Prescription Drug Addiction and Treatment

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    Prescription medications are used to treat a wide variety of physical and mental health conditions and their symptoms. However, some people abuse their medications by taking them in higher doses than advised, changing the method of administration, or taking them too frequently. Others purchase these medications illegally on the streets for the mere purpose of getting high. In whichever way these medications are abused, prescription drug addiction forms quickly and is difficult to break.

    Over the last 15 years, the United States has seen an increase in prescription drug abuse and emergency room visits and overdose deaths related to prescription drugs. Furthermore, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that nearly 18 million people aged 12 and older abuse prescription medications each year. As a result, the number of treatment admissions for people suffering from prescription drug addiction has increased, as well.

    Despite addiction being characterized by compulsive drug use, withdrawals, and other difficult behaviors, substance use disorder is a completely treatable disease. With the help of medical detox and evidence-based therapy, anyone can recover from prescription drug addiction.

    Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

    People misuse a wide variety of medications. However, opioids, stimulants, and benzodiazepines are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Depending on the drug being used, the side effects, risks, and signs of abuse may vary.


    Opioids are used to treat chronic pain or pain after surgery or injury. However, these medications are highly addictive and have extremely high rates of abuse. In fact, opioids are so addictive that 4-6% of people who abuse prescription opioids end up abusing heroin later in life. Opioids usually come in pill form and are swallowed, snorted, or injected when abused. They suppress the central nervous system and affect areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. As a result, people who are under the influence of opioids may fall asleep suddenly or “nod off,” have constricted pupils, shallow breathing, and excess itching of the face and/or arms. When taken in high doses or combined with other drugs and/or alcohol, opioids pose a serious risk of fatal drug overdose.


    Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that are used in the treatment of anxiety, seizure, and sleep disorders. These medications, including Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Halcion, are all highly addictive when abused and lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. People who are abusing benzodiazepines may seem drowsy, impaired, have short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating, and lack of coordination. When mixed with opioids, alcohol, or other depressants, benzodiazepines are extremely dangerous and come with a risk of overdose.


    Stimulants, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Concerta are prescribed to treat conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy. These medications come in pill form and may be either immediate or extended-release. As central nervous system depressants, stimulants produce a rush of energy and euphoria when abused. People who are high on stimulant medications may seem overly talkative and energetic, have a lack of appetite, experience weight loss, stay awake for long hours, and experience mood swings or paranoia.

    Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

    Depending on the type of drug being abused, prescription drug addiction affects each individual differently. However, some general signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction include:

    • Trying to get multiple prescriptions from various doctors, also known as doctor shopping
    • Running out of medication too early and having empty bottles laying around
    • Lying to friends and family about drug use
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
    • Having strong cravings and urges to use the drug
    • Spending excess time and money on the drug
    • Changes in mood, sleep, or behavioral patterns
    • Changes in appearance ranging from weight loss to track marks and pupil size
    • Poor decision-making abilities
    • Getting involved in risky or illegal behaviors
    • Stealing prescriptions from loved ones
    • Neglecting responsibilities
    • Failing to stop even when drug use worsens one’s mental or physical health
    • Wanting to stop or cut back but not being able to do so

    If you or a loved one are experiencing any or all of these signs and symptoms, it’s crucial to seek help from a substance abuse treatment center near you.

    Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

    There are many treatment options available for those suffering from prescription drug addiction, but the first step usually involves detox. Depending on which drug a person is addicted to, their withdrawal symptoms will vary, so each type of drug withdrawal is treated differently. To explain, benzodiazepine addiction is usually treated using a taper where the person takes a progressively low dose until their body adjusts to the absence of the drug. Opioid withdrawal, on the other hand, is usually managed using medication-assisted treatment with Suboxone. Lastly, people experiencing stimulant withdrawal may be prescribed sleep medications or antipsychotics to help ease their symptoms.

    After detox, the next step is treatment. Patients may attend inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, or a combination of the two. Substance abuse treatment programs use a variety of treatments to address the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of each patient. Prescription drug addiction treatment programs may consist of the following:

    • Individual therapy
    • Group therapy
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
    • Holistic therapy
    • Dual diagnosis treatment
    • Recreational therapy
    • 12-step facilitation
    • Alumni support
    • Sober living

    Throughout treatment, patients will have the opportunity to uncover the root causes of their addictions, recognize destructive behaviors, and adopt new coping mechanisms that are supportive of recovery. Using group and individual therapy, patients not only get to connect with and obtain support from their peers, but they receive the individualized care and support they deserve. These therapies may be accompanied by mental health treatments, medications, aftercare planning, and case management to help provide a whole-patient approach to recovery.

    Get Help for Prescription Drug Addiction Today

    If you’re suffering from prescription drug addiction, we know what you’re going through. However, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Addiction is a highly treatable condition – but the first step is asking for help. With individualized care and evidence-based treatment, you can learn how to live a healthy and sober life. Whenever you’re ready, our addiction experts are here to connect you with the most trusted and reliable addiction treatment centers near you. Contact us today to get started.

    Get Help Today

    Don’t go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you’re facing. Get in touch with one today.