Prescription drugs can have many different benefits, from helping people to manage chronic pain to tackling illnesses and infections, helping people to get to sleep or stabilising moods and helping with mental health issues. Some prescription drugs can be misused however, and this can be dangerous for a number of reasons.

Using these drugs inappropriately can lead to risky or inappropriate behaviour and to an increased risk of overdose. It can expose people to the risk of side effects without providing the correct medical benefit and there can also be a risk of prescription drug addiction.


What are Prescription Drugs?

Put simply, prescription drugs are any pharmaceutical drugs or medicines that require a medical prescription before they can be dispensed. This means they tend to be stronger or more potentially dangerous and addictive than drugs that are available ‘over the counter’.

There are many different prescription drugs available but some of the most common in the UK include antidepressants, opioids, gabapentinoids and benzodiazepines.


Prescription Drugs: When Use Becomes Abuse

As noted, prescription drugs have a lot of uses and can be very valuable when used correctly and as directed. Prescription drug use can turn to abuse any time that they are not used as directed. This could and often does involve using these drugs for recreational purposes – for the effect or feeling they give that is separate to any medical usage.

But prescription drug use can also tilt into abuse even if you have been properly prescribed the substance but do not use it as directed, such as taking more frequently or in higher doses than you have been medically directed.

Sharing prescription drugs with a person who has not been prescribed them can also be a form of misuse, even if the intent is to alleviate pain or help them to get to sleep. Because prescription drugs tend to have potent effects, they should only ever be used by the person they were prescribed for.

It should also be remembered that some drugs may be problematic even when used as directed. A recent government update said that “Considerable concern has been raised regarding prescribing rates of opioids in the UK and the awareness of healthcare professionals and patients of the risks of dependence and addiction.” It added that prolonged use of opioids could lead to drug dependence or addiction, even when used at “therapeutic doses”. 


Is Prescription Drug Abuse on the rise?

Anecdotally it seems that prescription drug abuse and drug addiction may be on the rise. Accurate up to date figures are not always easy to find but many people end up seeking help and rehabilitation for prescription drug issues, just as they do for alcohol and illegal drug misuse and addiction.

A report by the USA’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stated that the fastest growing drug problem in the US is not heroin, cocaine or even methamphetamines but prescription drugs. And it’s certainly not a problem limited to the USA. In 2018 Public Health England launched a review into the ‘growing problem’ of prescription drug addiction in the UK. And a recent study published in the Pharmaceutical Journal cited data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), suggesting that the prevalence of prescription drug misuse and related deaths is on the increase worldwide.


Why do people get addicted to Prescription Drugs?

Many prescription drugs are addictive, meaning there is a danger that you will build up a dependency and come to feel you ‘need’ the drugs for themselves – and not necessarily for the effect they had on the medical issue they were originally prescribed for. Because they are legal, there is often a danger that people think these drugs are safe but it easy to build up a tolerance over time. This means you need larger or more frequent doses to get the same effect. You are also likely to suffer withdrawal symptoms when you do not take the drug and many people only realise they have a problem when the prescription comes to an end.


Getting the right Addiction Treatment for Prescription Drugs

Some people may have the idea that drug rehab is only for people struggling with alcohol and illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine. This is not the case and specialist treatment programmes can also help if you are suffering from prescription drug addiction. These can be especially effective when delivered in the safe and secure environment of a private drug and alcohol rehab.

This will take you away from the usual triggers, stresses, people and places that may be associated with your substance misuse. Any access to the prescription drug involved will be strictly controlled but you will have access to expert support, medical care and evidence-based treatments that you will need to ‘come off’ the drug and conquer your addiction.


What is Prescription Drug Detox?

When you are addicted to any kind of substance your body and brain become dependent on it being present in the system. Prescription detox, just like other forms of drug detox, is the process of metabolising the physical chemicals and toxic elements of the drug that are still in your system, while helping you to deal with the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that usually accompany this process.

Detoxification in a professional clinic is the safest and most effective way to manage this difficult time. Other temporary medications may help and you will be under direct medical supervision the whole time.

In a residential rehab you will also generally be offered a holistic range of treatments including therapies and workshops designed to help you get to the roots of your addiction and work out coping strategies that can help prevent you from relapsing and seeking out more of the drug or alternative substances once you leave.




Misuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs to obtain illicit highs: how pharmacists can prevent abuse

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 3, 2021

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.