Desert Rose Recovery - Palm Beach Alcohol Treatment and Drug Rehab CentersPrescription Drug Addiction: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Prescription drug addiction occurs when an individual becomes addicted to a medication by taking it for reasons other than why it was prescribed. Although prescription drugs are intended for scheduled medical use, becoming addicted to them can affect the brain and the body the same way recreational drugs can.

Why do People Abuse Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs, such as opioid painkillers, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants can offer the same highs as recreational drugs.

Opioids are known to improve the quality of life of those facing long term pain in old age, but the longer they are used, the more likely they will contribute to addiction. Opioids do not actually get rid of the pain, they just trick the brain into thinking there is none—this can be dangerous as whatever is causing the pain may still run rampant within the users body without their knowledge that it may be getting worse. To do this, opioids increase the production of dopamine in the brain. The increase of dopamine mimics that of recreational drugs and can lead to the same behaviors that cause addiction to those. Opiates include fentanyl, codeine, morphine, Percocet, Vicodin and others.

CNS depressants, most often used to treat anxiety and insomnia, offer a feeling of calm and relaxation—when used frequently, more will be needed to offer the same feeling, leading to addiction. Depressants, like opioids, can also lead to a boost in dopamine which can eventually lead to abusing the drug. Common depressants are Xanax, Ambien, Valium, Klonopin and more.

Stimulants, used to treat ADHD or act as an antidepressant, increase alertness and positive emotions and can also become addictive if taken too frequently at too high a dose. Studies show that fewer people who actually need the drug for their mental illness become addicted than those who are sold stimulants to use as a recreational drug. Common stimulants include Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, Dexedrine and Vyvanse.

The risk factors attributed to prescription drug abuse are very similar to those that coincide with normal alcohol or drug addiction. Primarily, if a close family member has been known to struggle with addiction, either to prescription drugs or not, it is likely the individual will be more predisposed to prescription drug addiction. Mental health also plays a part, as oftentimes prescription medications are used to treat mental illnesses.

Additionally, peer pressure and the knowledge of what prescription drugs can do when used in unconventional ways can lead to addiction. And, each of these categories of drugs become more dangerous when ingested with alcohol or when snorted and injected into the system.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

There are different signs and symptoms attributed to different addictive prescription drugs because each of them are meant initially to treat different things. According to WebMD, these are the signs and symptoms associated with the most common prescription drugs addictions:


  • Dizziness

  • Slow or shallow breathing

  • Stomach irritability

  • Impaired motor and physical skills (slurred speech, bad coordination)

  • Sudden mood swings

  • Feelings of depression or anxiety

CNS Depressants

  • Mood swings

  • Impaired motor and physical skills (trouble walking, slowed reflexes, slurred speech, slowed breathing)

  • Impaired mental issues (memory problems, trouble concentrating, poor judgement)


  • Change in eating habits (weight loss, appetite loss)

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Inability to sleep

  • Heightened paranoia/nervousness

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

Those addicted to prescription medication are among those facing addiction who need the most help. This is because the risks that come with detoxification are much more dangerous for those addicted to opioids, CNS depressants and stimulants. Those withdrawing from prescription drugs may experience seizures or flu-like symptoms among normal withdrawal symptoms. Because of the risks of detoxification from prescription drugs, it is recommended that individuals seeking treatment do so in a facility where they can be supervised by medical professionals.

Once detoxification is complete, the rehabilitation process is relatively similar to those addicted to recreational narcotics. A mix of medical assistance and various kinds of therapy is used. However, one risk unique to prescription drug addiction is the chance of relapse is much higher than recreational drugs.

Prescription drug treatment programs must provide an aftercare plan that includes relapse prevention skills so to mitigate the risk of becoming addicted to the drug once again. Patients in relapse prevention programs will learn how to recognize triggers in advance and will be provided with community resources to create a supportive environment in which to re-enter society.

Are you or a loved one struggling with a prescription drug addiction? We are here to help. Call Desert Rose Recovery today and learn more about your options.

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