Unfortunately, the increasing dependency on prescription medications to help alleviate medical conditions has inadvertently created a new challenge – prescription drug addiction. It’s impacted countless individuals, often beginning with a legitimate need for pain or symptom relief, only to escalate into a life-changing dependency.

In this article, we touch on how individuals may develop an addiction, identifying the red flags and often-overlooked symptoms of misuse, along with treatment options for individuals who may have developed a prescription medication addiction. Information on how to prevent prescription drug addiction will also be provided.


How People Become Addicted to Prescription Drugs

Individuals can become addicted to prescription drugs through a combination of factors.
Prescription drugs (especially opioids, benzodiazepines, and strong stimulants), can quite literally alter the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Over time, the brain may come to rely on these drugs just to feel normal, leading to physical dependence.

In addition to the above, some individuals start misusing prescription medications in an attempt to manage untreated or inadequately treated symptoms (e.g. chronic pain, depression or anxiety). Over time, this also can escalate into dependence and addiction.

Most people don’t intend to get addicted to the drug or set out taking their prescription with any other benefits other than to treat pain or medical conditions. However, not many people understand how addictive even drugs prescribed by a doctor can be.

Recent research has found that an increasing number of people prescribed medication are at a high risk of developing a dependence on that drug. This is largely down to the fact that a higher percentage of the population is being prescribed medication that has the potential to become addictive. Not only that, but studies have also found that deaths related to prescription drug addiction are higher than heroin and cocaine combined.

It’s important to note that not everyone who takes prescription medications becomes addicted. Many factors, including the dosage, duration of use, individual health conditions, and the specific drug in question, play a role.


The Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Misuse

The signs that a prescription drug medication has been misused can widely vary, as it can depend on factors such as the type of drug, the individual and the specific dose prescribed. However, as a general guide, see below for examples of some common signs and symptoms to look out for if you fear that you or someone you love may have misused prescription medication:

  • Confusion.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Limited attention span.
  • Dizziness.
  • Breathing slowly.
  • Difficulties remembering things.
  • High blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Feelings of euphoria.
  • Development of a rash on the face or body.
  • Increased alertness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Paranoia.
  • Sudden mood swings.
  • Agitation.
  • Sudden changes in appetite (eating more or less).

If you’re concerned that someone you love is misusing prescription drugs, there are many other signs and symptoms to become aware of, including the habits of consuming prescription drugs. For example, they may take regular trips to refill their prescription from medical professionals. They may claim to have misplaced their prescriptions to repeat another order.

Another common indication of prescription drug addiction is consuming tablets faster than you’d anticipate, or perhaps they change their answer on their intake amounts. If you witness someone crushing or breaking pills, this is a common behaviour that they intend on sniffing the drug to create a feeling of being high.


Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

You might feel hopeless, like there’s no way out of this addiction, but there is. At Ocean Recovery, we offer an array of treatment options which are unique to you and dedicated to aiding your recovery.

There are numerous strategies to living a life of sobriety. First, we’ll need to comprehend your addiction fully – including when it started, why you take prescription drugs, your life away from drugs, and any underlying psychological implications. We’ll assess your history of drugs and evaluate your mental and physical well-being to see if there are any other issues which we need to address for a life of sobriety.

A doctor will prescribe you medication to address any withdrawal symptoms during the detox stage. This approach to your treatment will help to improve the success rate of your recovery and help you to feel more comfortable.


What to Expect During the Detox Stage

Detox is classified as removing the toxins and chemicals from your body so you can begin recovery with a clean slate.

Typically, prescription drugs fall into opioid painkillers, stimulants and depressants. Each of these drugs creates a chemical imbalance in your brain, which causes physical and psychological effects. When you completely stop taking a drug your body has become used to, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms.

Here are a few common symptoms to expect:

  • Anxiety.
  • Sweats.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Agitation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nausea.

These are typical side effects to expect from opioid, which masks chronic pain, treats anxiety and creates a feeling of euphoria. Once you stop or reduce taking this drug, the brain’s neurotransmitters alter, so your brain can’t function as it’s become used to.

When detoxing from this prescription drug, it’s important you undergo professional rehab care where a medically trained individual can look out for any signs of vomit in your lungs, as this can cause you to choke or experience a lung infection. Taking prescribed medication to help with your withdrawal symptoms to block the brain’s receptors from receiving any more of the prescribed drug you took.

You should never attempt to detox at home unless you’re under medical supervision because the withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be life-threatening. At Ocean Recovery, we don’t just focus on detoxing your body from the prescription drug but also focus on other areas which need addressing – such as any emotions you might be suppressing.

Prevention is better than cure, so don’t wait until it’s too late to seek medical treatment for prescription drug addiction. Give us a call on 01253 847 553 to discuss your options or for more information about the services we offer.


How to Prevent Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription medications, when used appropriately, can be essential for managing certain health conditions. However, as mentioned earlier, misuse, even if unintentional, can lead to addiction.

To avoid this path, consider the following advice on how to prevent prescription drug addiction below.

  • Understand your prescription – When starting a new medication, ask your doctor about its potential addictive qualities. Knowing these risks can make you more vigilant about proper usage.
  • Always follow the directions given to you – Always follow the dosage and frequency recommendations on the label or as prescribed by your doctor. Never take more than directed, even if you think you need more.
  • Monitor your reaction to the prescription – If you’re experiencing side effects or starting to feel dependent on the medication, contact your doctor to discuss alternative options.
  • Keep in touch with your GP – If you’re on a long-term prescription, maintain regular appointments to discuss its effectiveness and any concerns you might have. Your doctor can provide guidance and adjust dosages if it’s necessary for you.
  • Avoid alcohol – Many prescription drugs can have dangerous or intensified effects when combined with alcohol.


Find Help For Prescription Drug Addiction Today

If you are someone you love is addicted to prescription drugs, we have numerous treatment options and an array of talented, medically-trained staff to help you overcome your addiction.  

Don’t struggle alone. Call our friendly and understanding team on 01253 847 553  for more information on how we can help. Alternatively, fill out our contact form, and a member of the team will be in touch at a time that suits you.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: October 10, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.