Addiction to Prescription Drugs

Every year, doctors write hundreds of millions of prescriptions for potentially addictive drugs. Most users take their drugs till the prescription runs out, then return to everyday life. For some, though, prescription drugs initiate a dangerous cycle of addiction.

Many prescription drug abusers—whether they obtain their drugs from a doctor, a drug dealer, or both—insist that their addiction isn’t as bad as addictions to drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine. After all, the reasoning goes, doctors offer these drugs, so they can’t be that dangerous. Prescription drugs kill more people than all other drugs except for alcohol combined, claiming nearly 40,000 lives each year.

Your body doesn’t know—and doesn’t care—whether you got your prescription from a doctor or purchased your drugs from a dealer. If you’re an addict, the terrible toll your addiction takes on your body, mind, relationships, and life will be the same.

Am I an Addict?

Believe it or not, you can use prescription drugs at the dose recommended by your doctor, and still become an addict. Any use of prescription drugs outside of a doctor’s recommendation—whether you’re upping the dose, taking drugs more frequently than your doctor recommended, doctor-shopping, or buying from a drug dealer—exponentially increases your odds of becoming an addict. Some signs you may be addicted to prescription drugs include:

  • The drugs no longer effectively treat your condition.
  • You take larger doses than you initially did.
  • You can’t feel “normal” without your drugs.
  • You do things you regret while under the influence of drugs.
  • You lie to your doctor or pharmacist to get more drugs.
  • You consult with multiple doctors to get drugs.
  • You use a friend’s drugs or prescription.
  • You’ve tried and failed to quit using prescription drugs.
  • You take multiple addictive prescription drugs, or you blend prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs.

How Prescription Drugs Affect Your Body

Hundreds of prescription drugs can become addictive, and they each affect your body in different ways. Most prescription drugs belong in one of three classes, and knowing your drug’s classification can help you determine how it might affect you.

Depressants

Depressants include sleeping pills, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, and similar drugs. These medications slow down brain and spinal cord functioning, causing you to feel sleepy and groggy, react more slowly, and feel less anxiety. Over time, these drugs can deplete brain function, slow respiration, undermine heart function, and even cause you to fall into a coma. Depressants are especially dangerous when they’re mixed with alcohol.

Stimulants

Stimulants include many drugs for ADHD, such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Vyvanse. These drugs leave you feeling energized and speedy, and can make it difficult to sleep. Over time, these drugs can lead to dangerously high blood pressure, rapid weight loss, excessive sweating, angry outbursts, and heart attacks. 

Opioids and Narcotics

Opioid narcotics have similar effects to depressants, but are typically more addictive, with a longer withdrawal process.

Why Prescription Drug Addiction Requires Specialized Treatment

Prescription drug addiction, like all forms of addiction, requires both medical and psychological care. Therapy can help you learn to resist temptation while offering you insight into why you use drugs. Medical care helps you manage the symptoms of detox while addressing any long-term health consequences of your prescription drugs addiction.

If you are addicted to a prescription drug for which you have a prescription, though, your addiction treatment also needs to address the underlying condition. Your doctor can help you find less addictive medications for managing your condition. He or she may also help you implement non-medication strategies. For instance, if you struggle with depression, some studies suggest that exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants.

Every addict has a unique story. We listen to your story, then help you put together a treatment plan that works with your needs and your lifestyle. Addiction isn’t your fault, and we can show you a path to a brighter tomorrow.

Further Reading:

Prescription Drug Rehab Program
Prescription Drug Abuse
NIH: Prescription Drug Abuse Explained

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