Meth Overdose

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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

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Drug abuse is not confined to illegal/street drugs. Prescription drug addiction is the chronic or repeated consumption of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Aside from cocaine, legal medicines are the most commonly abused drug in America. Prescription drug abuse can occur when someone has been prescribed a drug, or when they have access to someone else’s prescription. This often includes taking pills, mixing medication with beverages, or snorting or injecting liquid or ground-up pill powder.

There is a wide variety of prescribed drugs that are frequently misused for recreational purposes, from cough syrup to painkillers. Many of these drugs are highly addictive and can pose severe withdrawal symptoms when stopped, making detox difficult.

Risk Factors for Addiction

In most cases, prescription drug addiction is accidental or circumstantial. However, there are several risk factors that could increase the likelihood of addiction. These risk factors include:
  • Past or present addiction problems with other substances
  • Family history of drug abuse
  • Certain pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • Social environments or peer pressure
  • Easy access to prescription drugs
  • Lack of knowledge about prescription drugs and their potential harm
It is important to know these risk factors so that you can recognize them in yourself and others. If you feel you are at risk of addiction, it is best to discuss this with your doctor to find a suitable alternative to potentially addictive medications.

Why Do People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

Contrary to popular belief, the fast-grow drug epidemic is not led by illicit street drugs, but by legal prescription drugs. It is estimated that around 18 million Americans above age 12 have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons within the past 12 months.1

There are many reasons why people tend to abuse prescription drugs. Drug abuse is a highly personalized issue, meaning each person has their own specific reasons for abusing prescription drugs. Here are some common reasons why people abuse medication drugs:

Examples of Prescription Drug Use

Unlike federally illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, prescription drugs have valid reasons for use. But these drugs are still addictive and can be hard to quit, which is why they should be used as directed. 

For example: someone who sustains a severe injury from an automobile or work-related accident may be prescribed painkillers by a licensed physician. Over time, that person may become dependent on the drug to get through the day and require a higher and higher dosage to feel the full effect. Additionally, these drugs are more accessible to household members with substance control issues, which contributes to their widespread abuse. 

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction differ based on the specific drug and the amount consumed. In addition, it isn’t always easy to spot signs of addiction because even if a person displays the side effects of medication, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are abusing the drug. 

Because many forms of prescription drug abuse aren’t illegal or criminalized, misuse often goes unnoticed. In many cases, addicted individuals don’t show obvious symptoms.  

Indications of Prescription Drug Use

If these effects persist, the individual might be addicted to prescription drugs. The following are some standard signs and symptoms associated with prescription drug misuse. 

  • A general feeling of discomfort or illness (called “guilt trips”)
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation or feeling edgy
  • Anxiety, fearfulness, insecurity
  • Panic attacks
  • Missing pill bottles
  • Time spent recovering from prescription drug addiction
  • Increased risk-taking behavior

Addiction can be avoidable by taking necessary precautions such as assessing risk factors and locking away strong prescription drugs. If you are on a prescription and feel that you cannot control your use, contact your doctor and seek alternative treatment.

Common Prescription Drugs That Have High Risk of Addiction

Some prescription drugs pose a higher risk of addiction than others. Most people are addicted to prescription drugs that reward their brain with dopamine, which generates a euphoric high that makes the person want to take the medication repeatedly. 

Some of the most common types of prescription drugs that individuals can become addicted to will be detailed below.

Opioids

Opioids are mainly prescribed for managing pain; however, the increased prescription of opioid drugs has led to an epidemic of widespread misuse in the US. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 10.1 million people misused these types of prescription drugs in 2019, and there were 48,006 deaths attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone (in 12 months ending June 2020). 2

Commonly Misused Opioids

Here are some of the opioids people tend to abuse:

  • Codeine
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Meperidine

Central Nervous System Depressants

Central nervous system depressants are drugs that lower neurotransmission levels. Consuming in higher doses can depress other neural functions, slow reaction times, and lower respiration and heart rate. Central nervous system depressants are highly addictive, meaning it is easy to abuse them and get addicted.3
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone)
  • Ambien (zolpidem)

Stimulants

Stimulants are drugs that raise the body’s physiological or nervous activity level. Due to their euphoric and performance-enhancing effects, prescription stimulant abuse statistics show that stimulants are among the most abused prescription drugs.4 While users might feel high due to the short-term effects of stimulants, continued abuse can have significant consequences.

Commonly Misused Stimulants

Medication-Based Treatment Options

Most prescription drug addictions can be treated without the use of additional medications. However, there are instances where withdrawal symptoms are extremely severe and need to be managed under medical supervision.

While these instances are few and far between, well-supported scientific evidence shows drug addiction can be treated effectively and with few recurrence rates. Medication-based treatment options have also proven effective in managing severe prescription drug addiction. 

Medications for Opioid Addiction

It can be risky to treat drug addiction with additional medications, which is why these treatment plans must be created and overseen by licensed doctors.

 
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved some medicines for individuals suffering from opioid misuse. However, only a small number of treatment programs or physicians offer these medications:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Naloxone

You should be honest with your physician about prescription drug use, and consult a doctor before starting any new medications to avoid complications or adverse side effects.

Facility Treatment Options

Visiting a mental health facility is usually the first step of prescription drug addiction treatment. Your physician will perform a diagnosis and then develop a treatment plan specific to you alone. The physician might recommend the facility treatment option for individuals with prolonged prescription drug misuse, since they have the resources to manage intense withdrawal symptoms. 

There are three facility treatment options available; these will be detailed below.

Long-Term Residential Treatment 

These programs run for at least six months, with some lasting for two years. Individuals in long-term residential treatment have much more success with a prescription for drug addiction recovery because they experience a drug-free environment for a more extended period. 

Short-term Residential Treatment 

These require less time and typically last 30 to 90 days. The treatment is ideal for individuals who are frequent users, but the addiction has not reached critical levels. Typically, short-term treatment is followed by extended outpatient care.  

Outpatient Treatment Facilities:

Outpatient treatment facilities are ideal for individuals who recently got treatment for drug misuse. These facilities instill skills that help the individual stay clean after leaving the facility. 

Therapy for Prescription Drug Addiction

Therapy is an effective tool in treating any drug addiction because it focuses on the underlying issues that lead to drug misuse and helps develop skills that help the individual stay sober after treatment. For therapy treatment to be effective, you need to be open with yourself and your therapist to find a solution that works for you. 

What Makes Therapy Beneficial

Some of the most significant factors of substance abuse include trauma and stress. These conditions can often be difficult to cope with, leading many people to rely on drug use to carry them through the day. Fortunately, there are therapy methods targeted to these risk factors, including:
  • Identifying bad habits and potential triggers
  • Implementing mindfulness techniques
  • Talk-therapy

Types of Therapy

There are different types of therapy for prescription drug addiction that include both one-on-one and group-oriented approaches, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Prescription drug addiction support groups

There is no downside to therapy, making it one of the most accessible and beneficial aspects of treatment for long-term health and stability.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Program

There are many necessary components to any successful prescription drug addiction recovery. These steps include:

Detoxification 

Detoxification is a natural process where your body gets rid of the prescription drug. This process can last days to weeks. Detox can be difficult if withdrawal symptoms are severe, and it may be necessary to detox under the supervision of medical professionals. 

Medication 

Although it may seem counterproductive, medication is sometimes used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, making them a bit more bearable to prevent relapse. Your doctor can also prescribe medications that lower the urge to use prescription drugs, helping you stay sober.

Counseling 

Counseling comes after detoxification and medication to ensure stable mental health. It examines the underlying conditions that trigger the impulse to consume prescription drugs. Counseling also helps develop a cohesive recovery plan to ensure you remain sober after treatment.