Rehab options, prescription drug addiction recovery timelines, and how to detox safely.
*This page was medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, in April of 2021
Are you or a loved one reliant on a drug initially prescribed by a doctor or other medical practitioner? Help4Addiction are available to provide you with the services needed to help you to overcome the feelings of dependency.
For immediate help and advice call 0203 955 7700 to speak to one of our experts.
While there are many types of substance abuse, prescription drug addiction is the one that carries a unique situation because they are medicines that offer significant benefits when used to treat and manage genuine health conditions. Unfortunately, the way that they make your body feel is also one of the reasons that they are so dangerous.
Prescription Drugs – Summary
Are you or a loved one reliant on a drug initially prescribed by a doctor or other medical practitioner? Help4Addiction are available to provide you with the services needed to help you to overcome the feelings of dependency. For immediate help and advice call 0203 955 7700 to speak to one of our experts ready to help.
What are the Types of Prescription Drug Addictions?
Prescription drugs are usually defined as those that require a prescription to obtain, yet some can be bought over the counter. Codeine, for example, or even your antidepressants. Prescription drug addiction is more complex than a normal drug addiction because the user often depends on the medication for its original purpose.
If you are using your painkillers more than you need to, or taking ADHD pills for the productivity, then you are abusing prescription drugs. If you keep it up, it will become a habit and from there an addiction.
People get addicted to all types of prescription drugs, whether that addiction is behavioural or chemical. Some of the common addictive medications are described below.
Common Prescriptions people become addicted to include:
- Weight loss pills
- Sleeping pills
- Antipsychotic medications
- Antidepressants and antianxiety medications
- ADHD medications
Opioid or Painkiller Addiction
Opioid addiction is common because it is often used as a painkiller. You might be addicted to an opiate medication and not know that’s what it is. Some common types of opiates based painkillers include Tramadol, Morphine, Hydrocodone, Codeine and Oxycontin[v].
If you have an overdose of an opiate and must be rushed to hospital, they will administer a drug called Naloxone. This is also used in heroin overdose. It removes the chemical from the system in one fell swoop but can stop your heart in the process.
Naloxone[vi] is an opioid antagonist that can be used to restore and regulate breathing after an addict has overdosed on those prescription drugs but is accessed as a prescription medicine. If you do not access, or even if you do, call the emergency services immediately.
Prescription stimulants are usually used to treat medical issues such as ADHD or narcolepsy. Common types of prescription stimulant addictions are to Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall or Dexedrine[vii]. They don’t give the user a high, they give them bursts of energy. When you are a busy single parent with a full time job, you can develop an addiction to stimulants just to get the house clean.
The benzodiazepine group are the largest prescription sedative addiction culprits. Diazepam is highly addictive, giving the user a relaxed, carefree state of mind. It is used as a muscle relaxant and in cases of extreme anxiety.
Sedative medication might cover your sleeping pills, any tranquilizers you are issued, hypnotics like Ambien, and Xanax[viii].
Psychiatric Drug Addictions
Psychiatric medications are often addictive, and this includes antidepressants and antianxiety medications. Some antidepressants can cause antidepressant discontinuation syndrome when stopped, which can be enough to make the user seek out pills on the black market.
Are Prescription Drugs Addictive?
Many people ask, ‘are prescription drugs addictive?’. After all, if they are designed to treat and manage genuine medical conditions. However, the fact of the matter is that pharmaceuticals they have the potential to be as addictive as any other type of chemical substance.
What Causes Prescription Drug Addictions?
Prescription drug addiction may stem from a legitimate use of medicines that spirals out of control or by those that never had to use them in the first place. Either way, it can be dangerous as prescription drugs are perfectly legal (although the person’s access to them may not be permitted) while the ease of access means that they are ridiculously cheap – even on the black market.
Due to the growing number of online pharmacies and black market opportunities, there is a small percentage of people that take prescription drugs in an abusive manner from day one. Though, most users that become addicted to prescription drugs do not start taking the substances with any intention of growing a dependence. Instead, they are taken for the intended medical purposes.
Signs of a Prescription Drug Addiction
Although signs of a prescription drug addiction will differ depending on the substance abused, there are some signs of drug addictions you can use to tell if friends or loved ones are suffering.
Some signs of prescription drug addiction might be:
- Visiting multiple doctor surgeries for prescriptions
- Trying to buy pills online or from friends
- Asking friends for a share of their prescription
- Hiding drug use from you or their loved ones
- Making excuses to be alone and isolating for long periods of time
Is Prescription Drug Addiction Fatal?
Prescription drug addiction can prove fatal. It depends on what the drug does to you, of course. A doctor will put you on a medication with the aim of it helping you in the short term. If you continue to use it beyond that period, there may be implications of this.
For example, continuing use of an antidepressant might cause a stomach ulcer. Overuse of stimulants could affect your heart health. Kidney and liver damage is possible on most medications, and opioids will eventually lead to overdose.
What does it cost to go to rehab for prescription drug addictions?
The cost of rehab in the UK can be anything from about £1,500 upwards. If you want to cut the costs of rehab, you can opt out of private residential and consider treatment as an outpatient. You can usually seek addiction recovery treatment in 7-day, 14-day, or 28-day blocks.
Can I get Help on the NHS?
Only the very worst cases of addiction can seek rehab on the NHS. You may be able to get some help as an outpatient, but NHS waiting lists have lengthy times and private rehab will allow you to recover in your own time.
Prescription Drug Addiction Recovery Timelines
The length of time it will take you to recover from a prescription drug addiction will depend on your metabolism, your age, height, weight, genetic makeup, which drugs you took and for how long. Heavy users will take longer to recover than light users[ix].
As a rule of thumb, detox takes a few days, rehab takes a few weeks, and secondary treatments should go on for a few months.
Treatment Plans for Prescription Addictions
A typical treatment plan for a prescription drug addiction will follow the pattern described below.
Detox is the first stage of any rehab program. To recover from a prescription drug addiction, you first need to get them out of your system. This means abstinence and usually a period of intense withdrawal symptoms. These might include vomiting, flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, and other discomforts.
Once 3-10 days have passed, you should be able to move on to the rehab process. This phase of prescription drug addiction treatment should allow you to treat the causes of your addiction through therapies. Group work, art therapy, and holistic stress management tools are all common components of a rehab programme.
Aftercare, or secondary treatment, is the third phase of recovering from a prescription drug addiction. Those who have completed rehab and want to return to their normal life can find the transition period problematic. Secondary rehab treatment helps reduce the problem areas and prevent relapse.
What If Prescription Drugs Are Still Needed?
One of the biggest complications with getting free from prescription drug abuse is that it’s very possible that you will require them in the future, potentially on a regular basis only on a smaller dosage than you’ve been using. Therefore, it may not be possible to go cold turkey in the way you would treat alcohol addiction or addiction to illicit drugs.
There are ways to overcome this problem, including using different prescriptions or treatment methods. Alternatively, it may be possible to have the drugs administered by a medical profession or a family member. When taking this route, the medications won’t be on your possession, allowing you to stay true to the intended dosages and hopefully embrace an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude.
Therapies Used to Treat Prescription Addictions
There are many therapies used to treat addictions during the rehab and recovery process. You will probably be treated with one-on-one sessions with a psychologist, counsellor, or psychotherapist. You may be given a psychiatric evaluation. Group therapy is likely and CBT[x] or DBT are often thrown in to get to the root cause of your drug use.
How to Choose a Rehab Clinic?
Help4Addiction is a free helpline that provides a friendly, unbiased, and non-judgemental service that aims to get to the root of your problems and help you gain support from the best prescription drugs rehab programs and treatments in the country.
The road to a life of using prescription drugs exclusively in the appropriate situations and to the right dosage levels starts here. Take the first steps today by calling 0203 955 7700!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you become addicted to prescription drugs?
How common are prescription medication addictions?
What types of medicines can you be addicted to?
Can you overdose on prescription medications?
Where do people get prescription drugs from?
Why do doctors prescribe medication that is addictive?
How to tell if someone is addicted to their prescription medications?
When should I get help for my prescription drug addiction?
How long should I go to rehab for?