kathy ireland® Recovery Centers

Prescription Drug Addiction

Substance use disorders (SUDs) related to legal or illegal prescription drugs have been rising for decades. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose from 3,442 in 1999 to 17,029 in 2017.” The most commonly abused prescription drug classes include:

  • Opioids: Fentanyl, Vicodin, OxyContin, Dilaudid, and Demerol
  • Depressants: Valium, Xanax, and Phenobarbital
  • Stimulants: Dexedrine, Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta

The clinical team at kathy ireland® Recovery Centers offers evidence-based methods for successfully treating any prescription addiction. Many individuals diagnosed with SUD have additional physical or mental issues and may take prescription medication to lessen symptoms. If you have a dual diagnosis, we can help you regain your sobriety and overcome challenges related to any secondary conditions. 

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

The majority of prescription medications used to treat chronic pain and some mood disorders can become addictive. Despite worldwide attempts by medical professionals to limit the prescription use of highly addictive and dangerous substances like opioids, they remain overprescribed at an alarming rate. The longer an individual is prescribed one of these drugs, the higher the risk of being diagnosed with a SUD. Addictions usually develop over time and, depending on the substance, symptoms may range from mild to severe. 

Not everyone who takes opioids, depressants, and stimulants will become addicted. However, medication misuse of these classes often leads to dependency. Prescription misuse refers to any instance where someone uses medication in a way unintended by the prescribing doctor and includes:

  • Taking more than the prescribed amount
  • Using medicines prescribed to someone else
  • Illegal prescription drug use
  • Taking prescribed medication for longer than instructed

Common Co-Occurring Mental and Physical Disorders

Some individuals abuse illegal prescriptions as a form of self-medicating to decrease feelings of pain, stress, or discomfort. Misusing legally prescribed drugs usually occurs when tolerance to the medication builds up, requiring more of the substance to get the same level of relief. Co-occurring disorders are more likely to lead to SUD or result from side effects related to misusing substances. The most common conditions linked to prescription drug addiction include the following:

  • Major depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety and panic disorders
  • Acute and chronic stress
  • Personality disorders

Some people have one or more mental health disorders accompanying a SUD and, in those cases, all diagnosed conditions need to be treated. At kathy ireland® Recovery Centers, we equip our staff to recognize and create customized treatment plans for dual diagnoses related to prescription abuse or other SUDs.

Prescription drug addiction
Prescription drug addiction

Prescriptions and Adolescent Addiction

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that thousands of adolescents misuse prescription medications every year. A family history of substance use disorders makes it more likely that young people will develop an addiction if they abuse drugs. Several ways young people gain access to prescription medication include:

  • Getting them from peers 
  • “Borrowing” or stealing them from friends and family
  • Being prescribed medication from a medical professional to treat legitimate issues

Families and communities can protect young people from misusing drugs by educating them about the dangers of misuse, practicing safe medication storage, and monitoring all use of necessary prescriptions. Adolescents who abuse prescriptions are more likely to develop a mental health disorder and become addicted to substances later in life.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

The warning signs of prescription drug abuse include:

  • “Doctor shopping” in person and online to get more prescriptions
  • Asking to “borrow” medication from friends and family
  • Stealing the medication from friends and family
  • Secretive behavior
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using the medication
  • Stashes of the medication hidden throughout the house
  • A decrease in productivity and responsibility at work, home, or school
  • Changes in behavior including unusual aggression, irritability, and extreme mood swings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Taking more of the prescription or using it longer than instructed
  • Changes in hygiene and personal care
Prescription drug addiction
Prescription drug addiction

Possible Health Side Effects

The type of prescription medication related to your substance use disorder determines what health side effects you might experience. Long- and short-term changes to your body systems can impact mental and physical health. In some cases, even a single instance of misuse can lead to severe consequences like unconsciousness, coma, or death. The range of short-term possible side effects of prescription addiction include:

  • Stimulants: Decreased appetite, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, dilated pupils, nausea, unusual behavior including aggression and irritability, extreme mood shifts, hallucinations, convulsions, seizures, psychosis, and death
  • Opioids: Slowed breathing, extreme tiredness, constipation, nausea, unconsciousness, coma, and death
  • Depressants: Slowed reaction time, memory loss, difficulty focusing, confusion, disorientation, low blood pressure, slowed breathing, dilated pupils, extreme tiredness, blacking out, slurred speech, and risk-taking behaviors

The long-term side effects can include:

  • Stimulants: Permanent damage to organs like the heart and brain, malnutrition, cognitive dysfunction, psychosis, depression, liver and kidney disease, stroke, epilepsy, and increase instances of infection
  • Opioids: Permanent brain damage, insomnia, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, tremors and muscle spasms, depression, anxiety, and liver damage 
  • Depressants: Chronic tiredness, hypersomnia, weight gain, depression, suicidal ideation, sexual dysfunction, and breathing difficulties

Treatment and Therapy Options

Some SUDs involving prescription medications require more in-depth treatment. At kathy ireland® Recovery Centers, our clinical team will create a personalized plan for you that may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and therapy. How long detox and withdrawal take and the type of side effects depend entirely on the particular medication and how long you took it. Treatment often involves slowly tapering off the substance or transitioning to a similar but less addictive drug.

Therapy is a standard tool for improving the mental and physical health of individuals diagnosed with SUD. Methods of psychotherapy known to help treat prescription addiction include:

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Contingency Management (CM)
  • 12-Step Facilitation (TSF)
Prescription drug addiction

If you are ready to change your life and are looking for intensive outpatient treatment in Laconia, NH, then call kathy ireland® Recovery Centers now: (866) 861-9772.

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