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Prescription Drug Addiction

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.

Let’s talk about prescription drugs. We are all pretty much used to using painkillers available in chemists and supermarkets for the various aches and pains we experience in daily life.

 

We have a headache, we take paracetamol. We have muscle pain, we take ibuprofen. We have back pain, we might take an over the counter product of paracetamol with codeine. The back pain gets worse and we visit our GP who might prescribe us something a little stronger like Tramadol or Naproxen.

 

The problem with something like persistent back pain, or a trapped nerve, or a migraine, or any other kind of unrelenting physical pain, is that it doesn’t tend to ‘heal’ very quickly. It’s painful, it interrupts our sleep, it’s tiring and it affects our mood; living with constant pain, day after day, preventing us from doing the things we need to do in daily life.

 

The more it hurts, the more painkillers we take. The more painkillers we take, the more immune to their effects we become. Much like antibiotics, after a while, they’re not really as affective as they were at the beginning. But what else can we do to manage it? We have a prescription, from a GP. They know what they’re doing, right? Their advice is to manage the pain with painkillers. So we do.

 

Perhaps we experience anxiety, triggered by a traumatic event, a phobia of flying, presentations or interviews, or social situations and often for alcohol withdrawal. Our GP may will prescribe us a course of Diazepam (aka Valium).

Diazepam is intended as a short-term solution, something to ‘tide us over’ a difficult period. Yet Diazepam, a benzodiazepine, is one of the most highly addictive medications available on the NHS, for free and legally. It can take as little as 4 weeks to become both psychologically and physically dependent on Diazepam.

 

prescription drugs

 

What if we experience insomnia? The inability to either get to sleep or stay asleep. Over the counter sleep aids are a-plenty and if they don’t work, our GP might prescribe us something stronger, like Zopiclone. So Sleeping pills help us to get to sleep – HURRAY! Finally, a restful night. or finally, a pain-free day, or finally a day feeling a little less anxious. And…. relax.

 

Our tolerance to the effects of these legal, prescribed medications do tide us over for a while, but they cease to solve the underlying problem, they tend to mask and help us tolerate the issue and in the meantime, our bodies have not only become accustomed to, but reliant on them.

 

So having been recommended these legal, ‘safe’ medications, and having experienced the relief they can offer, is amazing! Until suddenly, the GP says “I’m sorry, but I can’t prescribe any more for you, they’re addictive, it’s not safe in the long term, you need to come off this medication now”. So now what? The body and mind has learned to be reliant on the effects of the medication and psychologically, the very idea of not having the ‘crutch’ of these meds’ can be terrifying.

 

 

Reliance on prescription drugs has become one of the highest addiction issues in the UK. Those unable to obtain them from the doctor anymore, very often turn to the internet to buy medications from totally unknown sources. The potential risks of this are obviously huge and yet because there is a vast market for it, they’re readily available at the touch of a button.

 

The fear of not being able to access and use prescription medications continues to fund a huge black market in supplying them. And it is about supply and demand.

 

The physical and psychological side effects of withdrawing from an opiate-based drug like Codeine or Tramadol, and also Diazepam and Zopiclone can be incredibly serious. There are very serious physical implications of suddenly stopping taking a medication such as these, amongst others, added to the psychological distress and increased anxiety of doing so, which can be crippling.

 

So what happens when we find ourselves needing to access these drugs illegally? There are the obvious financial implications and the risk of not really knowing what we’re getting. But there are also huge emotional implications attached to this action and behaviour. Secrecy, deceit, shame and fear of being ‘found out’.

 

What if we can’t access the medication we need? What if our ‘supplier’ can’t provide them? What lengths will we go to, to ensure we get what we need?

 

Feelings of desperation can lead to extreme and risky actions to obtain what we need. These feelings can leave us feeling isolated, ashamed and alone. And we didn’t choose it, we didn’t seek to need to live this way. It can happen so innocently and so unexpectedly.

 

Holding onto these feelings of shame and guilt can drive the need to self-medicate even further and sometimes, it seems there’s no end in sight. The preoccupation of needing to make sure we have what we need and the lengths we might go to to ensure we do get it, can distance us from loved ones and have a huge impact on relationships.

 

Changes in behaviour led by either physical side effects or psychological changes in behaviour may well feel subtle or even unnoticeable, but for those that know us well, it will be noticed and it will be a cause for concern. What if we’re challenged? What if we’re ‘caught’? Will our loved ones understand? And even if it does go unnoticed, how does it leave us feeling? What is the emotional impact of carrying this ‘secret’ addiction? We might well be ‘functioning’ but there is no doubt that the burden of having to maintain this seemingly never-ending pattern has a massive impact on our self-esteem and self-worth.

 

The severity of this issue is perhaps not recognised as much as other substance addictions, such as class A drugs or alcohol, but the reality is, it’s exactly the same thing. If you cannot get through a day, outside of conditions managed by a medical professional and considering physical and psychological need; there is a problem, there is an addiction and it is serious and requires and deserves the same care and input as anyone else seeking help for recovery.

 

Nobody knowingly chooses to become addicted, to anything; it’s a process of physical and/or emotional pain that leads to dependence on these medications. When we find ourselves self-medicating, we know that we have stepped over the line of ‘controlled’ pain/sleep/anxiety management to something else entirely and we must seek help.

 

While there is a very understandable aspect of avoidance, fear and shame attached to reaching out for some help if we find ourselves in this position, it’s important to know that there is help and support available, there are professionals and recovery focused assistance in place to support people to overcome what is so often a very secret and even ‘socially acceptable’ addiction.

 

But it is an addiction none the less. Anything that we become reliant on to function, becomes problematic and it’s important to know that there is help available, you are not alone and there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

What are Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs are routine medicines prescribed by a doctor which are taken for a variety of reasons such as pain or for mental health reasons. The long term use of a drug can sometimes lead to people becoming reliant on the drug. This type of addiction is difficult to identify as the drug is legal and prescribed by a doctor. If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of being dependent on a drug prescribed by your doctor, we can help you. Severe problems can arise if people attempt to obtain prescription drugs from illegal sources as it is not possible to prove what is in the drug. The addiction to some prescription drugs can be due to a range of reasons. It is important to explore and identify the reasons for the addiction to allow a suitable treatment to be used. It could be that you are either dependent on the drug for physical, psychological or emotional needs.

What are the Symptoms/ Side Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse?

  • Obtaining a prescription from a doctor for a drug you no longer need
  • Seeking out the drug from illegal sources
  • Abusing the amount of the drug you have been prescribed to take
  • Using someone else’s prescription
  • Experiencing side effects when you stop taking the drug

What Treatments are available?

A range of treatments are available such as cognitive or behavioural therapies. Detoxification is often offered to people addicted to prescription drugs.

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.