Types of prescription drug addiction
This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Niall Campbell (MBBS, MRCPsych) in June 2020, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in June 2022. To view all Priory prescription drug addiction specialists, please click here.
There are a number of different types of prescription drug addictions that we are able to treat at Priory, and it is important to understand that each type can result in different prescription drug addiction symptoms and impact on individuals in unique ways.
Any prescription drug can be misused, but the properties and effects of certain medications increase both the likelihood that they will be misused, as well as the potential harm and long-term problems that this misuse can cause.
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:
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)
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.
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)
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.
However, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone and that expert help, therapy and treatment is available. At Priory, our world class prescription drug addiction treatment teams are dedicated to providing comprehensive support, enabling you to stop misusing prescription drugs and successfully pursue a healthy, drug-free future.
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