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Prescription Drugs
Prescription Drug Abuse

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction and Finding Effective Treatment

Many heroin addicts say their need for constant “juice” started with an innocent visit to their doctor’s office. Whether it’s pain pills after surgery or an innocuous-looking sleep aid, just because a doctor prescribes a legal medication doesn’t make it safe or risk free.

Even when taking a pharmaceutical drug exactly as prescribed, there is still a significant risk of addiction.

Even if someone is not misusing or abusing their medication, they can develop a dependence on many types of prescription drugs. Addictive drugs flood the brain with feel-good chemicals, instigating repeated use and dependence on the drug to achieve the same pleasurable or normal feeling.

In time, people require more of the same medication to achieve the same level of feeling. This is called tolerance.

Once someone develops a tolerance and their medication is not working the way it used to, they seek more of the drug, sometimes without their doctor’s approval. This forms an addiction that becomes stronger and more challenging to quit.

Use this resource page to educate yourself on prescription drugs and learn whether you or someone you know could be developing an addiction to medication.

Common Prescription Drugs that Lead to Addiction

Not all pills are created equal. Some prescription drugs carry an inherent risk for abuse and are more addictive than others.

Anti-Anxiety Meds

Anti-anxiety meds, or anxiolytics, are among the most abused prescription drugs. Barbiturates, like Fioricet for headaches, also fall within in this classification. However, more commonly, people go to prescription drug rehab for benzodiazepine addiction treatment.

What are benzodiazepines (aka benzos) commonly prescribed for?

  • As a sleep aid
  • To treat anxiety and/or panic attacks

What are some examples of benzos?

  • Klonopin/clonazepam
  • Xanax/alprazolam
  • Valium/diazepam
  • Ativan/lorazepam

Painkillers

You’ve heard the news about prescription painkillers and the opioid crisis. Perhaps the deadliest drugs of abuse, painkillers are given for an injury, surgery or chronic pain. It is crucial to seek help if you feel you are becoming addicted to them.

Some names for common prescription painkillers are:

  • Codeine
  • Vicodin/hydrocodone
  • Percocet/oxycodone
  • Fentanyl (usually a patch)
  • Dilaudid
  • Methadone
  • Demerol
  • Morphine

Learn More About Opioids

Stimulants

Stimulants can easily lead to addiction. Adderall, for instance, is almost pure meth.

People like the feeling stimulants give, such as:

  • An increase in mental and physical energy
  • A revved-up feeling of euphoria

Some examples of stimulants you would see in someone’s medicine cabinet are:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin/methylphenidate

Antidepressants

Some antidepressants have addictive properties. After a period of taking these medications, sharp withdrawal symptoms can occur if stopped abruptly. Antidepressants are known to cause a physical dependency, and in some cases a psychological dependency.

Common antidepressant medications include:

  • Zoloft/sertraline
  • Prozac/fluoxetine
  • Celexa/citalopram
  • Lexapro/escitalopram
  • Cymbalta/duloxetine
  • Wellbutrin/bupropion

Marijuana

Marijuana is now approved for medicinal purposes and available with a card in a majority of states. Despite its increased acceptance in the medical community, marijuana’s potential for abuse must not be overlooked. Lack of motivation, impaired cognitive function, lethargy and psychological addiction are common products of long-term marijuana use.


Effects of Benzodiazepines

Prevalence and Long-Term Effects of Benzos

Benzodiazepines have been in pharmaceutical circulation for more than 50 years. Despite concerns, they are among the most prescribed medications in the U.S. Valium was commonly prescribed in the 1960s and ‘70s, but today, Xanax is the most prevalent drug in this class.

The rate of benzo overdose-related deaths has been skyrocketing over the past 20 years, and especially in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benzos have become the second-leading cause of death among prescription drug overdoses, following opioids.

While the most gripping effects of long-term benzo use are addiction and dependence, there are many other serious side effects. Accentuated in cases of misuse and abuse, being on benzodiazepines long term can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Slowed breathing
  • Respiratory distress
  • Death
The battle over prescription drug addiction is not easily won. It takes motivation, a desire for a better life and the willingness to change.
Related Articles:

Why Treat Prescription Drug Addiction with Other Drugs?

Medically assisted detox involves a process of tapering, meaning the client takes a less-potent medication in increasingly smaller doses. Over a period of time, the patient is weaned off the alternative and experiences far fewer withdrawal pangs.

Essentially, medications are sometimes prescribed during this process because making detox a bit more comfortable makes it significantly more successful.

Learn more about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for prescription drug addiction:

Harmony Place’s MAT Program


Detox Complications

The Dangers of Detoxification

It’s never a good idea to self-detox at home when you are dealing with potent prescription medication. In fact, it is dangerous. Safe detoxification requires clinical monitoring at a qualified facility and access to proper medical care 24/7.

Benzodiazepine Detox

Anxiolytics have a powerful effect on cognition, which make the withdrawal process excruciating. Detoxing from benzos is particularly dangerous for a few reasons:

  1. Acute withdrawal can include serious side effects, such as:
    • Hallucinations
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Seizures
    • Coma
    • Death
  2. Without immediate medical help for the more serious side effects, fatalities are much more likely to occur.
  3. Quitting cold turkey carries a statistically higher chance of relapse.
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Harmony Place Helps People with Prescription Drug Addiction

Harmony Place offers a luxurious yet affordable rehab experience in Los Angeles County. Backed by holistic modalities and clinical therapies, our program boasts a superior level of care. Our caring staff is experienced in treating prescription drug addiction and wants you to succeed in overcoming this insidious disease.

From detox and residential care to outpatient treatment with transitional living accommodations, Harmony Place offers the full continuum of care to those seeking to recover from addiction. We regard prescription drug addiction as being just as pernicious as alcohol or illegal drug addiction.

If you are worried that your loved one is developing a dependence or addiction to prescription drugs, contact us today.
Frequently Asked Questions

Prescription Drug Addiction FAQs

Learn about the signs of prescription drug addiction and what the recovery process entails by reading the answers to the following frequently asked questions about Rx drugs:

What are some signs my loved one is abusing prescription meds?

Here are some of the signs that someone you know may be misusing their prescription medication:

  • Dizziness or impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Forgetfulness
  • Unusual or chronic fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Going to doctor often to refill meds
  • Doctor shopping for new prescriptions
If someone close to you is showing signs of seizures or respiratory distress, get them medical help immediately.

What are the health and social consequences of prescription drug abuse?

There are several undesirable consequences of prescription drug use disorder. Some of the potential drawbacks include:

  1. Physical and mental health problems
  2. Engaging in risky behaviors, including crime, due to impaired judgment
  3. Motor vehicle accidents
  4. Troubled and broken relationships
  5. Difficulties with work or academics

What are some medical illnesses that commonly lead to prescriptions drug abuse?

Doctors prescribe high-risk medications for myriad reasons, but some common health conditions that may warrant the use of risky medication include:

  • Backache
  • Pain
  • Migraine
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders

How many prescription drugs are in circulation, and how common is Rx drug abuse?

U.S. Prescription Drugs in Circulation

The Kaiser Family Foundation counted more than 4 billion prescription drugs filled in U.S. retail pharmacies in 2017. This does not include medications dispensed in clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices or pharmacies within a closed health system. Still, the takeaway is that billions of prescription drugs are in circulation in America.

U.S. Prescription Drug Abuse Stats

The CDC reports 115 people die every day due to opioid overdose. Almost one-third of those individuals also have benzos in their systems.

In 2014, more than 132,000 Americans sought treatment for prescription opiate addiction, while nearly 15,000 went to treatment for benzodiazepines, and more than 8,000 for amphetamines.

An estimated 54 million Americans older than the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime.

We are experiencing such a great crisis with record highs in overdose deaths that we have a special task force tracking the opioid epidemic. Combining opioids with sedatives has become a prescription for death.

Will my job be affected if I pursue treatment for prescription drug dependence?

Most people who need addiction treatment have jobs. Working professionals worry that their career could be affected by receiving treatment for prescription drug dependence.

However, there are laws preventing this kind of discrimination. You should be legally covered to enter an addiction treatment program for a few weeks, but as you might expect, you employer won’t be required to pay you during your time away.

Learn more about taking time off to enter rehab:

Treatment for Working Professionals

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