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If you think that you or a loved one may be dependent on or addicted to prescription drugs, the first step is learning about prescription drug addiction and ultimately reaching out for help.

At Help4Addiction, we can provide you with the services you need to help you overcome physical dependence and deal with the psychological aspect of addiction.

We do this by connecting you with the best treatment centre for you, whether it be on an inpatient basis at a residential facility or as an outpatient. Contact us today to discuss your treatment options and find the best treatment plan.

This page will give you all the information you need on prescription drug addiction, including the key causes of prescription drug addiction, the main types, and the prescription drug addiction treatment process.

Can You Be Addicted to Prescription Medications?

It is entirely possible to become addicted to prescription medications. Many people make the mistake of thinking that prescription medicines are safe and you can’t get addicted to them because a doctor prescribes them, but this isn’t always the case. Prescription drugs can be as addictive and dangerous as other substances if you abuse your prescription.

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Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction

It is possible to get addicted to prescription drugs even if you follow the doctor’s instructions; long-term use can lead to you developing physical dependence and/or psychological dependence, which can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug or drastically lower your dose (e.g., going from a high dose to a much lower dose).

However, your risk of drug addiction is reduced if you carefully follow the instructions given to you by the doctor. That being said, anybody can be at risk of drug addiction.

One of the main risk factors for prescription drug addiction is your history of drug abuse—if you have other addictions such as alcohol addiction, tobacco addiction/nicotine addiction, or illicit drug addiction (e.g., heroin, cocaine, ketamine).

Likewise, a family history of substance abuse can be a risk factor for prescription drug addiction, as can peer pressure and other environmental factors.

Signs That You May Be Addicted to Prescription Drugs

Drug addiction can present in many ways, impacting various areas of your life, such as relationships, finances, and your mental and physical health.

The signs of prescription drug addiction can vary depending on the prescription drug you’re addicted to or abuse. However, some common signs of prescription drug addiction include:

Prescription drug abuse and prescription drug addiction are not the same thing, although they are both forms of substance use disorder.

There are more ways than one to abuse prescription medications. Abusing prescription drug classes means taking prescription medication in any way other than as prescribed by the doctor. For example, if you abuse prescription drugs, you may:

Abusing prescription drugs can have serious consequences. For example, if you abuse opioids, you could end up having an opioid overdose, which can be fatal. If you find yourself abusing prescription medications and are unable to stop, you may have an addiction, and we recommend that you seek treatment.

In the case of prescription drugs, you may not be aware that you are addicted to the drug until you stop taking it or drastically lower your dose and experience withdrawal symptoms.

Key Types of Prescription Drug Addiction

There are different types of prescription drug addiction. Some commonly abused prescription drugs include:

Opioid Addiction

Opioid drugs work by affecting the central nervous system. This causes the brain to block certain signals to the rest of your body by binding to opioid receptors within your central nervous system to lower your reaction to pain, ultimately relieving pain. This is why opioids may be prescribed for acute and chronic pain, making them effective prescription painkillers.

Some common types of opiate-based painkillers include Codeine, Morphine, Tramadol, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone/Oxycontin.

Being addicted to opioids may put you at risk of an overdose. If you overdose on an opioid drug, you may be given Naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist that essentially reverses an opioid overdose and blocks the effects of other opioids.

Sedative Addiction

Taking sedatives for long periods of time or abusing sedatives can lead to a sedative drug addiction. Sedatives such as diazepam and other benzodiazepines can be highly addictive. They relax your muscles and can help in cases of extreme anxiety.

Sedative medications can also include tranquillisers and hypnotics such as Xanax or Ambien to treat sleep problems and generalised anxiety disorder.

Stimulant Addiction

Stimulant drugs work to increase attention and energy and heighten your alertness. Prescription stimulants are typically used to treat legitimate medical issues such as narcolepsy or ADHD.

Some examples of prescription stimulant drugs include Concerta, Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall. Long-term use of these drugs can lead to developing a tolerance, and misuse of these drugs can lead to substance use disorder (SUD).

Psychiatric Drug Addiction

Another common form of prescription drug addiction is psychiatric drug addiction. Psychiatric drugs can be addictive. Some drugs that fall into the psychiatric drug category include antidepressants and antianxiety medications.

When you stop taking antidepressants after long-term use, you may experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, which can impact your physical and mental health.

What If I Still Need Prescription Drugs?

Prescriptions are given to treat certain medical conditions, which is why it can be particularly difficult to break a prescription drug addiction in the long term.

You may need to take prescription drugs in the future, so it may not be possible to detox from prescription drugs ‘cold turkey’ as you could with alcohol or illegal drugs.

During prescription drug rehab, you could work to get used to a lower dose. Another way of overcoming the issue is by using a different prescription or trying an alternative treatment method. You may decide to give your friend or family member your prescription to give to you as and when needed to stop you from abusing the drug.

Getting Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

If this page resonates with you and you want to get help for your drug addiction, we can find the best treatment available to you. There are drug treatment centres available for alcoholism and drug dependence, as well as addiction to nicotine.

Whether you’re addicted to prescription drugs, illicit drugs, or other drugs and substances such as heroin or alcohol, we recommend that you seek treatment at a rehab centre.


The first stage of the prescription rehab process is the detox stage – the stage where you stop being physically dependent on the drug. During this stage, you may experience unpleasant and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

In the case of severe drug addictions, a medically supervised detox is recommended at an inpatient facility (residential rehab). This is because some drugs can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and quitting cold turkey can be life-threatening.

If you are addicted to prescription opioids, you may be given a substitute drug such as methadone to ease the withdrawal process. This means that you’ll be able to continue your drug treatment without experiencing dangerous physical withdrawal symptoms or feeling the need to buy street drugs.

The length of the withdrawal process depends on a variety of factors, for example, your usual dose, the drug you’re addicted to, and your history of drug abuse or drug addiction. Chronic users may find that it takes longer to detox from the drug and break their physical dependence.

The aim of this process is to deal with the physical aspect of addiction as opposed to the social, behavioural and psychosocial aspects.


When undergoing drug rehab for prescription abuse or prescription addiction, you will be offered therapy.

However, you will only begin this stage of treatment once you have successfully completed prescription drug detoxification and your physical withdrawal symptoms are under control. This is because therapy can deal with the psychological aspects of addiction.

You may be offered a range of therapies to improve your well-being and mental health, with the aim of building your strength and confidence. Therapy can help you understand more about yourself and your addiction, including your triggers and what may have caused the addiction.

One of the most popular forms of therapy during drug addiction is cognitive behaviour therapy, a form of talking therapy that is frequently used to treat depression and anxiety but can be used for other mental and physical health problems.

This form of therapy is based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, actions and physical sensations are linked and that your thoughts and feelings can impact your behaviours or actions.

You may also be offered counselling or group therapy with a clinical psychiatrist or a counsellor. Some rehab centres even offer holistic therapy such as sports or art therapy. However, this is typically seen in private rehab clinics.

Secondary Treatment/ Aftercare

Secondary treatment, also known as aftercare, is the third stage of the prescription drug addiction treatment process.

Once you have completed rehab, aftercare can help ease the transition back into society, as it may feel difficult to go from rehab back into your normal life. Aftercare can involve group therapy, continued counselling, or attending support groups, with the ultimate aim of preventing relapse.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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