Prescription Drug Addiction

Many prescription drugs, whether prescribed for a legitimate purpose or used recreationally, can lead to addiction that causes serious problems at work, home, school, and in relationships. Some can even cause death by overdose. Opiates and benzodiazepines are two groups of addictive prescription drugs, but there are others.

If you or someone you love is using prescription medications, recreationally or for a legitimate purpose such as for the treatment of anxiety, depression or pain, and you think that they may have a problem, it’s important to seek immediate help. Prescription drug addiction rehab is available to provide treatment and to help you or your loved one have a greater chance of making a full and lasting recovery from this dangerous condition.

What is Prescription Addiction?

Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug abuse can very quickly and easily lead to addiction.

Any time a drug, any drug, is used for a prolonged period of time there is a risk of tolerance building. Tolerance is defined as the need to use more and more of a drug to produce the same euphoric effect or “high” that was once produced with smaller amounts of the drug. Not all people who become addicted to prescription medications do so as a result of their desire or need to get high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many take the medications for a legitimate reason such as to cope with pain following accident or injury and this leads to a tolerance build up that results in them becoming addicted to the drug and having difficulty stopping the use of the medication long after the pain has gone away.

Medication addiction can be very problematic for both the addict and for those around them. Families and loved one suffer because the medication becomes more important than them and society suffers because the addiction leads to a lack of productivity, stealing or lying to get the drug and potential accidents such as DUI as a result of the individual being high on the medication. The consequences of prescription drug abuse can be mild or they may be severe depending on the type of medication used, the severity of the addiction and the level of the drug abuse.

Why do some people become addicted to prescriptions drugs and others do not?

Many questions surround the topic of why some people can take prescription medications for a legitimate or for a recreational purpose with no risk of addiction while others cannot. Some simply have what is called a predisposition for addiction or have addictive personalities that lead them to nearly instantly become addicted to a medication when it is prescribed to them or taken by them for fun. Many factors must be considered when determining why one person may become addicted while another may not.

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Some factors that will increase an individual’s vulnerability to prescription addiction include:

  • A family history of drug or alcohol addiction
  • Having been abused or neglected as a child
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Adult physical or mental abuse
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression or a similar condition
  • Using drugs early on in childhood or as a teen
  • The method of drug abuse or the type of drug that is being used (some prescriptions are more addictive than others and injecting typically leads to a greater chance of addiction than oral consumption)
  • Social factors

How Prescription Addiction Affects the Brain

People who abuse prescription drugs are at risk of becoming addicts. The affects that prescription medications have on the brain will differ based on the type of medication that is being abused such as narcotics, opiates, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, etc. Prescription addiction is a complex medical disorder that is characterized by excessive use of the medication in an effort to get high, feel euphoric or otherwise have adverse effects of the drug that were not intended by the manufacturer.

Repeated use of prescription medications for uses other than they are prescribed or in doses that are higher than the prescribed dose can lead to:

  • Increased levels of dopamine produced in the brain creating feelings of pleasure. Unfortunately, these increases of dopamine stop when the drug use is stopped and there is a risk of the dopamine no longer being developed when the drug is no longer used which leads to chronic depression
  • Physical dependence that makes the brain believe that it MUST have the drug to survive. This is similar to the survival methods that the brain understands based on the need for food or water. If the drug is not provided, the brain causes reactions as if there is a life or death situation occurring (withdrawal symptoms)
  • Uncontrollable cravings take over and are more important than anything else. When prescription drugs become a part of life and the individual is addicted, the cravings that come from using the drug become more important than children, family, loved ones, friends, work, school or other important matters.
  • Desire to use prescription medications is so strong that the addict will rationalize the need to use the drug. For some prescription drug addicts, they rationalize their desire to use drugs by saying that they are in pain, sick, anxious, etc. These are all rationalizations that make the drug us “ok” in their eyes.

What Causes Prescription Addiction to Develop?

Some people are able to use prescribed medications as they are provided by the doctor without a problem while others may fall victim to addiction after just a few doses of the drug. But why? There is a fine line between addiction and abuse and for some, the medication addiction is a direct result of having been legitimately prescribed the drug for a real purpose.

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So what causes or leads up to prescription drug addiction?

  • Being prescribed a drug for pain, anxiety or another medical condition. Many people believe that if they are prescribed the drug than they will not or cannot become addicted because the doctor prescribed the medication. Unfortunately, this is not true! Doctors prescribed addictive medications all the time. If you are legitimately prescribed a medication, it is up to you to understand the risk of addiction, make sure you always take the dose you are prescribed or less if possible and maintain control.
  • Filling a missing variable in life. Many people become addicted to prescription medications as a result of a dire need to fill a missing variable. For instance, you may be lonely, depressed, anxious or stressed out so you use the medication to mask these feelings. This can and will quickly lead to addiction.
  • Overuse or abuse of a prescribed medication. Overusing a medication or abusing a medication that is prescribed to you can lead to addiction. Medication addiction is often the direct result of a person taking a drug that was given to them by their doctor and that they thought was safe to take.

Signs & Symptoms of Prescription Addiction

Depending on the type of medication that is being taken there are likely going to be very different signs and symptoms of the prescription addiction but some of the following signs may appear if you know someone who is taking a medication in a manner that is not as prescribed or if they are becoming addicted to the drug:

prescription addiction

Doctor shopping is a major warning sign of prescription drug addiction.

  • Legal trouble as a result of drug use. Many people get DUI, public intoxication, or other legal problems as a result of their drug use. Prescription addiction may also lead to legal problems associated with selling or purchasing medications on the street.
  • Risky activity while on medication. Drinking while taking a medication or taking part in other risk behaviors while on a medication are a sign of addiction.
  • Financial problems as a result of the prescription addiction. For those who are not prescribed the medication, buying a prescription drug on the street can be very costly. Additionally, for those who are prescribed the medication, they could be running out mid month and having to purchase additional medication to support their habit which is also financially costly.
  • Doctor shopping for pills. Many people who are addicted to prescription medications will doctor shop. This means that they will go to one doctor for a prescription and then later see another doctor or a few more doctors in an effort to get the same medications prescribed. Many efforts have taken place by law enforcement in recent years to prevent the ability for addicts to “doctor shop” and regulations have been placed on pharmacies to prevent access to many drugs.
  • Loss of control over prescription use. Addiction will lead the addict to lose control over their use of a drug. They may take more than they intended, do things that they otherwise wouldn’t do while they are under the influence, or they may forget taking the medication all together.
  • Relationship problems. Addiction can lead to a number of relationship problems. The addict may lie to their loved one, fight with them over the drug, or simply neglect their loved one because they are more interested in the drug.
  • Continued prescription medication use despite known consequences. An addict will continue to use medications in excess despite them knowing that the use of these medications is hurting them and hurting those who care about them.
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Support for Medication Addiction

The most vital part of any medication addiction recovery program is to have the support that you need to keep pushing forward with your recovery efforts and goals. Support can come from a number of different places or people. You may find support in the following areas:

  • Self-help rehab programs – many are available online and have support forums
  • Prescription drug addiction rehab inpatient and outpatient options are available and provide many methods of group and individual support
  • Therapy and counseling – both one-on-one and group support can be found in counseling or therapy sessions
  • Family and friends – you may find it difficult at first to discuss your prescription addiction with your friends or family members but they can provide an excellent foundation for support
  • Healthcare providers – your doctor may be able to prescribe you a less addictive medication if you have a legitimate problem and he can also provide you with support during this difficult time
  • Church and your faith community – if you go to church, there are many people within the faith community that will provide you and your family with support while you are receiving treatment for a prescription medication addiction
  • Community support groups many different community support groups are available to provide you with support if you are addicted to prescription medications. Narcotics Anonymous and other similar programs can be found in communities around the world.

Prescription Drug Addiction Rehab

If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, rehab may be the most suitable answer. There are many methods of rehab available to help you safely detox and recover from prescription drug addiction.

Some of the most common prescription drug addiction rehab programs include:

  • Inpatient rehab for prescription addiction – these programs provide the patient with a place to live while they undergo intense counseling and therapy for their addiction. Detox is also provided in a safe and secure atmosphere that is monitored by medical staff to ensure the safety of the patient.
  • Outpatient rehab for prescription drug addiction – these programs usually provide counseling and therapy on a limited support basis and may even include random drug testing to ensure that the patient is remaining on track with their recovery efforts. Outpatient rehab is an excellent choice for the recovering addict who has already completed an inpatient rehab program or for someone who is only mildly addicted to a prescription medication.
    • Community Programs – many community support groups are available for those who are already working on recovery outside of rehab and who just need some added support. One of the most common of these support groups is Narcotics Anonymous which is a twelve-step program that provides social support for those who are in recovery or who wish to be in recovery and just need a little extra support to make it there.
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