Prescription drug addiction treatment

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Page clinically reviewed by Dee Johnson (Mbacp, MNCS), Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford in March 2024.

What is prescription drug addiction?

Prescription drug addiction is a serious condition that's characterised by someone repeatedly consuming prescription medication for a non-medical reason, until they eventually become both physically and psychologically dependent on this substance in order to function.

Prescription drugs, including prescription opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants, are often prescribed by medical professionals in order to offer short-term pain relief following an injury or operation, or to help in the treatment of a range of other psychological and medical conditions. However, these drugs, particularly opioid painkillers, are known to cause feelings of euphoria and tranquillity, which can be highly addictive to some people and result in a harmful addiction that needs professional addiction treatment.

Signs and symptoms of drug addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, it's vital to be aware of the various signs and symptoms that can impact all areas of life. This comprehensive section delves into the complete range of signs and symptoms associated with drug addiction, encompassing physical, psychological, and behavioural indicators.

Prescription drug addiction, while often less conspicuous than other forms of addiction, carries its own set of psychological symptoms. These symptoms can be subtle yet profound, impacting an individual's mental health and daily functioning. This list details the psychological symptoms commonly associated with prescription drug addiction, highlighting the range of emotional and cognitive changes that can occur:

  • Depression, mood swings and hostility
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Chronic low mood or flat affect (reduced emotional reactivity)
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Confusion and paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Consuming prescription drugs in order to relax or relieve stress
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or stress

Physical symptoms of prescription drug addiction can be as varied and impactful as the psychological ones. These symptoms not only affect the body's normal functioning but also signal an increasing dependency on the prescription drug. Below is a comprehensive list of physical symptoms that are commonly observed in individuals with prescription drug addiction, illustrating the wide range of bodily changes and challenges that can arise from this dependency:

  • Intense cravings for the prescription drug
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Heart palpitations
  • Coordination problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Catatonia (periods of immobility and unresponsiveness)
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia
  • Diminished or increased appetite, leading to weight changes
  • Finding that you have built a tolerance to the prescription drug, meaning that you need to consume this more frequently and in higher doses, in order to experience the desired ‘high’
  • The appearance of prescription drug withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking or are unable to obtain the prescription drug

Behavioural and social symptoms are critical indicators of prescription drug addiction, often revealing how deeply the addiction has impacted an individual's life. These symptoms extend beyond physical and mental effects, significantly altering one's actions, relationships, and overall lifestyle. The following list outlines the key behavioural and social symptoms associated with prescription drug addiction, shedding light on the changes in habits, interpersonal interactions, and daily responsibilities that often accompany this condition:

  • Visiting multiple doctors for the same condition, to try and obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Consuming prescription medication faster than indicated
  • Ordering prescription medication over the internet
  • ‘Losing’ prescriptions and frequently requesting replacements
  • Stealing or forging prescriptions
  • Prioritising obtaining and taking prescription drugs over activities that you once enjoyed
  • Feeling as though you want to stop taking prescription drugs, but finding that you are unable to
  • Inability to stop thinking about when, where and how you will obtain prescription drugs, and feeling as though this is taking over your life
  • Being secretive and defensive about your prescription drug use
  • Avoiding contact with loved ones, leading to social isolation
  • Neglecting your responsibilities
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Continuing to take prescription drugs even after suffering negative consequences as a result e.g. social isolation, impaired work performance

Free addiction assessment

We recognise that reaching out for help can be daunting. That’s why we offer a free assessment with a Priory expert at your nearest Priory hospital if you are struggling with the symptoms of addiction. Call our dedicated team today to arrange a free, confidential assessment.

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What are the most commonly abused prescription drugs?

In recent years, the misuse of prescription painkillers has become increasingly prevalent, as has the misuse of prescription benzodiazepines and stimulant medications. Improper use of these types of prescription drugs has taken a devastating toll on individuals, families and communities throughout the UK. These are explained in more detail below:

Prescription opioids

These drugs have very strong painkilling properties, and are the most commonly misused prescription drugs. In addition to numbing pain, opioid-based prescription medications can also cause you to experience a sense of relaxed euphoria. This pleasurable sensation, combined with the addictive nature of opioid medication, can quickly trap you in cycle of continued abuse and addiction. Different types of prescription opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (including brand names such as OxyContin and Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (including the brand name, Vicodin)
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Co-codamol
  • Tramadol

You may be prescribed prescription opioids if you are experiencing moderate to severe pain, which can result from an injury, a chronic condition, or in the aftermath of surgery. These drugs can also improve mood and reduce fever. The strength of these drugs means that using them recreationally is particularly dangerous, with fatal overdose a very real possibility.

Prescription benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos’, ‘sedatives’ and ‘tranquilisers’, are another widely-abused classification of prescription medication. These types of prescription drugs may be prescribed to you if you have been struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, seizures and certain other psychiatric and medical conditions.

Benzodiazepines are known to cause individuals to feel calm, serene, and relaxed - feelings which can be highly addictive to some people, and which can lead to the development of a harmful benzodiazepine dependency. Different types of prescription benzodiazepines include:

  • Diazepam (including the brand name, Valium)
  • Alprazolam (including the brand name, Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (including the brand name, Librium)
  • Zolpidem (including the brand name, Ambien)

Prescription stimulants

Stimulants are typically prescribed in the treatment of conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy, which is a disorder that is characterised by uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep. Prescription stimulants are designed to increase attention, energy and alertness, and they do this by increasing the activity of various chemicals in the brain, including dopamine. As dopamine is linked to the brain’s ‘pleasure centre’, taking stimulant medication can result in highly addictive, pleasurable and euphoric sensations. Different types of prescription stimulants include:

  • Methylphenidate (including brand names such as Ritalin and Concerta)
  • Dextroamphetamine (including brand names such as Adderall and Dexedrine)

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, which can cause your addiction to worsen over time and have an increasingly detrimental impact on your health, wellbeing and quality of life.

What are the long-term effects of prescription drug addiction?

Prescription drug misuse can result in a wide range of long-term problems that can have a devastating impact on all areas of your life. These may include:

  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Family breakdowns
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment

Prescription drug addiction treatment options

Everyone who seeks prescription drug addiction support with us will benefit from a tailored treatment package, specifically designed to meet your unique needs and requirements.

Our treatment experts have unrivalled clinical experience in the treatment of prescription drug addiction, and are able to deliver a wide range of therapeutic methods. We will help you to identify your drug dependency, tackle your prescription drug addiction symptoms, address the underlying triggers for your addiction, and improve your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

Inpatient treatment options

We can offer a range of different treatment options for prescription drug addiction.

As a first step, you'll be offered a medically assisted detoxification process for your prescription drug addiction, if you need it. This involves:

  • 24-hour clinical support from experienced medical professionals who will ensure your safety is a top priority
  • A substance-free environment to prevent the possibility of relapse
  • Controlled medication to help to with any drug withdrawal symptoms you may experience
  • Emotional support from mental health professionals who have vast experience with addiction

Once you've completed your detox, which can last between 7 to 10 days depending on the type of prescription drug you're addicted to, you'll receive therapy for your addiction. This therapy can be part of our 7, 21, or 28-day inpatient treatment programmes, which are underpinned by the well-known 12-step programme to addiction recovery.

Prescription drug rehab usually takes place as part of our 28-day addiction treatment programme. During this 28-day programme, you'll stay at one of our specialist hospital sites on a residential basis, where you'll go through an intensive programme of group work and individual counselling. This will help you to address the source and triggers for your addictive behaviours, learn to cope without prescription drugs and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The recommended treatment time for prescription drug addiction is 28 days, but the length of the addiction treatment that you receive at Priory can be flexible according to your unique needs and commitments.

Outpatient treatment options

As well as offering inpatient addiction treatment at Priory, we are also able to deliver both outpatient and day care treatment for prescription drug addiction, depending on the nature of your addiction and the intensity of the support you need..

These treatment options can be used as an entry point to addiction treatment and therapy, or can be used as a step down in treatment intensity for people who have been through a residential programme for their prescription drug addiction.

How to get prescription drug addiction help

At Priory, we understand that without effective, timely treatment for your prescription drug addiction, this condition has the potential to become worse over time and can have a negative impact on lots of different areas of your life.

If you think you've developed a problem with prescription drug addiction, it is essential that you get the support you need. Below are some additional tips that you can use to help you to cope with the initial stages of prescription drug addiction:

  • Admit that you have a problem with prescription drug misuse
  • Be honest with your friends and family about your problem with prescription drugs - support from family and friends is very important in the rehabilitation and recovery process
  • Try to avoid temptations and negative influences
  • Accept that the process of achieving abstinence from prescription drugs will be challenging, and prepare yourself to make some notable changes in your life

Crisis care at Priory

Priory’s customer service team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure that those in crisis gain access to the best possible support, as quickly as possible.

The specialist teams at our residential facilities can help to stabilise those in need of immediate assistance, including providing access to medically assisted withdrawal detoxification for alcohol and drug addictions, where required.

You can also use these crisis helplines for immediate support.

Prescription drug addiction treatment near me

We have prescription drug addiction treatment centres located throughout the country, ensuring that you can access the support you need in a location that's convenient for you. To find your nearest prescription drug addiction treatment centre, please use the search form below.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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