What is Prescription Drug Detox

Prescription Drug Detoxification

Prescription drug addictions affect people of all ages, making prescription drug detox centers important for recovery.

What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

The effects of the opioid epidemic continue to reach across the nation, responsible for the loss of thousands of lives annually. However, opioid drugs are not the only prescription drugs with elevated abuse rates. Data from the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that prescription drug abuse leads to more than one hundred deaths daily.

Prescription Drug Detox
Prescription Drug Detox

Also, in 2020, approximately forty-one million people ages twelve and older reported abusing prescription drugs. 1

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What is Prescription Drug Detox?

When someone abuses prescription drugs, they use medication in a way other than that intended by the prescribing doctor. This could mean taking higher than prescribed doses or taking a prescription that belongs to someone else. It may also include using a medication differently than prescribed, for example, grinding up a painkiller and mixing it with liquid to inject it. Prescription drugs are powerful medications. Even when used as prescribed, the risk of developing an addiction is high with certain types of medications. When prescription drugs are misused, tolerance and dependence on their effects quickly develop. When you are dependent on a substance and try to stop using, prescription drug withdrawal symptoms will typically occur. 2

Prescription Drug Detox Challenges

When you stop using a drug, your body continues to cleanse itself of any remaining traces of that drug. For prescription drugs, this is called prescription drug detox. Prescription drug detox can be complicated and lead to challenging and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. Because detox symptoms are unpredictable and vary widely in intensity and severity, starting your detox journey at a prescription drug detox center is important.

The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

There is a common misconception that prescription drugs are safer or less harmful than other illicit drugs, but this is not always the case. Many prescription drugs have a high risk of addiction and trying to reduce or stop using them can lead to various prescription drug detox symptoms. 3


Depressant drugs include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and medications used to manage sleeping disorders. People of all ages abuse depressants such as Xanax, or sedatives used to treat sleep disorders, like Ambien. Depressants can cause shallow breathing, fatigue, lack of coordination, and in some cases, seizures upon withdrawal from chronic or long-term use. In addition, misuse of sedatives in teens has an increased risk of overdose and death.


This class of drugs often includes medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, such as Ritalin or Adderall. Stimulants have side effects in common with cocaine. The most common may include paranoia, elevated blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat. Additional side effects include an increased risk of heart problems and seizures.

Opioid Narcotics

The class of drugs labeled as opioids often includes medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). Opioid medications act on the same parts of the brain as heroin. When used, even appropriately, they can cause drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. They can also result in severely slowed breathing when taken in larger quantities. Users may crush the pills to achieve a stronger, more immediate effect, resulting in lower blood pressure and potentially coma or death.

Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription Drug Addiction

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Prescription Drug Detoxification Symptoms

The effects of prescription drug detox vary depending on several factors, including the substance and the severity of your addiction. Typically, drug detoxification symptoms include physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. The precise duration of prescription drug detox symptoms also varies from substance to substance and is based on the severity of the addiction. For some, symptoms may resolve in a few days, whereas for others, they may persist for weeks or months.

Short-Acting Opioids

Detox symptoms from short-acting opioids, such as heroin and some prescription pain medications, generally begin within eight to twenty-four hours after your last dose, and subside after four to ten days. 3

Long-Acting Opioids

Prescription medication detox symptoms for long-acting opioids may begin within two to four days after your last use. Like short acting-opioids, most symptoms resolve within seven to ten days.


Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may begin one to four days after your last use and peak in severity during the first two weeks of prescription medication detox at a residential prescription drug rehab or prescription drug detox program.4

Prescription Drug Detoxification Side Effects

As your body begins to cleanse itself of prescription drugs, your body will experience many changes. Because prescription drugs change the chemical composition of your brain, your brain feels unbalanced when they are no longer present. This could lead to various symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Also, severe cravings for drugs are common regardless of the substance used. Cravings manifest not only in physical symptoms but in psychological obsessions as well. The most common physical side effects of prescription drug detox include sweating, muscle spasms, stomach cramps, headaches, and constipation. In some cases, especially with benzodiazepines and opioids, detox can be life-threatening, leading to seizures, hallucinations, change in heart rate and breathing, and coma.

Variations of Symptoms

It is important to reiterate that detox symptoms vary based on the substance. Some drugs often produce mild to moderate symptoms, while others can lead to severe and dangerous medical side effects. Because it is difficult to predict the type and severity of symptoms each person may experience, detoxing at a prescription drug detox center is highly recommended.

Where Does the Detoxification of Drugs Occur?

Not all prescription drug detox centers are the same. Before choosing a program, reviewing the benefits and services offered by the specific facility is imperative to ensure your treatment needs and goals will be met. Several types of therapy and services are offered at prescription drug addiction treatment programs near you. However, not all programs address all types of addictions, and not all programs address all levels of addiction severity. Therefore, it is crucial to do your research before committing to a specific inpatient prescription drug addiction treatment program.

Prescription Rehabilitation Opportunities

You can learn more about the type of program, therapies offered, and other benefits by contacting a prescription drug rehab center, your primary care provider, or your insurance company directly. The cost of prescription drug addiction treatment will vary from program to program and based on your specific treatment need. Your insurance company can review your benefits and help you find a program where you can detox from your prescription medicines safely and successfully while using your insurance benefits to defray costs.

Prescription Drug Detox Centers Near Los Angeles

If you or a loved one are ready to put prescription drug addiction in the past, a prescription medication detox program like Alta Centers can help. As part of medically assisted prescription drug detox, medical and mental health providers will support you throughout detox and healing from the effects of prescription drugs. They are available 24/7 to ensure you have access to medical and emotional support whenever you need help. During prescription drug detox, they will monitor your vital signs and, if necessary, intervene to assist in the event of more severe withdrawal symptoms. If needed (and acceptable for your symptoms and treatment needs), medical staff can administer to reduce the intensity of certain withdrawal symptoms.

Other Detox Procedures

Once detox from prescription medications is complete, you can seamlessly transition to our inpatient drug rehab to learn more about achieving and maintaining lasting sobriety. In therapy at a prescription drug addiction treatment program, you will learn more about the challenges, causes, and other factors that led to addiction. You will also learn and practice vital relapse prevention tools you can use when facing future situations or circumstances.

Scope of Addiction

Millions of Americans struggle with chronic, debilitating symptoms of drug addiction, but not everyone attends a recovery center. Some are concerned about the ongoing stigma associated with drug addiction and addiction treatment, while others are concerned about how to pay for treatment services. As a result, many try to overcome their addictions “cold turkey.”

Unfortunately, this frequently leads to relapse. Relapse is not uncommon for addicts new to recovery, even after completing a treatment program. Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate as many as 60% of people recovering from substance use disorders will experience relapse. 5

Healing at Alta Centers

At Alta Centers in Los Angeles, let us help you take your first steps towards recovery today. Contact a member of our experienced, compassionate admissions team today to learn more about prescription drug detox and treatment in Los Angeles, CA.

Help for Addiction
Treatment is Available 24 Hours a Day

Tel: (888) 202-2583