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Prescription Drug Addiction



According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription drugs that are used for nonmedical uses in any manner or dose other than the prescribing physician intended means they are being misused.  Even if someone has a significant and real medical complaint, if he or she takes another person’s prescription, that is also an example of misuse as is taking a prescriptive drug with the intention to get a buzz or the feeling of an unnatural high. Contributing to the problem is the faulty perception that prescription drugs are somehow safer than illicit drugs and not as addictive.


Prescription Drug Use in the United States


A 2017 report by the Institute for Social Research at The University of Michigan found that of young adults ages 18 to 25 who were surveyed, 14.4 percent reported nonmedical use of prescription drugs within the past year. Conversely, older men and women may have received anti-anxiety or sleep-inducing drugs for decades and may gradually seek higher doses or mix their prescriptions with alcohol to maintain the same effect as they build tolerance over the years. In this way, an addiction may slowly develop. If the original doctor stops writing prescriptions, the individual might begin to “doctor shop” to get more of the drug.


Incidents of overdose linked to the misuse of prescription drugs are on the rise as evidenced by more emergency room visits and accidental deaths in the last 15 years than ever before according to NIDA.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999. Prescription opioids are extremely addictive and can lead to overdose or unintentional catastrophic effects when mixed with alcohol or other drugs.


Treatment admissions for prescription drug use disorders and addictions are also on the rise according to 2013 research conducted by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality under the guidance of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


The NIDA indicates that three main types of prescription drugs are often misused:


  • Opioids
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants (This class of prescription drugs includes benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines, and barbiturates.)
  • Stimulants


The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that within the past year, an estimated 2 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers for the first time within the past year. On the Drugabuse.gov website, the same report went on to say that more than one million Americans misused prescription stimulants, while 1.5 million misused tranquilizers, and 271,000 misused sedatives for the first time.


Safe Disposal of Unused Prescriptions


Most misused prescription drugs are obtained through a doctor’s prescription or by using someone else’s medications. For this reason, all old drugs in the medicine cabinet should be safely disposed of, and others secured. Never share drugs or save unused or expired medications.


Post-surgical Relapse


For those who are in recovery from prescription drug misuse, post-surgical relapse is a real risk. It is critical that every person on your medical team understands your addiction and that all narcotic medications for acute pain are properly tapered to reduce the risk of relapse. You need support and help to monitor any and all medication dosages following surgery.


Signs of use


Alcohol is often combined with prescription drug misuse throughout all age groups. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 7 million people are currently using psychotropic drugs that target the central nervous system (CNS) in a non-medical way. When mixed with alcohol, CNS drugs can be particularly deadly.




  • Mood swings
  • Euphoria
  • Lying
  • Social isolation
  • Stealing
  • Doctor shopping
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Itchy, flushed skin
  • Increased risks for cardiovascular complications
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Psychosis


CNS depressants:


  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Sedation
  • Memory impairment
  • Improper body balance
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced libido
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory depression
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Suicide
  • Slow heart rate
  • Severe low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Akathisia (a movement disorder)
  • Increased heart rate




  • Weight loss
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Dehydration
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased agitation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Nosebleeds
  • Muscle tics/spasms
  • Changes in concentration and focus
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggression
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Paranoia


Withdrawal symptoms


All three commonly misused prescription drugs carry a number of withdrawal symptoms. CNS prescription drug withdrawal can be particularly severe as the half-life of some CNS medications has caused numerous accidents and unconscious behaviors.




  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Craving
  • Increased respirations
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Involuntary leg movements
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps


CNS depressants:


  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Hand tremors
  • Dry heaving and vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Problems concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Increased anxiety and tension
  • A host of perceptual changes




  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Unpleasant dreams or nightmares
  • Tremors
  • Muscle aches
  • Nerve pain


Medical Detox


Successful treatment addresses the person as a whole and focuses on his or her physical, mental, and spiritual needs. It begins with medical detox and stabilization to address each type of prescription drugs that are most commonly misused. Due to the dangerous effects of withdrawal, it’s advised that individuals attempting to detox from prescription drugs do so under the skilled care of a physician so that they can be medically monitored for safety.


When the medical detox component of addiction treatment for painkillers is delivered in tandem with a variety of therapeutic approaches positive outcomes are maximized. Origins offers comprehensive medical and clinical care for addiction, including the cutting-edge modalities to retrain the brain and extensive support for co-occurring disorders and high acuity cases. Our team of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, master’s level clinicians, and licensed therapists are ready to help.


Treatment Modalities


Origins’ highly credentialed multidisciplinary team addresses the mind, body, and spirit. Relapse prevention/recovery protection is integrated into rehabilitation from prescription drug misuse, as the patient and the family gain tools for successful, sustained recovery. Therapies administered under the care of licensed professionals are an essential part of recovering from a substance use disorder involving prescription drugs:


  • Motivational interviewing
  • Neurofeedback
  • Biofeedback
  • Neurotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Wellness activities
  • Group therapy
  • 12-Step programming and support groups
  • Nutritional counseling


Effects on the Brain


CNS depressants like sedatives, hypnotics, and tranquilizers can slow brain activity. This class of prescription drugs includes benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines, and barbiturates. While these drugs have a helpful use to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, acute stress, and panic attacks, they can also be highly addictive.


Stimulants used to treat conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and treatment-resistant depression increase attention, energy and alertness, but they also elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Additionally, psychosis and seizures are common with the misuse of prescribed stimulants.


Opioids act on spinal cord and brain receptors to reduce the perception of acute pain stimuli as well as control certain emotions. Some individuals actually experience a worsening or increased sensitivity (hyperalgesia) to pain as a result of opioid usage. In other individuals, reward regions in the brain become activated resulting in a euphoria that perpetuates the tendency to misuse the drug. Because opioids interact with sections of the brain stem that control breathing, users are prone to suffocation if they take too much.



Contact Origins Behavioral HealthCare


Origins creates a system of lasting positive change for our patients by helping them lead healthier, more confident, and more purposeful lives. We provide proven, effective, and cutting-edge care for addictions of all types, including the misuse of prescription drugs.


Break the cycle of addiction for good by starting your journey to freedom and fulfillment today. Calling Origins Behavioral HealthCare at 561-841-1296 to begin your journey back to health.