Prescription Drug Addiction & Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is rapidly growing at an alarming rate throughout the United States. Prescription drug abusers are not limited to street addicts. Abuse crosses demographic lines and affects all ages because sources of medications are diverse and difficult to control. Drugs are easily attained through a physician – or multiple physicians simultaneously – as there is no statewide tracking mechanism. Often, medications are prescribed for legitimate reasons but are later diverted to abusers.
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There are three main classes of prescription drugs that typically lead to abuse:

Opioids: such as Codeine, Oxycodone, and Morphine – prescribed to treat pain.
CNS (Central nervous system depressants): such as Benzodiazepines, Hypnotics, and Barbiturates – used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
Stimulants: such as Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) and Methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta) – used to treat narcolepsy, ADHD, and obesity.

Signs of prescription drug addiction may include, but are not limited to, being in possession of prescription bottles from more than one doctor or from numerous pharmacies, seeking prescriptions from other doctors after their primary physician has refused, pills in plastic bags and mixing medications with other prescription medications or alcohol to increase the effect.
The most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States are painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. These are among the most widely abused prescription drugs. Detox from pain medications is done using alternative medications and is not considered life threatening. Anxiety medication detox, however, can be life-threatening, especially when these medications have been used with alcohol.

It is for these reasons that it is important to medically monitor our detox patients, in addition to providing the appropriate treatment.

Anyone can get addicted to prescription drugs. However, there is clear evidence that some people will get addicted to a specific prescription drug even when they take it according to a doctor’s recommended regimen while others will not, meaning that certain factors make them either surceptible to dependence and addiction or not. These factors include:

  1. Biology: Half of the risk of addiction to a drug comes from someone’s genetics and biological makeup. Here we are talking about factors like gender (with males being more prone to addiction than females), ethnicity, whether the person suffers from other mental disorders, and whether one comes from a family with a history of drug abuse.
  1. Social Environment: There are many social environment factors that can make one more likely to abuse prescription and illegal drugs. These range from family and friends, economic status and general quality of life. Other indicative factors include peer pressure, mental stress, parental guidance and early exposure to drug abuse.
  1. Development: A person is more likely to get addicted to prescription drugs if he or she begins taking them at certain stages of their life than at others. A person in their teenage years is at the highest risk of developing addiction. This is because these are the years when critical areas of the brain central to functions such as judgment, decision making and self-control are developing at a rapid rate.


  • Stark increase in dosage or frequency of drug intake – This may be voluntary, but it can also be a subconscious decision.
  • Unusual Physical Appearance – Signs of prescription drug addiction are often prominently displayed in the physical appearance of the individual. Some classic physical symptoms of drug addiction include red or glassy eyes, sniffling and runny nose, as well as splotchy or pockmarked skin. Prescription drug addicts may also cause signs such as unexplained sweating or shortness of breath, especially if one is deeply addicted and haven’t indulged recently (withdrawal).
  • Unexplained Spending Drugs are often expensive and hard to obtain. If someone you know has been spending a lot of money but cannot account for their spending, drugs are often the reason. However, all the money may not be going to drugs. To keep their drug habit secret, drug addicts go to extraordinary lengths to conceal where and how they obtain the drugs. This may involve paying intermediaries to help keep everything under the radar.
  • Disorder and Unkemptness – Once drug addiction has taken root, an individual who was meticulous and resplendent can turn out disorderly and unkempt. The need to indulge takes centerstage, and they forget to take care of themselves and may often have poor hygiene standards.
  • Sometimes, patients may lie about pain to be allowed to take more pills. It’s always advisable to consult a doctor before increasing the prescription drugs, even if the requested increase is marginal.
  • Oversleeping is very common in the case of opioids, and depressants, etc. and excessive energy in case of stimulants. In the later stages, these signs can amplify and then you may witness other serious symptoms like constant sedation, spasms, body aches, respiratory depression, constipation, repeated nausea, apathy to food and lack of taste.

There are many behavioral changes that accompany prescription drug abuse, but these are more noticeable during momentary withdrawal phrases. Some of the most common symptoms for both simulations and opioids are anxiety attacks (sudden euphoria followed by deep anxiety, restlessness, depression, etc.), mood swings, social aversion, and increased ego. Also, patients tend to sweat profusely, say illogical things, exuberate simple facts, and experience memory loss in times of extreme stress.

  • Poor Judgment – Drug addiction places such a chokehold on the abusers that they do not consider anything else as important. They will shirk responsibilities and often fail to turn up at the office or school. This lack of good judgment is often an indication that matters are getting worse and urgent intervention is paramount.
  • Insomnia and Drowsiness – Many drug addicts demonstrate very irregular sleeping patterns. They may spend the whole night without sleeping and will also become drowsy at odd moments. Methamphetamine addiction is notorious for inducing what is known as being “wired” – going for days on end without any sleep.

A person’s social life is also deeply affected by prescription drug abuse. While opioids and stimulants increase the appetite for social interactions temporarily, in the long-term people tend to develop a deep apathy towards social interactions. Addicts will generally try to avoid social gatherings and often be mindless in such situations. Their friends circle also changes, and they tend to rely on people who understands them and avoid people who disagree with them. They become more empathic towards fellow abusers and feels comfortable and protected in their company.In severe cases, addicts spend lengthy periods of time cooped up indoors and uncommunicative. This may be a result of their compulsion to keep their habit secret or it could be something even more insidious. The person abusing the drugs may be seeking to create an alternative reality of their own and they will do anything to keep out of the actual world where duty and responsibilities are real and urgent.


Prescription drug withdrawal, especially sudden withdrawal, leads to severe withdrawal symptoms. The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary, depending on some factors such as:

  • The length of your addiction: Daily abuse of a prescription drug for an extended period results in higher levels of tolerance, and as such, more severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • The half-life of the drug: If the prescription drug is short-acting, one experiences the associated withdrawal symptoms immediately after missing the first dose. If it’s long-acting, the withdrawals symptoms may be delayed by a few days.
  • The dose of the drug when you enter detox: The higher the doses you use, the more likely you’ll experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Your pre-existing mental or physical disorders: If one suffers from emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression, or a physical condition such as severe pain, prescription drug withdrawal symptoms will be more severe.


When you suddenly stop using prescription stimulants, you will experience lots of withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Depression
  • Intense dreaming
  • Suicidal behaviours and thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Physical symptoms such as tremors, stomach pains, sweating as well as fever

The withdrawal symptoms from opioid include:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Joint and bone pain.
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastro-intestinal distress

Depressants are also called downers and they are available in multi-coloured tablets, liquid form, and capsules. Some depressants such as Haldol, Seroquel, and Zyprexa are often used as tranquilizers, mainly because of their tendency to reduce the symptoms of mental disorder. The common depressants withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Poor concentration
  • Anxiety

The most common withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting prescription drug cold turkey include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach upset
  • Excessive mucous production
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Anger
  • Depression


The central nervous system, which encompasses the brain, respiratory and cardiovascular system, has natural opioid receptors. Opioids alter the way your brain responds to pain stimuli and disrupts both the reward and pleasure centres of your brain. Just like any addictive drug, after the invigorating high of opioids comes the inevitable depression, but unlike other drugs, opiate withdrawal symptoms may last for exceptionally long, making quitting opiates unthinkable to individuals in serious addiction.The Early Phase

This is the most difficult stage to get through and the point at which most relapses happen. Typically, opiates withdrawal symptoms begin after about 12 hours of the last dose, and they increase in adversity as the calming effects of the drug wears off and your nervous system is de-stimulated. During this period, you’ll experience some symptoms such as:

  • A runny nose.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Motor and cognitive functioning problems.
  • Teary eyes.
  • Intense yawning.

The Acute Phase

At this stage, most of the pain should be over, but you’ll still find it hard to eat, and to keep solid food in your system. It is highly recommended that you force yourself to eat. If you are having trouble eating solid foods, try full vegetables and fruit smoothies. The most common withdrawal symptoms that you’ll likely experience are:

  • Dehydration.
  • Insomnia and extreme restlessness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Emotional instability-aggression, suicidal thoughts, rapid mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
  • Sweats, goose bumps, and chills.
  • Bone pains, and muscle spasms.

Many addicts never complete the withdrawal process to or beyond this stage because even as the physical signs begin to subside, one will still experience the emotional symptoms for weeks.

The Post-Acute Phase

Once you hit day seven and beyond, you will start to experience little victories. However, these do not mean the battle is already won. To be more precise, it will still be difficult to eat, and nausea and anxiety should be expected.
During this phase, it is advisable that you keep both your mind and body active. Walk out and do something. Otherwise, the temptation to indulge at this stage is still high.

Stimulants are a group of drugs that once taken, speed up the bodily functions as well as your brain activity. In short, they have the power to enhance performance and cognition. The sustained use of stimulants will result in psychological and physical dependence, and as such, severe withdrawal symptoms.The First Stage

The first symptom of withdrawals from stimulants is always fatigue. This is primarily because abuse of stimulants wreaks havoc on your body. Nausea, extreme hunger, depression and agitation tend to appear next, but this mostly depends on certain factors such as your mental and physical condition.

The Second Stage

Within the first few hours of cessation, you will experience withdrawal symptoms such as drug cravings, lack of coordination, irritability, shaking, dehydration, muscle pains, sweating, and rapid heartbeat. Suicidal thoughts, mood swings, panic, and paranoia.

The Third Stage

The acute symptoms of stimulant withdrawal last between two to ten days. However, some individuals take longer to stabilize both psychologically and physically. Depression, insomnia, cravings and other mental problems can potentially last for weeks or even months.

Typically, the timeline for depressants is relatively straightforward and does not appear to be categorized into significant phases:

  • Initial symptoms tend to appear within one to three days following an abrupt discontinuation of the medication. You will likely experience some gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and nausea. Usually, the symptoms peak during the first week and then start to decrease. They last for up to three weeks. They include, a runny nose, feelings of lethargy, fever and blurry vision are all common.
  • Emotional symptoms including anxiety, depression, hallucinations, vivid dreams, and irritability can appear but cases of extreme symptom are rare.
  • It is critical to know that most of these withdrawal symptoms from depressants are mild and short-lived, and you’ll possibly mistake them for physical illness.


This is where a patient chooses to undergo rehabilitation within the hospital or treatment facility like the recovery village on a fulltime basis. In patient rehab is suitable for patients who cannot recover without close supervision due to heavy dependence on prescription drugs. One can choose to be admitted in a rehab facility near home or in an inpatient rehab center in a different city or state. In most cases, individual who opt for out of state facility do so to keep away from routines and people who might drag them back to the vice of drug abuse.During inpatient rehab, the patients are under 24-hour medical supervision by prescription drug addiction treatment professional and this increases chances of full recovery. Also, inpatient rehab provides the perfect setting – away from other worries of life – for patients to focus solely on recovery and putting their lives in order once again.

Detoxification is meant to flush out the toxins that are brought about by drug abuse. Residential therapy is also done which is usually at individual and group level. Here, the main aim is usually to get one back to normal health the soonest possible. Outdoor and indoor activities that stimulate and heal the mind and body are carried out too.

While undergoing this, the patient is usually allocated to meetings with psychiatrist either one or more times in a week. This is very important in monitoring on the progress of the patient. One is also allowed to meet other patients with similar challenges in the community group meetings. Here, new members are welcomed to the group and exchange of experiences on progress also takes place. This grouping is highly encouraged since members are able to understand each other offer appropriate advice. There are also recreational facilities like yoga which one can engage in during their stay in the rehab facility. the period for the treatment is relative depending on how fast the patient recovers and the extent to which addiction had affected them.

Lastly, one is also subjected to learning programmes which are facilitated to help them become better people even after recovery. Some of the topics are also geared to motivate and encourage patients in ditching addiction and embarking on these programmes, intensive counselling is carried out.

Choosing an inpatient rehab facility is a good idea that comes with many advantages:

  1. It allows one to be away from normal activities that cultivate the craving for drug abuse and allows one to solely focus on recovery.
  2. It puts one in a conducive environment where they can seek assistance from professionals any time. this gives the patients a sense of assurance about recovering.
  3. It keeps one under very close monitoring, hence doctors can change treatment based on what seems to work best for a patient.
  4. Inpatient rehab facilities take patients through life changing programmes that equip them on how to continue with life even after recovery.
  5. Chances of relapses are minimal since detoxification is usually done and one can only be released when they are able to control the urge for abuse.
  6. Confidentiality is upheld such that only a few people know what is going on with a patient.
This is a type of a treatment therapy in which a patient goes to the facility to attend their sessions and go back to their residential places. This can be done daily, weekly or even monthly according to individual preferences. The difference between outpatient rehab and inpatient rehab is that one is able to continue with their normal business except for the few hours which they spend at the rehab. An outpatient rehab ensures that one is still present in the household and can always seek emotional support from family members unlike in an inpatient rehab whereby one secludes themselves. In terms of costs, outpatient rehabs are cheaper than inpatients since one doesn’t have to incur accommodation costs.
Though Suboxone is intended to help people avoid overdose as they enter recovery, overdose can still occur if the drug is used incorrectly. Injection is the most dangerous administration method, but you can overdose on Suboxone strips, pills, and every other formulation if the dosage is high enough. Because everyone has a unique physical makeup and tolerance, there is no single amount of Suboxone that causes overdose.Overdose is essentially poisoning. When an abuser takes such a high dose of Suboxone that the body cannot metabolize it fast enough, the drug essentially poisons the body and begins to cause serious adverse side effects. Some such effects include:

  • Small pupils
  • Blurry vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Blue lips or fingers
  • Fainting
  • Collapse
  • Death

If you notice any of these overdose symptoms in yourself or a loved one, call 911 right away. Overdose is considered a medical emergency. For many who have survived overdose, the scare of death is enough to convince them to pursue drug addiction rehab. Although there is no cure for addiction, rehab is a proven treatment method. After therapy and medical attention, it is possible to live a long and healthy life free of Suboxone addiction.


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