Prescription Drug Addiction Myths

What are common prescription drug addiction myths? Read on to learn more about prescription drug abuse and treatment options.
Prescription Drug Addiction Myths

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.

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Thousands of people lose their lives each year due to prescription drug abuse. Some statistics indicate over 100 people each day die from the effects of overdose or medical conditions related to abuse of prescription drugs. When the topic of prescription drug addiction is raised, the first drugs that people think of are pain killers and certain anti-anxiety medications. 1

Although some of the most abused substances, these are not the only abusable prescription drugs. Opioids, benzodiazepines, sedatives, and stimulant drugs, also add to annual addiction cases.

Scope of Prescription Drug Addiction

Data from 2017 showed more than 18 million people over age 12 had misused prescription medications in the last year. That equates to approximately 6% of the United States population. Although current data is not available, it is likely safe to assume, based on historical information, that these numbers have only continued to rise over the last few years. 2

What Is a Prescription Drug?

Prescription drugs are strong medications often used to treat symptoms related to chronic pain, injury, post-surgical recovery, and various mental health conditions. Three categories of prescription drugs are commonly abused. These include opioids used for pain relief (such as Vicodin, Codeine, or OxyContin), depressants used to address anxiety and sleep-related problems (including Valium or Xanax), and stimulants used for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (like Adderall and Ritalin).

When used as prescribed, prescription drugs are highly effective and beneficial to the person using them. However, when misused (used by someone other than the patient or incorrectly), they can be dangerous and highly addictive. Many people believe because a medical or mental health provider prescribes a medication, that it is “safe.” In most situations, this is a safe assumption; however, when someone abuses prescription pills, the risk for addiction and other severe physical and psychological health consequences increases dramatically.

Most Abused Prescription Drugs

Because so many people see prescription drugs as a safer alternative to illicit substances, there is a greater possibility of abuse and misuse of these substances. 3


Opioids or prescription painkillers are prescribed for treating severe or chronic pain conditions. They are also among the most over-prescribed medication classes. Common opioids include Percocet, Lortab, Oxycontin, and Morphine.


Ritalin, a commonly prescribed stimulant, is typically used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is also frequently abused due to its energizing effects. Other medications like Adderall include Concerta and Adderall.

Benzodiazepines and Hypnotics

Sedatives and tranquilizers generally produce similar intoxicating effects. This category of prescription drugs includes sleeping pills, sedative-hypnotics, and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are a prescription sedative commonly prescribed to treat anxiety symptoms or help with insomnia. The most widely prescribed benzodiazepines are Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin.

Common Myths about Prescription Drug Addiction

As noted above, there are several widespread misconceptions about prescription drugs. It is important to understand these prescription drug addiction myths and learn more about the truths and dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Myth #1: Prescription Drugs Are Safer to Be Addicted to Than Other Illicit Substances

When someone abuses prescription drugs, their risk of addiction and other severe physical and psychological health consequences increases dramatically.

Prescription opioids, stimulants, and depressants are often used as part of a treatment plan for an extended duration—the chances of developing an addiction increase with a more extended period. Once tolerance develops, more frequent and higher doses are required to obtain the same feeling or “high” once achieved at your initially prescribed dose. When you develop a tolerance, you are at a greater risk of addiction and overdose on prescription drugs.

Myth #2: Prescription Drug Addiction Doesn’t Cause Harmful Side Effects

Prescription pills impact the function of the brain and various body systems. They change your brain’s reward system, making it harder to “feel good” without using the drug. Once drug use stops, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms often occur.

Myth #3: It’s Easy to Stop Prescription Drug Addiction

Regular use of prescription drugs can cause tolerance and cravings (physical and emotional dependence). Painful and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone depends on a substance and chooses to reduce or stop using. With opioids and stimulants, withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be dangerous or fatal.

Myth #4: I Can Mix My Prescription Drugs Without Asking My Doctor

Another common prescription drug myth is that it is ok to mix prescription drugs. Unless specifically directed by your medical provider, mixing prescription drugs is never ok (and can be dangerous). Even if the same provider prescribes medications, it does not mean they are meant to be taken together. Discussing all medications with your provider and taking everything as directed is crucial.

Myth #5: Prescription Drug Addiction Makes Our Life Better

Prescription drugs are equally as dangerous as illicit (“street”) drugs. Because the messages about their use and “benefits” can be confusing in popular media and television, some people believe using prescription drugs can improve aspects of their lives such as study habits, energy, weight, and sexual performance.
Research shows this is not usually the case. Studies indicate people who take prescription drugs for non-medical reasons are at least five times more likely to develop a drug abuse problem than those who don’t. 4

Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

The signs of prescription drug addiction will usually look different from person to person. This is because addiction affects everyone differently. Prescription drug addiction symptoms and signs can be divided into physical, psychological, and behavioral groups.
Some of the more common symptoms you may see in most cases include anxiety, mood swings, stomach issues, slurred speech, sedation, mood swings, isolation, slowed breathing, doctor shopping, new or worsening mental health symptoms, changes in sleeping patterns, weight changes and legal and financial difficulties. Some people may experience more severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms, including seizures, coma, and death related to a prescription drug overdose.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Seeking prescription drug addiction treatment at a prescription drug addiction rehab is the safest and most effective way to get sober. At a specialized program like Arrow Passage Recovery’s inpatient prescription drug addiction treatment program, skilled providers will help you safely take steps towards overcoming addiction.

Residential Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Programs

In a residential prescription drug addiction treatment program like ours, our medical and mental health staff will guide you through the steps of prescription drug detox. After successfully detoxing, it is possible to transition into the therapeutic portion of an inpatient prescription drug addiction treatment program.

Depending on the severity of your addiction, therapy may last up to 90 days. After completing a primary inpatient program, we will help you transition to an aftercare plan, including outpatient prescription drug addiction treatment and ongoing medical and peer support.

Prescription Drug Addiction Myths

Get Help For Prescription Drug Addiction at Arrow Passage Recovery

Overcoming prescription drug addiction is challenging, but with help and support, you or your loved one can achieve long lasting sobriety.

Contact us at Arrow Passage Recovery today to learn more about detox and our addiction treatment programs. We will equip you with the necessary tools and techniques to establish and maintain wellness.

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