Prescription Drug Addiction

When most people think of drug addiction, they automatically assume the drugs must be illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy or cannabis. However, individuals can become addicted to prescription drugs as well as the illegal varieties. The truth of the matter is that many of those prescribed medication for pain relief or conditions such as insomnia or depression can become addicted in the same way that others can become addicted to drugs like heroin or cocaine.

One of the biggest dangers with taking prescription medication is that many assume that just because the medication has been prescribed by a doctor, it must be safe and so there will be no side effects. While the prescription medication is safe to take as per recommended dosages, there is a risk of addiction when taken for an extended or when these are taken by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed.

The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

Strong prescription medication should only be taken as prescribed by a doctor. The problem with prescription drugs is that many individuals are unaware of the dangers of misusing them. Taking medication that has been prescribed for another person is reckless and dangerous, and self-medicating with prescription medication can increase the risk of addiction. Below are a few of the dangers of abusing prescription drugs:

  • Those who have been abusing prescription drugs will usually suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit or cut down
  • They will become tolerant to the effects of the drugs and will need more to get the same level of satisfaction
  • Taking more of the drugs to get the same effects could lead to overdose
  • Prescription medication is strong, so those who take them will be at higher risk of accidents as they impair judgement and decision-making
  • Prescription medication can result in depression and increase in suicidal tendencies
  • Abuse of prescription medication can lead to internal organ damage.

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

There are various types of prescription drugs that can be abused; below are a few of the more common types and what they are prescribed for:

  • Opioids: Opioids are generally prescribed to treat severe pain and include codeine, morphine and oxycodone
  • Central Nervous System Depressants: CNS depressants are used to treat sleep disorders and anxiety, and include benzodiazepines and barbiturates
  • Stimulants: Stimulants are used to treat conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and include amphetamines and methylphenidate
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants are prescribed for depression, anxiety, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and include citalopram and duloxetine.

When Prescription Drug Use Becomes Addiction

Doctors are aware of the dangers of certain medications and will only prescribe them if they feel the benefits outweigh the risks. Patients who stick to the prescribed dosage and follow the prescribing doctor's advice should have no problem; however, this is not always the case.

Those who are taking prescription medication are in danger of crossing the line from use to addiction, especially if they feel they cannot cope unless they have this medication. Those who begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not take their medication may have already become physically dependent on it.

Individuals that take prescription medication are often unable to recognise when they have crossed the line from drug use to addiction. The line is very fine and, in many cases, the problem can sneak up on the person. Addiction to prescription medication does not generally happen overnight. It is a gradual problem and most of those with a prescription drug addiction are unaware that they have a problem until they try to stop taking the medication.

When a person begins to rely on the drug to get by and experiences withdrawal symptoms when not taking it, it has become a problem.

Signs of a Prescription Drug Addiction

There are physical and behavioural signs to look out for if you think you might have addiction to prescription medication. The physical symptoms will depend on the type of drug you are taking. Below are a few examples:

Behavioural Signs

  • Needing more of the medication to get the same level of satisfaction
  • Running out of your prescription early
  • Being unable to take care of responsibilities because of the effects of the drug
  • Trying to cut down but being unable to
  • Feeling guilty about the amount of medication being taken
  • Hiding your medication and lying about how much medication you are taking
  • Suffering problems at home or work because of the medication you are taking
  • Continuing to take the medication despite knowing it is causing harm in your life.

Physical Signs

  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Raised body temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia

If your addiction has become a major problem, then you may begin looking for alternative suppliers, especially if your doctor refuses to give you a repeat prescription early. You may start looking online or buying alternative medication when you have run out. Some people will begin visiting more than one doctor in an effort to get their hands on more medication, or they will lie to their usual doctor about losing their prescription just to get more drugs; nevertheless, this will not work in the long-term.

At Recovery Lighthouse, we know how difficult it is to deal with addiction to prescription medication. We understand that many individuals are oblivious to the fact that they have an addiction because they simply do not understand the implications of taking such strong medication.

Nonetheless, if you recognise a number of the above signs in yourself, then we suggest you get in touch with us as you may need immediate help.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

It is important to talk to someone if you think you may have addiction to prescription drugs. If you cannot talk to a loved one, speak to your doctor or contact us here at Recovery Lighthouse. We have a team of experienced counsellors and therapists ready to help you get through this difficult period in your life.

Treatment for prescription drug addiction is very similar to treatment for alcohol or illegal drug addiction. Depending on the severity of the addiction, you may be advised to undergo a period of detox, which will eliminate the mediation from your body. This can be tough as your body tries to get back to normal without the effects of the chemicals it has been relying on for so long. However, our staff is here to help you through this and will support you every step of the way.

After detox, we can provide you with the treatments you need to overcome your addiction to prescription medication. Our staff are fully trained and have experience in helping people in a similar situation to yours. We will provide you with a tailored treatment programme based on your circumstances and needs, and this may include both individual and group therapy as well as cognitive behavioural therapy designed to help you get better.

Please do not hesitate to contact Recovery Lighthouse for help and advice as well as information about our state-of-the-art clinic and what we do here.

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