows that some medications may not always be the answer. Those who abuse drugs typically have a co-occuring disorder that fuels their drug habit, and if the medicine is not treating their underlying condition, it makes sense why they would abuse something that “feels good.” The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality.
Psychosis most often occurs when a person is in their late teens to mid-twenties, and it is a symptom of mental illness or a physical condition. Three out of 100 people will experience psychosis at some point in their lives, and it can affect all walks of life. Due to the severity of the problem, it does requires medications to be treated, but some drugs hold a higher potential of being abused, as we’ve demonstrated above.
Olanzapine is a medication that works in the brain to treat schizophrenia, and it is also known as a second generation antipsychotic (SGA) or atypical antipsychotic. Olanzapine is designed to rebalance dopamine and serotonin to improve the user’s thinking, mood, and behavior.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects less than one percent of the U.S. population, and when the disorder is active, it can bring along severe symptoms that alter the quality of one’s life. There is no cure for schizophrenia; research has led to new, safer treatments. Experts in the medical community have also begun to unravel the causes of the disease by studying genetics, conducting behavioral research, and use imaging to look at the brain’s structure and function. It has led to more effective medications and therapies.
Some of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia include:
Olanzapine is designed to treat some or all of these symptoms. Olanzapine is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for the following:
Schizophrenia requires long-term treatment, and despite feeling better, someone who is using olanzapine should not stop use without medical supervision. Only your physician can determine the length of olanzapine treatment, and missing doses when the drug is used as prescribed can pose a risk for relapse of symptoms.
In short, yes, when olanzapine is abused, it can be addictive. Drug users often abuse the drug for their sedative and anxiolytic effects, and the user seeks out the calming and hallucinogenic effects that they create. Olanzapine is commonly used in conjunction with opiates or benzodiazepines for an enhanced sedative and calming effect. The standard dose of olanzapine, when used as prescribed, is 10-15 milligrams, but those who abuse it consume 40-50 milligrams, or four to five tablets a day.
Since olanzapine can be addictive, it should not be stopped without medical supervision. The term antipsychotic discontinuation syndrome is a name for the collection of symptoms that can occur when someone suddenly stops an antipsychotic or drastically lowers their dose. A person may abstain from olanzapine for several reasons that range from the perception of the medication effectively treating their symptoms, adverse side effects, or those abusing the drug and runs out. Whichever the case may be, severe symptoms can occur.
Antipsychotic discontinuation syndrome symptoms generally appear within the first few days after cessation of olanzapine and tend to be the most severe around the one-week mark. Since each person is different, the symptoms can be much more severe than others. For that reason, medical detoxification is recommended for someone to safely get through the withdrawal process. Withdrawal can be unpredictable, and if you are ready to stop using olanzapine, Arete Recovery can help.
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Common Side Effects of Zyprexa, Zyprexa Zydis (Olanzapine) Drug Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/zyprexa-side-effects-drug-center.htm
NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Mental-Health-Medications/Olanzapine-(Zyprexa)
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Fact Sheet: First Episode Psychosis. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/fact-sheet-first-episode-psychosis.shtml
James, P. D., Fida, A. S., Konovalov, P., & Smyth, B. P. (2016, December). Non-medical use of olanzapine by people on methadone treatment. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353524/