Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

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As part of a rising epidemic around the world, prescription drug abuse and addiction can have disastrous effects. Many overdose deaths are caused by prescription drug abuse, while physical effects on those abusing it may remain for the long term.

While prescription drugs may help some live fuller lives when used as directed, it has the same effect as illicit street drugs for those that abuse them. Commonly including stimulants, opioid painkillers, and central nervous system depressants, prescription medication may initially produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, but when abused over a long time, side effects and risks of overdose come about.

Luckily, effective treatment and rehabilitation are available and can help people find freedom from prescription drug abuse.

The Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States is prescription drugs, over cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines.

Prescription drug misuse comes with a range of potentially dangerous effects. It affects nearly every aspect of an individual's life Even though many people believe that the drugs are safe as they have been prescribed by a doctor, the truth is that they carry the same risks as many street drugs do.

The Dangers of Abusing Prescription Drugs

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As with other drug abuse, not using the medication as prescribed makes a person more likely to develop dependency and addiction to it. Prescription drugs contain addictive substances, and they can be powerful enough to cause physical and psychological dependency.

Prescription drug addiction can also develop without consciously abusing. Prescription drugs that are provided under a doctor's care for medical conditions, such as painkillers after surgery, may cause an addiction to develop when a person has to take them over a long period.

An addiction to prescription drugs is not very different from recreational or illicit drug addiction and abuse. A person will have cravings for the drug and increase their dosage or frequency of use as the body builds up a tolerance. They might engage in behavior such as lying, stealing others' prescriptions, or even forging prescriptions. They may also suffer physical and psychological effects but continue to use the drug despite these. Prescription drug abuse also places a person at higher risk of being involved in risky or criminal activity, injury, or accident. Like most substance abuse, the effects can be life-altering.

The consequences of abusing prescription drugs vary according to each drug, but in general, include:

  • Drug addiction and dependence

  • Damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, and brain

  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues or decline

  • Cognitive effects, affecting memory or learning ability

  • Changes in weight

  • Changes in physical health

The symptoms that a person experiences when abusing prescription drugs are worsened when combined with other substances and could lead to a life-threatening situation. One example, that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns about, is that opioids should never be mixed with CNS depressants. This can include antihistamines, sleep medications, general anesthetics, alcohol, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines. Mixing these drugs can severely slow down a person's breathing and heartbeat, and could even cause death.

Physical effects

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Prescription drug addiction and abuse may drain a person's energy and immunity. Their body, as well as their mood and behavior, are affected even after a substance wears off.

Stimulants cause a large increase in the body's dopamine and norepinephrine levels, creating euphoria, while also constricting blood vessels, opening breathing passages, and increasing blood glucose. When misused, stimulants can cause dangerously high body temperature and heart rate, psychosis and paranoia, hostility, a loss of appetite and weight loss, and sleeping problems. Abusing ADHD medications may cause heart failure or seizures.

Opioids can cause drowsiness, confusion, constipation, and nausea. Large doses of opioid medication can result in a slow breathing rate or stop breathing completely, as well as cause low blood pressure. It can also lead to coma and death.

Abusing prescription medications that are CNS depressants, like sedatives or anti-anxiety medications may lead to memory problems. Abruptly reducing or stopping the use of these medicines may also lead to seizures. Millions of people in the US use Xanax, Ativan, or Valium to treat sleep disorders or anxiety, as they affect a brain chemical called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which lowers brain activity and makes a person feel drowsy and calm. While a few days of taking a CNS depressant may make a person feel sleepy, they will need larger doses to achieve the same effect after a while.


Similar to substance use disorders, prescription drug abuse, and addiction can lead to overdose. The most common causes for overdose include large doses and mixing medications with other substances. Most prescription drugs run an increased risk of overdose when a person mixes them with alcohol.

Even though overdoses can occur with most prescription drugs, opioids seem to have the most prevalence. According to the National institute on drug abuse, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids in the US reached over 16 000 in 2020.

Apart from medicines like Naloxone that may reverse the overdose effects of opioids, there is no way of curing or reversing overdoses from prescription drug misuse. A person struggling with addiction or abuse should seek treatment before it is too late.

Treatment Options for Prescription Drug Addiction

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Treatment for prescription drug misuse usually takes into account which drug was used and the needs of each person. For treatment to be successful, it may include several components, such as detox, counseling and therapy, and medications if needed. There are various addiction rehab options, and depending on the patient, multiple courses of treatment may be needed.

Treatment for prescription drug misuse at a treatment center can be very advantageous. Doctors will base their diagnosis of prescription drug misuse on a person's medical history, and the signs and symptoms presented. But health care professionals will also determine factors that may have led to prescription drug misuse before designing a treatment plan. This means taking into account mental health, relationship problems, and psychological states. By also addressing underlying causes, a person has a much higher chance of overcoming addictions and remaining sober.

In some cases, several drugs are misused together. For example, abusing CNS depressants may occur in conjunction with abusing or using other drugs, such as alcohol or opioids. In these cases, a treatment center will address multiple addictions or polydrug use.

Detox and Medications

Typically, a detox is the first step. This is when drug dosage is gradually tapered off, and a substance and its toxins leave our bodies. In an attempt to ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to the absence of the drug, medication-assisted treatment may occur. Stimulant withdrawal may not involve drugs. Treatment usually focuses on relieving withdrawal symptoms, such as sleep problems, depression, or tiredness, and gradually tapering off the medication.

In treating opioid dependence, buprenorphine is often used in managing withdrawal. Methadone, a synthetic opioid agonist prevents withdrawal symptoms and provides relief in drug cravings, while clonidine, which is -mainly used for high blood pressure- can also help to manage symptoms of withdrawal. Other medications used in treating opioid use disorder include naltrexone or suboxone.

Medication-assisted treatment in combination with therapy is usually considered the best treatment for most people who suffer from opioid addiction. Withdrawal from CNS depressants such as sedatives hypnotics or tranquilizers may be life-threatening and should not be attempted without assistance. Healthcare professionals will assist a person undergoing detox from these medications.


The next step is counseling or therapy. Individual therapy may include behavioral treatment or cognitive behavioral therapy. This phase of treatment helps a person to stop drug abuse by changing unhealthy thinking patterns and destructive or drug-seeking behavior. It includes strategies and tools for managing cravings, identifying triggers that may cause relapse, and responding to triggers healthily.

Another form of therapy is group therapy, an essential feature of rehabilitation. Led by a therapist or trained counselor, a group setting provides peer support, whereby others share their experiences and struggles with addiction, and support each other in the effort of maintaining sobriety. Support groups, which function similarly, are often available outside of treatment centers too.

Family therapy provides a chance for family members to discuss relationship dynamics and how addiction affects them. This helps to address issues that may prevent family members from supporting each other. Family therapy sessions can help loved ones process the effects of prescription drug abuse and its impact on the family unit.

Where Can I Find A Treatment Facility?

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If you are seeking treatment for prescription drug abuse or addiction, Vita Recovery can help. Our drug abuse treatment programs are designed to meet your physical, emotional, mental, and social needs.

Vita Recovery's team of certified, experienced, and top-end medical professionals in substance abuse and mental health can help you live a life free from the grip of addiction. Compassionate care at our specialized addiction treatment center can help you overcome prescription drug use disorder, starting today.

Why Choose Vita Recovery?

125+ Years of Combined Medical & Clinical Experience
  • 360-Degrees of Services

    Each patient is assigned an individual treatment plan that addresses all the medical, psychological, emotional, and social needs of our patients.

  • Innovative and Modern Approach

    Based on empirically derived treatment interventions & science, we provide patients with effective strategies backed by evidence-based outcomes.

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    Treatment at Vita is customized for each patient. We understand that everyone is unique and so are their needs.

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    When you walk into Vita Recovery, you'll feel like you're at a 5-star, luxury facility. We mix modern with comfortability for our patients.