Prescription Drug Addiction Causes

Learn more about prescription drug addiction causes and how to seek help for prescription drug addiction at Arrow Passage Recovery.
Prescription Drug Addiction Causes

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatments

This article includes all you need to know about prescription drug addiction treatments, including the drugs with the highest risk of addiction.

Table of Contents

Why Do People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs are medications used to prevent, diagnose, and treat various health conditions. In contrast to over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs should only be used or dispensed from a doctor’s prescription.

However, like several other forms of substance use disorders, people abuse prescription drugs for several reasons. These reasons may include:

  • Overuse leading dependence
  • For perceived benefits, such as improved concentration at work or increased appetite and alertness
  • Euphoria
  • As a substitute for other drug use
  • Withdrawal symptom prevention
  • Peer pressure

How Common Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction is common, with many cases underreported or overlooked. This is because some individuals are unaware that they might have developed a substance use addiction to the medication they use. Studies show that an outstanding eighteen million people (6% of the population of the United States) over twelve years old have a prescription drug problem. 1

Prescription Medicine That Causes Drug Addiction

Dependency on certain medications, especially prescription drugs, is always possible during drug therapy. Certain classes of prescription drugs have higher addictive potentials when compared to others. These include central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, CNS depressants, and opioids.

Opioids such as codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone are prescribed as pain relief medications, especially for long-term pain. Along with their analgesic effect, opioids have the propensity to cause feelings of euphoria, dependence, and subsequent addiction. Opioid addiction causes a variety of complications.

Anti-anxiety medications and CNS depressants like barbiturates act by slowing down brain activity and can induce feelings of calmness. Lastly, stimulants are a class of prescription drugs commonly abused and are used clinically to increase brain activity. A good example of CNS stimulants is amphetamines. 2

What Causes Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction causes grave consequences that are often not deliberate. However, with the constant use and need for prescription medication, some patients could develop substance use dependence and become addicted over time. Some of the identified causes of prescription drug abuse will be detailed below.


Genetics play a role in every aspect of human life, including physical appearance, emotional states, and health. Hereditary factors and genetics also play a role in prescription drug addiction and abuse. Studies show that 40% to 60% of a person’s vulnerability to addiction is due to genetic factors.
Research into the role of genes in addiction has revealed that the variations in gene coding can lead to differences in susceptibility. A history of familial substance use does not inherently indicate that a person would have a substance use addiction; it only increases the likelihood. 3

Environmental Stressors

Environmental stressors can often modify a person’s behavior and emotional state and are also observed in prescription drug addiction. Environmental stressors include family influences and attitudes, peer group and community influences, and financial factors.
People who grow up or live in areas where prescription drug misuse is prevalent are more likely to develop a substance use problem than others. Changes occur in the brain in response to environmental stress during developmental stages that may increase the likelihood of developing a substance use addiction later in life. Environmental factors are one of the major causes of prescription drug abuse. Clinicians should investigate them before and during a patient’s prescription medication use. 4

Mental and Physical Health Conditions

A large number of prescription medications are used in the treatment and management of mental and physical health conditions. This reliance and the impact of the development of these conditions are leading causes of prescription drug abuse. For instance, in chronic or acute pain management, using opioids as pain relief coupled with other mental effects of the drug could lead to continuous dependence.

This dependence is one of the major causes of opioid addiction. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety also increase the likelihood of abusing prescription medication to ease stress and boost moods. Prescription drugs used to treat psychological and physical conditions should be monitored closely to prevent overuse and dependence.

Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Addiction

Various factors influence prescription drug addiction and its occurrence across multiple demographics. These risk factors for prescription drug abuse are not definite determining factors for every individual but should guide lifestyle modifications when observed. These factors include:


Prescription drug addiction is highly observed between 18 to 25 years of age (14% more than other age ranges). Some studies also show increased addiction and abuse rates in adults who have used various drugs to help different health conditions. 5

Family History of Substance Addiction

Seeing as genes play an essential role in prescription drug addiction, a family drug addiction history is one of the significant risk factors for prescription drug abuse. Behaviorally prescription drug addiction causes character traits that could lead to trauma for family members and spiral into another addiction. Also, studies show that specific genes are passed down in families that predispose individuals to drug addictions.

Addiction to Other Substances

Addiction to other substances will also lead to prescription drug misuse due to drug tolerance and drug-seeking behavior. Individuals with substance addiction may misuse prescription medication due to poor substance use habits or intentionally when trying to substitute addictive substances.

Lack of Knowledge About Prescription Drugs

Different prescription drugs have different uses and side effects and must be studied carefully before initiating therapy. Improper or lack of knowledge on prescription medication can lead to addiction, especially during the prolonged use of medicines with high addictive potential.

Easy Access to Prescription Drugs

Unhindered accessibility can lead to prescription medication addiction in several ways, namely by increasing the chances of excessive usage and misuse. Also, people with access to prescription medication may use them as substitutes for other illicit drugs.
Overall accessibility is one of the risk factors for prescription drug abuse that patients and healthcare practitioners can easily prevent. For instance, the guarded availability of opioids during therapy dramatically reduces the causes of opioid addiction linked to overuse and subsequent dependence.

Other Possible Factors

Some other possible risk factors for prescription drug abuse are pre-existing psychiatric conditions, exposure to an environment with high drug misuse, childhood trauma, and sexual, physical, or verbal abuse.

Prescription Drug Withdrawal and Overdose

Drug withdrawal symptoms classify the body’s reaction during substance use breaks or cessation. These withdrawal symptoms occur in varying intensities and can make a recovery from prescription drug addiction recovery tedious.
These symptoms do not happen the same for everyone, and each person who struggles with overdose or withdrawal could experience these symptoms on different levels. There are several symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal and overdose, including:

Prescription Drug Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms

Abrupt withdrawal from prescription drugs would present symptoms like dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, sweating, muscle and joint ache, anxiety, irritability, shakiness, pallor, and increased heart rate. 6
For CNS stimulants, withdrawal symptoms are fatigue, depression, and sleep problems. CNS depressants have withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, shakiness, anxiety, insomnia, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, fever with sweating, and hallucinations.

Prescription Drug Overdose Symptoms

An overdose on prescription drugs would generally lead to difficulty walking, troubled breathing, nausea, vomiting, agitation, tremors, aggression, enlarged pupils, drowsiness, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. 7

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

There are several prescription drug addiction treatment programs offered at Arrow Passage Recovery. These programs are suited for anyone with a prescription drug addiction issue and are individualized to ensure patient comfort.

These treatment programs involve prescription drug detox, medication to aid withdrawal, and prescription drug rehab to correct behavioral traits.
Prescription Drug Addiction Causes


This process involves gradual prescription drug detox by a trained expert. For opioids, there is a gradual tapering of the opioid to prevent extreme withdrawal symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications or relaxants are withdrawn gradually for about two weeks, and CNS stimulants are slowly withdrawn while checking for withdrawal symptoms. 8


Medication and other pharmacotherapy is essential to managing withdrawal symptoms. Health care practitioners could augment opioid addiction treatment with naltrexone or buprenorphine given by injection once a month. However, to control high blood pressure caused by withdrawal, Clonidine is used. CNS relaxant medication is also needed to stabilize the mood and manage anxiety. Using medication to control and manage cravings and symptoms during withdrawal is vital.

Behavioral Therapies

It is necessary to provide support and therapy to correct behavioral traits to prevent the patient’s relapse. Behavioral therapy helps spot potential risks and negative traits such as drug-seeking behavior. At the same time, offering healthier coping strategies and recovery methods. This stage of the treatment requires total transparency from the patient to ensure well-being and certify good health.

Contact an Addiction Specialist at Arrow Passage Recovery

At Arrow Passage Recovery, we want to help patients addicted to prescription drugs through their journey of recovery and sobriety. Arrow Passage Recovery is just one call away for either you or your loved one. Our team of professionals has treatment plans designed for each patient to make a recovery as easy as possible.

Please contact us at Arrow Passage Recovery today for more information on prescription addiction, prescription drug misuse, and treatment.

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