Types of prescription drug addiction

There is no question that prescription medications can have an extremely beneficial impact on people who struggle with a wide range of physical and mental health issues. When used as directed, and under the supervision of a qualified professional, prescription medications can ease your pain, expand your ability to function and even extend your life.

Unfortunately, taking prescription medications is not a risk-free experience, and the potential for harm can be magnified if a person is intentionally misusing the drug. Some people fall into the destructive habit of prescription drug misuse after first being given the medication for a legitimate medical concern, while others misuse the substances for purely recreational purposes.

Regardless of your reason for misusing a prescription medication, doing so can expose you to considerable immediate and long-term harm, including the development of an addiction. 

However, with effective care as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment programme, you can overcome the compulsion to abuse prescription drugs and can learn how to once again live a healthy drug-free life.

Find out more about prescription drug  addiction treatment.

Commonly misused prescription drugs

Any prescription drug can be misused, but the properties and effects of certain medications increase both the likelihood that they will be misused and the potential harm that such misuse can cause.

For example, in recent years, the misuse of prescription painkillers has become increasingly prevalent, as has the misuse of prescription sedatives and anti-anxiety medications. The improper use of both of these types of prescription drugs has taken a devastating toll on individuals, families and communities throughout the UK.

Prescription opiates

The most commonly misused prescription painkillers contain opiates, which is a classification of drugs that also includes morphine, heroin and opium. In addition to numbing pain, opiate-based prescription medications can also cause you to experience a sense of relaxed euphoria. This pleasurable sensation, combined with the addictive nature of opiates, can quickly trap you in cycle of continued misuse.

Three of the more popular opiate-based medications that have contributed to the UK’s current prescription drug abuse crisis are OxyContin, Percocet and Fentanyl.

OxyContin is the brand name of a prescription painkiller that contains the semi-synthetic opiate oxycodone. You may be prescribed OxyContin if you are experiencing moderate to severe pain, which can result from an injury, a chronic condition or in the aftermath of surgery.

Percocet is the brand name of a prescription medication that contains oxycodone and acetaminophen. As with OxyContin, the oxycodone alleviates pain and improves mood, while the acetaminophen also reduces fever.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opiate, with experts estimating that it is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. You will only be given fentanyl for severe pain after you have already developed a tolerance to less powerful opiates. The strength of this drug makes its recreational use particularly dangerous, with fatal overdose a very real possibility.

Prescription benzodiazepines

The most commonly misused prescription sedatives and anti-anxiety medications contain drugs that are known as benzodiazepines. These types of medications may be prescribed to you if you have been struggling with anxiety, panic, seizures and certain other conditions.

Two of the most widely recognised and prescribed medications in this category are Valium and Xanax.

Valium is the brand name of a popular prescription sedative that contains a diazepam. As a benzodiazepine, diazepam will cause you to feel calm and serene. You may be prescribed Valium or another drug that contains diazepam if you have an anxiety disorder or have been experiencing seizures.

Xanax is the brand name of a prescription medication that contains a benzodiazepine known as alprazolam. As with Valium, Xanax can help to alleviate anxiety, panic and related symptoms.

The dangers of prescription drug addiction

Given the wide variety of chemicals that are present in prescription medications, the dangers of misusing them can range from mild discomfort to irreversible damage, addiction and even death.

If you become addicted to a prescription drug, which can happen quite quickly with certain medications, you will lose the ability to control how much of the drug that you take and how often you take it. Two elements of prescription drug addiction that can make this problem so difficult to overcome without proper professional care, are tolerance and withdrawal.

As your body adapts to the presence of a prescription drug, you will develop tolerance, which means that you will need to take increasingly larger amounts of the drug in order to experience the desired effects. Even if you are taking the drug under a doctor’s orders, tolerance can push you to exceed the recommended dosage, which can increase the danger of ill effects, including overdose.

Withdrawal refers to the unpleasant series of symptoms that can occur when you try to stop using a prescription drug after having become addicted to it. As is also the case with tolerance, withdrawal is an effect of your body adapting to the continued presence of this substance in your system.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary considerably depending upon what prescription drug you have been misusing. For example, withdrawal from opiate-based prescription drugs can cause you to have painful abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and a host of similar flu-like symptoms. Opiate withdrawal can also cause you to have intense cravings for the drug, experience muscle and bone pain, agitation, anxiety or depression.

While withdrawing from prescription drugs that include benzodiazepines, you may become anxious and confused, and you may struggle to concentrate and focus. You may even experience a panic attack. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can also include physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea and tremors.

Even though withdrawal is a temporary experience, the intense distress can quickly push you back into prescription drug misuse. Thankfully, there is a safer, more comfortable and more effective way to end your dependence upon prescription drugs.

Find out more about drug withdrawal symptoms.

Overcoming prescription drug addiction

At a comprehensive treatment programme location such as Priory, you can receive the full support that you need in order to stop misusing prescription drugs and successfully pursue a healthier drug-free future.

If the distress of withdrawal has stopped you from ending your active misuse of prescription drugs, our detoxification programme can help you to take this essential first step on your path toward freedom from prescription drug addiction.

Once you have completed detox, you can transition directly into our residential programme, where you will address the issues that may have contributed to the development of your prescription drug problem in the first place. While in residential care, you will gain a solid foothold in early recovery and will develop the skills to resist any future urge to misuse prescription drugs or other addictive substances.

When you are ready to exit our care, you will do so armed with a detailed discharge plan. This plan will guide your continued recovery and will identify the service and resources that will support your healthy new life.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding prescription drug addiction treatment and rehab, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here for a free addiction assessment.