Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

The rapid increase in prescription drug addiction across the United States is not only extremely concerning, it’s become one of the most dangerous epidemics of the past 10 years. The health effects of prescription drug abuse are often serious and can even be fatal.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are three classes of prescription drugs that are commonly abused — opioids, CNS depressants, and stimulants.


Opioids are the most commonly-abused prescription drugs. Though the primary purpose of these drugs is to alleviate pain, they can also produce an euphoric high and dangerous side effects when taken in large doses.

Opioids include:

  • Percocet
  • OxyContin, a partially-synthetic painkiller combined with an opioid (derived from the poppy plant). It is prescribed primarily to cancer patients to help manage and relieve severe pain. An overdose can cause respiratory failure, collapse of the circulatory system, and possibly death.
  • Morphine and other surgical standbys.
  • Codeine, typically used to treat coughs or minor pain.
  • Hydrocodone or Vicodin, a type of codeine that’s often found in liquid medications. It’s meant to suppress severe coughing and pain. High dosages of hydrocodone make the user feel drowsy and slightly numb.
  • Fentanyl, a laboratory-created opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine. It is used to relieve chronic pain in cancer patients as well as post-surgery patients. Because it is frequently delivered in a friendly format — such as a lollipop, patch, or spray — it is one of the most dangerous opioids.

Opioids slow down the brain’s ability to function, causing drowsiness and reducing cognitive abilities. They can cause mood swings, choking, constipation, and slowed breathing which can lead to comas or even death. For women, there are added risks, including the potential of stopping menstrual cycles and infertility.

In addition, opioids from the oxycodone family — including OxyContin, Percocet, and Roxicodone — are designed to release slowly over a longer period of time. Unfortunately, this can lead to an even faster path to addiction, as many recreational users have discovered that crushing, snorting, or injecting the drug bypasses this slow release. This, however, also significantly increases the chance of overdose.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants

Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, more commonly known as tranquilizers or sedatives, slow down the brain’s activity. They are useful in treating sleep disorders and anxiety, but can be very dangerous if misused.

CNS depressants include benzodiazepines and sleeping medications.

Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety issues, panic attacks, or stress reactions. They include:

  • Valium (Diazepam) is prescribed to treat chronic anxiety, panic disorder, alcohol withdrawal, and insomnia. Addiction can happen within just one month of initial dosage.
  • Xanax

ProSom and Halcion have a sedative effect that is helpful in treating short-term sleep disorders.

Benzodiazepines are not typically prescribed for long-term sleep issues because of the potential for tolerance and addiction. Clients who are addicted to benzodiazepines will undergo medical detoxification as part of their customized addiction treatment.

Sleeping medications have a different chemical makeup than benzodiazepines, but activate similar parts of the brain. They are considered to be less addictive and can be used for long-term sleep disorders.

They include:

  • Ambien
  • Sonata
  • Lunesta

CNS depressants can cause cardiovascular problems and memory lapses, and can occasionally lead to seizures which can sometimes be fatal.


Stimulants are drugs that increase focus, energy, and alertness. Today, they are primarily prescribed to treat issues including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. They’re also a last resort for treating depression, if the usual channels of antidepressants and therapy aren’t working.

Previously, however, stimulants have been prescribed to treat everything from respiratory issues like asthma and bronchitis to neurological disorders and even obesity. But in recent years, it became very clear that widespread use of stimulants was causing an increase in addictions, so the number of prescriptions being issued decreased substantially.

The belief that prescription stimulants are safe — as well as the well-known benefit of drugs like Adderall and Concerta —has led to abuse in groups as diverse as academics, athletes, performers, or people who simply want to be more productive. But this cognitive, physical enhancement poses risks ranging from heart problems to paranoia and, yes, addiction.

Just as with other drugs, stimulants become quickly addictive in part because of the burst of energy they produce. Withdrawal symptoms exacerbate the addiction, as after the artificial high wears off, feelings of depression and sleeplessness often occur.

Side effects of stimulants include elevated blood pressure and heart rates. They can also help alleviate respiratory issues.

Long-term stimulant abuse can lead to paranoia, psychosis, and other strange or aggressive behaviors, even if only being used over a relatively short period. High doses of stimulants can cause an abnormal heartbeat and increase in body temperature. In extreme cases, stimulants can cause cardiac arrest or death.


Prescription drug use can lead to addiction, even when a doctor has prescribed the medication. Misuse of a prescription drug causes the potential of addiction to rise significantly.

What does being addicted mean? The user becomes physically dependent on it and develops an uncontrollable craving for it, and typically the only way to satisfy that craving is to take more of the drug — and in higher doses — to get similar effects.

A dependency like this can have devastating consequences. Stopping use of the drug can result in very strong withdrawal symptoms, including physical symptoms like nausea, shaking, sweating, and nervousness. Withdrawal from opioids can cause deep bone pain, sleeplessness, vomiting, and involuntary leg movement. Withdrawal from stimulants can cause depression, exhaustion, and sleep issues. Withdrawal from sedatives and tranquilizers can lead to life-threatening consequences.

In addition, many who are addicted to prescription drugs turn to illegal options when they run out of legal, socially-acceptable methods of satisfying their addictions, or when they aren’t getting the same effects that they once experienced from using the drug. They turn to drugs like heroin to seek relief from opiate cravings, anxiety, and other painful withdrawal symptoms.

What to Expect

JourneyPure Emerald Coast, we have helped many people addicted to prescription drugs overcome their addiction. We have the staff and resources to give you or your loved one the best shot at a long-term recovery and a life free from addiction.

We take a comprehensive and holistic approach, including medical intervention and cognitive behavioral therapy as well as holistic services like experiential therapies. This approach has successfully helped prescription drug abusers go on to live happy, productive, and sober lives.

After treatment, our coaching platform allows us to stay connected for a full year, ensuring long-term sobriety.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for a prescription drug addiction, please contact us today. It is possible to live a sober and satisfying life without drugs. We’re here to help.

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