What is Prescription Drug Addiction ?

What is Prescription Drug Addiction ?

Are you or someone you know at risk of drug abuse? Keep reading for more information about prescription drug addiction and treatment.

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Prescription Drug Addiction

There are many prescription drugs approved to treat a variety of medical conditions. When used as directed, these medications can be invaluable tools in medical treatment. However, many prescription drugs come with substantial risks of addiction, if misused.

Opioid painkillers, anxiety medications, stimulants, are all popular targets of misuse for their intoxifying or performance-enhancing properties. Not all prescription drug addictions happen in the same fashion. The majority of those addicted to opioid painkillers originally started taking them as prescribed medications for a legitimate purpose and only developed an addiction afterwards. In contrast, stimulants like the ones used in the treatment of ADHD, are more likely to be abused by those without the condition when obtained illegally without going through the appropriate medical channels.

Fortunately, there are treatments available for prescription drug addiction. Read on to find out more on prescription drug rehab, and the assistance available to you or someone you know.



Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction at its core is just one of many substance use disorder varieties, and subsequently shares a number of other similarities with other substance addictions. A thorough understanding of the effects prescription drugs can have on the brain and body are useful in effectively treating the disorder.

What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addictions occur when individuals consume prescription drugs more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed, or are unable to cease use of the substance after the prescribed use period has ended. People with prescription drug addictions will be unable to prevent themselves from engaging in these behaviors, despite the negative consequences they know may occur as a result.

Prescription Drug Statistics

Some statistics to consider on prescription drug abuse:

  • About 66% of Americans take prescription drugs.
  • 5.8% of people have reported misusing prescription drugs in 2020.
  • Opioids, stimulants, tranquilizers, and benzodiazepines are among the most abused prescription drugs in the U.S.

Considering the above statistics, it is possible for anyone to develop a prescription drug addiction. Using a prescription for a legitimate purpose – such as, for managing pain after an operation – does not protect a person from the risks of developing an addiction.

Most Abused Prescription Drugs

Below is a breakdown of some commonly abused prescription drug types.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants

Central Nervous System (CNS)Depressants refers to a class of drugs which spans a wide number of prescription medications. CNS depressants reduce brain and nervous activity, resulting in sedative effects. They are commonly employed for use as sedatives, hypnotics, and anti-anxiety medications. People may find the relaxed state that they produce pleasurable, and become subsequently addicted.2


Opioids are a specific type of CNS depressant derived from the opium poppy flower. Opioids also work by depressing nervous system activity, subsequently resulting in reductions in ability to feel and sense pain. These kinds of drugs also boost serotonin levels, resulting in feelings of intoxication and euphoria, making them highly addictive.


Stimulants are opposite to CNS depressants in many ways. By stimulating the nervous system, they make many people feel more alert and awake. Stimulant abuse through intentional overdose (either by increasing the amount consumed, or changing the route of consumption to one in which the body more readily absorbs the substance) can make individuals feel more extroverted, energetic, or hyper. Some individuals may abuse stimulants in order to improve focus and productivity, or simply to induce a feelings of intoxication.

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Prescription Drug Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

There is no single cause of addiction, but some factors are associated with increased addiction risks.

What Causes Prescription Drug Addiction?

Different people are more or less prone to prescription drug abuse for a number of reasons. Some may be more susceptible to feelings of intoxication or euphoria produced by certain drugs. Others may materially benefit from the increased functional capacity stimulants provide.

In a number of addiction cases, pre-existing underlying causes like mental disorders may also be present, and may partly explain the temporary positive benefits of certain substances. Central Nervous System Depressants work directly on the systems responsible for managing anxiety and fight-or-flight responses, and stimulants are known to effectively treat ADHD symptoms. Individuals unable to access adequate mental health treatment or diagnosis may potentially use substances for these purposes.

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that make people likely to take part in prescription drug abuse. These include the following:


Men are more likely than women to develop a substance use disorder.


Older adults are more likely to be prescribed prescription drugs, there has been a rise in prescription drug abuse among teens.5


High prescription doses may put a person at a higher risk of developing an addiction.

Physical Health Problems

Opiate painkillers prescribed to treat chronic physical pain can lead to resultant opiate addictions.

Mental Health Problems

People dealing with certain mental disorders may use prescription drugs to self-medicate their symptoms.

Past History of Substance Misuse

Persons with a history of substance misuse are at higher risk of future prescription drug addictions.

Prescription Drug Symptoms and Effects

With nearly 20,000 prescription drugs approved for marketing by the FDA, for nearly any bodily ailment imaginable, there are no signs of prescription drug misuse which are applicable in all cases. However, because the most commonly abused drugs tend to fall into a few main categories – central nervous depressants, opioids, or stimulants – there are some signs which tend to be useful indicators that a person may be using prescription drug addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Someone you know may be using prescription drugs if they display any combination of the following symptoms:

Opioid Addiction Signs:

  • Flushed itchy skin
  • Pinned eyes
  • Sweating
  • Digestive issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings
  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased pain sensitivity

CNS Depressant Addiction Signs:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Slow pulse
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Lack of concentration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Memory lapses
  • Slurred speech
  • Excessive relaxation and euphoria

Stimulant Addiction Signs:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Fever
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia

Side Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

In order to most effectively treat an addiction to prescription drugs, it is important to be able to identify side effects of prescription drug abuse. Especially in cases where prescription drugs were originally prescribed for a legitimate purpose, identifying where the line between taking a medicine “as needed,” as opposed to in excess or compulsively, may be difficult. If you’re unsure whether to be concerned for someone you know, consider reaching out to an addiction specialist.

Short Term Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Misusing prescription drugs for a short period of time can result in:

  • Indifference to emotional and physical pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Slow breathing

Long Term Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Persons whose prescription drug addiction persists over time might display:

  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • An increased tolerance to the drug

Prescription Drug Abuse Complications

If prescription drug misuse is left untreated it could result in:

  • Heart disease
  • Serious accidents
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Oral conditions
  • Skin conditions
  • Death

Rehab for Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction treatment can be challenging, but fortunately, there are treatments available for the best help available.

What is Prescription Drug Addiction Rehab?

Prescription drug addiction rehabilitation involves a three-part process of detox, therapy, and aftercare. Patients are offered a customized plan that helps them move on to a higher quality of life.

Prescription Drug Addiction Rehab Treatment

Here are some of the services a prescription drug rehab center may offer:6

Prescription Drug Detox

During this stage, toxins are allowed to leave a person’s body. Trained and professional staff members will oversee this stage of treatment to ensure individual comfort and safety.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment involves a 1–3-month period under constant care. It’s often recommended in cases of severe addiction.

Outpatient Treatment

In outpatient treatment, patients divide their time between therapy, home, and work.

Behavior Therapy

In behavioral therapy, clients identify and change negative thought processes to yield healthier behaviors with the help of a therapist.


Medications may be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms and to treat mental health issues that may be contributing to a prescription drug addiction.

Get Help for Prescription Drug Addiction at Alta Centers

If you are looking for a facility that’s right for you, Alta Centers is here, ready to serve you. We offer customized plans, inpatient and outpatient treatments and the comprehensive care you need to achieve prescription drug addiction recovery. Contact Alta Centers Prescription Drug Detox  and help us help you achieve a higher quality of life.

Help for Addiction
Treatment is Available 24 Hours a Day

Tel: (888) 202-2583