Prescription Addiction and Abuse

Prescription drug addiction is a growing problem that many people don't take as seriously as they should. Since the medications were originally prescribed by a doctor, they feel that prescription drug abuse is different than when the person is using street drugs. Prescription drug addicts are addicted, in the same way that those who get hooked on cocaine, heroin, or other types of illegal drugs are.

What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

A prescription drug addict uses medications in a way other than for which they were originally prescribed or to a much greater extent. They come to depend on the drugs to feel better in some way, and experience cravings for them in between doses. The prescription drug use continues in spite of negative consequences for the user, including relationship difficulties, problems on the job, or the risk of physical harm from inappropriate use.

Signs of Prescription Abuse and Dependence

The signs of addiction to prescription drugs include the following:

  • Complaining of vague symptoms to get more medication
  • Lack of interest in treatment options other than medications
  • Mood swings
  • Seeing several doctors and/or pharmacies to get more pills
  • Past history of drug addiction
  • On and off relief from anxiety
  • Using more than the recommended dose or dosage frequency of the medication
  • Using prescription pills prescribed for others

Causes of Dependency

Prescription medications are drugs and they work on the user's brain in the same way their illegal counterparts do. When a person who is addicted to prescription drugs uses them, the medication changes the brain's chemistry, making it less effective at producing chemicals like dopamine or endorphins. Since the brain has stopped producing these chemicals itself, they must be introduced through another source. At this point, the prescription drug addict has become physically dependent on the medication.

Seniors are especially at risk for prescription drug addictions, simply because they are prescribed drugs more often that other groups. For example, a doctor may prescribe a tranquilizer after they have experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of their spouse. The person feels calmer and is able to sleep better with the medication, so they take it more often than the doctor directs. When they run out, they go back to the doctor for another prescription, and this is how the addiction starts.

Effects of Using Prescription Pills Excessively

A person who is addicted to prescription drugs may experience the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in relationships with friends or family members
  • Withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the medication on their own

Complications and Long Term Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

The most important prescription drug abuse complication that you need to be aware of is drug interaction. If your doctor or pharmacist is not aware of everything you are taking, they may give you a medication that will produce side effects when combined with your prescription medication. Vitamins and herbal remedies fall into this category as well.

When you consume alcohol and prescription drugs, the combination of the two can produce some nasty side effects. If you are taking a sedative or a painkiller and drink alcohol, the combination of the two may affect the central nervous system, leading to respiratory distress or failure, or even death.

Help and Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

A rehab center can help with prescription drug treatment including interventions, detox, rehabilitation and recovery. Inpatient therapy means that any medications given are closely monitored while an addict gets help.

Rehabilitation Programs and Treatment Centers for Specific Drugs

Browse the links below to find local rehab facilities offering specialized care, or call 1-866-675-4912.

Beyond Quitting: Prescription Drug Recovery and Rehabilitation

Follow-up care after inpatient rehabilitation treatment can include individual or group therapy sessions, as well as a 12-step program, like Narcotics Anonymous or Neurotics Anonymous. A patient can also opt for Addiction Wellness Coaching, or seek the comfort of being with fellow recovering addicts within Addiction Support Groups.

Photos for Pill Identification

Our drugs forum contains extensive questions and answers posted by members concerning drugs such as Celexa, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Ambien, Klonopin, Valium, Xanax, and more.

You may also be interested in our list of barbiturates or other lists such as the different types of antidepressants, depressants, and narcotics.