Prescription Drug Addiction Help & Treatment
Prescription drugs are simply drugs that you must have a prescription for in order to receive them. This means they tend to be stronger than over-the-counter drugs, and they are more likely to lead to an addiction if their use is not controlled.
It is true that over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can also lead to addiction, as some people abuse the medication they take for conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Certain medications are classed as OTC drugs in some countries, and prescription drugs in others, so what we refer to as a prescription drug may not be known as a prescription drug across the board.
How Common is Prescription Drug Addiction?
Before we look at how common prescription drug addiction is, let’s talk about the rise in prescribed drugs over the past 20 years. In 1994, there were 3 million opioid prescriptions, which rose to 23 million in 2014.
As for co-codamol, the volume of prescriptions rose from 8.8 million in 2001 to 15 million in 2011 (1).
This demonstrates that more people are accessing prescription drugs, which increases the likelihood of addiction and eventual overdose.
If we take the example of the drug Tramadol, there was only one fatal overdose recorded in 1996, compared to 240 overdoses in 2014.
As for prescription drugs in general, in 2013 we saw 807 fatal overdoses, which was 16% more than overdoses recorded in the five years prior (2).
In the US, it is believed that 16.3 million people per year misuse prescriptions – mainly painkillers, sedatives, and tranquillizers (3).
This problem is very prevalent among young people, with 4.1% of users being in the 18-25 age range (4).
Who is at an Increased Risk of Developing a Prescription Drug Addiction?
As with any addiction, you are at an increased risk if you are genetically prone to developing an addiction and if you have experienced traumatic events such as grief, divorce, bullying, neglect, or abuse.
It is also more common amongst people who have been raised around it, or who spend time with people who are misusing prescription drugs.
Some of these include:
- Being a smoker
- Having certain mental health conditions e.g., anxiety or depression
- Being aged between 18-25
- Engaging in risk-taking behaviour frequently
- Being stressed
- Experiencing problems in personal relationships
How Do People Access Prescription Drugs?
Firstly, some people end up abusing the prescription medication that they are given for a legitimate condition. If the prescription is not renewed, they may turn to other doctors to give them more.
Another way that people access prescription drugs is through their family or friends who have been prescribed certain medications by their doctor. They will either ask their loved ones for the medication, or they will steal it.
Finally, it is sometimes possible for people to access prescription drugs online with an illegitimate online pharmacy that does not require customers to provide a prescription. The customer could potentially be receiving the false medication without being aware of it.
Why is Prescription Drug Addiction Common?
Prescription drugs are some of the easiest drugs to access, as many people are already being prescribed addictive medications, or they have family members or friends who they can take the medication from.
It is also easier to hide that you are addicted to prescription drugs, as you can pretend you are taking medication per your doctor’s advice, and it may not seem suspicious to anyone.
What’s more, as these drugs are legal, you do not have to worry about getting into trouble with the police.
Finally, as prescription medication is legal, some people are less careful with how they consume it, so they can end up developing an addiction as they do not take their medication safely.
For example, they may up their dosage without asking their doctor, they may combine their medication with other forms of medication, or they may take it for longer than recommended.
What are the Symptoms Of Prescription Drug Addiction?
The symptoms of prescription drug addiction vary widely as people react differently to different prescription drugs.
In terms of opioid addiction, some common symptoms are:
- Poor coordination
- Mood swings
- Poor decision-making
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts
Some symptoms of stimulant addiction are:
- Weight loss
- dilated pupils
- Racing thoughts
- Mood swings
- Changes in appetite
- Hair loss
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- and Hyperactivity.
The main symptoms of central nervous system depressants tend to be:
- Slurred speech
- Dilated pupils
- Reduces blood pressure
- Memory problems
- Poor concentration
- Poor coordination
- and Impaired judgement.
It goes without saying that the symptoms are different for everyone, and people tend to only experience several of the common symptoms, rather than all of them.
What’s more, they may experience some other symptoms as there are less common side effects that only affect certain users.
What are the Signs that Someone Has a Prescription Drug Addiction?
People with addiction tend to want to keep their problems private, so it can be hard to detect when someone you love is addicted to prescription drugs.
It can even be hard to tell when you are personally addicted, as you may believe you are not dependent on your medication even though you are.
To help with this, here are some common signs of prescription drug addiction:
- Frequent trips to the doctor
- Becoming more secretive
- A significant change in sleeping habits
- Being significantly more or less energetic than usual
- Forging prescriptions
- Doctor shopping (going to different doctors to get a prescription)
- Claiming to keep losing prescriptions
- Neglecting responsibilities e.g. family and work
Please keep in mind that addiction does not happen overnight, so the signs are likely to be very subtle at the beginning. Even when someone is at the height of their addiction, they may not exhibit any obvious signs if they are hiding it well.
Which Prescription Drugs are the Most Addictive?
The most addictive prescription drugs are:
These drugs can cause physical dependency within a short timeframe.
However, it is important to remember that certain drugs do not produce physical dependence, yet can still be psychologically addictive.
A drug as easily accessible as paracetamol can lead to a psychological addiction if misused.
How to Avoid Developing a Prescription Drug Addiction
The most obvious way to avoid prescription drug addiction is to only take the medication you are prescribed, at the dose you are prescribed.
When it runs out, do not make attempts to get more if you do not need to. It goes without saying that you should never take someone else’s prescription, and you should not buy medication from an unreliable online pharmacy.
A useful tip is to always look up contraindications before you take a new drug. Your doctor should make you aware of this, but it’s always best to do your own research just in case.
This will prevent you from overdosing, or experiencing uncomfortable side effects when two drugs do not interact well.
Should I Stop Taking My Prescription Medication?
If you take your medication safely, abiding by the correct dosage and the instructions of your doctor, you can continue to do this without worrying about developing an addiction.
Just make sure you know the signs of dependence so that you can take action if you feel as though you are becoming reliant on your medication.
Even if your prescribed medication is very addictive and is a strong dose, you can continue to take it if your doctor recommends this.
Not everyone will become addicted to prescription drugs, and it is often more dangerous for you to stop taking them simply because some people experience problems with substance use.
Prescription Drug Addiction Help & Treatment
If you are dependent on prescription drugs and you are ready to accept help, we can tell you what your options are.
If your dependence hasn’t turned into a full-blown addiction, it is possible that you will be able to slowly wean yourself off the medication without taking dramatic action.
We still recommend that you consult your doctor about this, as they will be able to help you do this safely, and they will be more careful about the drugs they prescribe you with in the future.
We also recommend telling your loved ones about your struggles, as they will be able to help you to avoid misusing your prescription drugs.
If they are unaware of your issues, they may accidentally enable you i.e. by lending you medication or taking you to appointments with new doctors.
However, if they are in the loop, they can provide emotional support as you withdraw from prescription medication.
It is advisable to remove the prescription medication that you do not need from your home. If you live with someone who takes prescription drugs, it may be best for them to keep their medication in a safe place that you cannot access.
Even if this feels extreme, it is better to take extreme measures to prevent a serious addiction from occurring.
As part of your individual journey, you could join a self-help group to keep you motivated to stay sober. For example, you could attend meetings with Narcotics Anonymous, where you will meet other people who have issues with prescription drugs and other drugs.
However, if you are experiencing an addiction, this is not something you should attempt to recover from alone.
Not only is it unlikely that you would recover alone, but it is in fact dangerous, as you need to withdraw from drugs in a controlled way if you are addicted.
Home drug detox
A home detox may be successful if you are moderately addicted to prescription drugs, and do not live alone.
The reason you need to meet these requirements is that people with a severe addiction who live alone are unlikely to follow through with the home detox, as there is too much temptation around.
However, if you have enough support at home, this option may be beneficial as it is a way for you to get sober without having to enter a treatment centre and interrupt your life in a significant way.
What’s more, there is still some structure despite the detox taking place in your home. You will have access to online resources to educate you about prescription drug addiction, and you will be able to get in touch with a team of medical professionals throughout the course of your home detox.
Residential drug rehab
This is without a doubt the best option for anyone who has a severe addiction to prescription drugs, as they need to be in an environment that is safe, controlled, and not conducive to addiction.
If you choose to enter rehab for your addiction, you will most likely spend 28 days there, and this will include an initial detox and daily therapy sessions. It is possible to attend rehab on an outpatient basis, but this is only advised for people with a mild to moderate addiction.
During your time at rehab, you will follow a personalised treatment plan based on your specific needs. This will take into account the severity of your addiction, the type of substance you are addicted to, any mental health conditions you have, and anything else that affects how you would respond to treatment.
At the end of your treatment, you will have an aftercare plan that is also personalised. It is a way to increase your chances of staying sober, as it is well known that you are often at your most vulnerable in the first year after your treatment at rehab.
There is no guarantee that you will not relapse after attending rehab, but it remains true that residential rehab is the most successful form of treatment for people with a prescription drug addiction.
The more work you put into staying sober, the more likely you will not relapse. For example, we always recommend having weekly therapy sessions, attending self-help groups on a regular basis, socialising with people who are sober, being open and honest with your loved ones when you experience temptation, and managing your triggers well (e.g. keeping your stress levels low).
Will I Have to Detox From Prescription Drugs?
It is very likely that you will have to detox from prescription drugs, as they cause physical dependence, so your body needs to learn how to function without them. It is dangerous for you to quit cold turkey, as it could cause your body to go into shock, so this is why a gradual medical detox is necessary.
Generally, the detox at rehab will last several days, and at this time, you will be supported by a team of medical professionals who will be checking on your health regularly. There will always be someone around in case you need any help.
Some people experience frightening symptoms when they detox, such as seizures, so medication is prescribed to prevent this from occurring or to reduce the severity of it. Please remember that your health will be monitored constantly, so you are in safe hands even if you do experience worrying symptoms.
It is also very likely that you will experience strong cravings for prescription drugs when you detox, and this can be an unpleasant experience. Sometimes, you will take medication to reduce the intensity of these cravings, making the detox slightly easier to handle.
Will I Have to Have Addiction Therapy?
No one is going to force you to see a therapist if you have a prescription drug addiction, but they may strongly encourage you. Part of what makes rehab so successful for drug addiction is the fact that it immerses clients in daily therapy, forcing them to face their demons and learn how to battle them.
Therapy can help you to understand why you became dependent on drugs from a psychological point of view.
Once you understand this, it will be easier for you to stay sober as you will be able to avoid triggers and learn useful coping mechanisms.
It encourages you to explore your childhood trauma and figure out how this may have impacted your mental health – and, in this case, addiction.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is very focused on the subconscious, as therapists in this field believe we repress our trauma and we try to cope with it by engaging in unhealthy behaviours, such as addiction.
If we talk about our emotions, they believe we can come to healthier conclusions and make healthier choices.
If for some reason you do not want to have therapy at all, it may be possible for you to go to rehab just for the detox. You would usually stay for around 10 days in this case.
However, if you have a moderate to serious addiction, you should know that without therapy, it is unlikely that you will be able to stay sober after the detox.
It may be the case that you are against a certain form of therapy for personal reasons. For instance, perhaps you would not appreciate counselling as you have found that talking to a professional about your problems and not getting their personal opinion has not been beneficial for you.
In this situation, we encourage you to let us know about your bad experience, and we will then make sure you do not have to have counselling at rehab, or we could inform the staff so that they ease you into it gently, or pair counselling with many other different styles of therapy.
Will the Addiction Therapy Be Individual Or Group?
You will be encouraged to have individual therapy as this gives you the opportunity to delve into your personal problems with a mental health professional, so you will get personal advice and encouragement.
When you leave rehab, even though there will be support for you, it is you who has to stay sober, so it is good practice to work on your feelings individually and to be open about your personal experiences.
Group therapy will also be encouraged at rehab as it is proven to be successful in helping people to stay sober. It is a great opportunity for you to learn how to be honest about your struggles, which takes away the shame that is often tied to addiction.
Group therapy is also a time for you to learn from people who have more experience with recovery than you, so you will most likely learn some helpful coping mechanisms.
As well as individual and group therapy, you may be able to have family therapy.
We recommend this if your family are willing to support you in your recovery, as it teaches them how to do this successfully, and it could also help you to bond and repair relationships.
However, if your family have enabled your addiction, or they do not support your recovery, we would not advise you to get family therapy unless they have shown a desire to make a change.
This is because you need people around you who are going to help you stay sober when you leave rehab, otherwise, temptation will be even higher, and it will be very easy for you to fall back into your old lifestyle.
Will I Have to Share a Room With Other Patients at Rehab?
Some people choose to share a room at rehab to save money, or to avoid the loneliness that may come with staying alone. However, this is by no means an obligation. Many people pay extra money to have a private bedroom that may even come with an ensuite.
These people can still be very involved in the social side of rehab, as they can spend time with other patients during the day, either in therapy or in free time. There are often many different facilities patients can enjoy such as common rooms, gyms, and sports facilities.
The rehab facility will most likely offer group sessions as well as therapy, such as motivational sessions and educational workshops. This can be an opportunity for patients to bond over treatment without being in a serious, emotional environment like group therapy can be.
Motivational sessions in particular can help rehab patients to stay on track with their recovery by supporting one another and remembering to focus on their shared goal of staying sober.
What to Do If a Family Member Has a Prescription Drug Addiction
It can be very difficult to watch a family member battle a prescription drug addiction, as you may feel powerless, especially if they refuse to get professional help.
The first thing to remember is that they will not get sober until they want to; no amount of persuasion will convince them to recover until they decide that it is what they want for themselves.
That being said, you should not view your family member as a lost cause. We recommend that you talk about the joys of recovery with them, discuss the options that are available in your area, and remind them that you are willing to help them with their recovery when they are ready.
It is also advisable to avoid language that shames your loved one. Addiction is a disease, and if your family member feels judged for their issues, they may be more likely to binge on drugs as a way to cope with feelings of shame.
Instead, make it clear that you want them to get help because you love them, and you are not trying to shame them.
If your loved one has a serious addiction and it is only getting worse, you may want to consider an intervention. If you get in touch with us, we can tell you about the different types of intervention that you can do.
There is no way that you can force your family member into treatment, even if you have staged an intervention with them. However, you can continue to be open with them about your feelings, and you can work on managing your own mental health as you go through this difficult experience.
You could even attend meetings for people whose family members are struggling with addiction, and this will help you to realise you are not alone, as well as give you the chance to learn about useful coping mechanisms.
What Can Rehab Recovery Do For Me?
We know that finding the right treatment can be very difficult when you are in the throes of addiction. For this reason, we work hard to land on the ideal type of treatment for our clients, whether this is outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, or a home detox.
If you settle for treatment at a rehab centre, we will ensure the chosen facility meets all of your needs and caters to people with prescription drug addiction.
If you have any specific requests regarding therapy, we will also honour these.
This may give you inspiration for the types of therapy you want to try in rehab, and we can find a facility that provides your preferred type.
We are equipped to help clients who are on a budget, so do not dismiss our services if you cannot afford an expensive form of treatment.
Though rehab is known for being costly, you can keep the costs low by choosing a local centre, getting a shared room, and finding a budget-friendly centre.
Instead, we will explain how you can access treatment when you are in the position to do so.
If you are ready right now, we will get to work preparing a referral, and you could find yourself in a rehab centre in a matter of weeks. Home detoxes and outpatient treatments can be organised even faster.
That being said, it does sometimes take a few months for us to find our clients a place at a rehab centre.
It is dependent on various things, including the availability of rehab facilities in your area. Have a look at our addiction clinic locations to confirm we have contacts with a clinic in your town or city.
 Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the UK https://www.lifeworkscommunity.com/blog/prescription-drug-abuse-is-a-growing-problem-in-the-uk
 Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics https://drugabusestatistics.org/prescription-drug-abuse-statistics/
 Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics: 4 Facts You Need to Know https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/prescription/prescription-drug-abuse-statistics
 Prescription drug abuse in Europe is a bigger problem than previously thought https://www.biomedcentral.com/about/press-centre/science-press-releases/04-08-16