Prescription Drug Addiction

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Most people will at some stage take a pain killing prescription drug and addiction affects all subcultures and age groups.

  • The warning signs of addiction to prescription drugs may include the following:
    ·        Complaints of vague symptoms to get more medicine,
    ·        Lack of interest in any other treatment options,
    ·        Mood swings,
    ·        Seeing a number of doctors and/or pharmacies to get more pills,
    ·        History of drug addiction,
    ·        Using more medicine than prescribed,
    ·        Using medication prescribed for other people,
    ·        Anxiety,
    ·        Depression,
    ·        Sleeping either too little or too much,
    ·        Lack of interest in relationships with friends or family,
    ·        Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop usage of the medication.

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An estimated 26.3 to 36.1 million people are dependent on opioids worldwide. People easily hide their addiction in what looks like reasonable pill popping. However, self-medicating may easily spiral out of control.

Prescription drugs prone to abuse.

  • Sleep medicine: Zolpidem, Lunesta, zaleplon.
  • Painkillers: Codeine (Myprodol®, Doxyfene®), Morphine and Pethidine, OxyContin, Percocet, DF118®, tramadol.
  • Stimulants: Concerta, Metadate, Methylin, and Ritalin.
  • Barbiturates: Nembutal, Seconal
  • Benzodiazepines: Valium, Xanax

Pain killing drugs often contain codeine which is an opiate and is the same class of drug as morphine and heroin.

Addiction to codeine can be severe, with patients suffering horrible withdrawals and needing medical detoxification. Nearly 45 percent of people seeking treatment for prescription medicine addiction in South Africa were using opioid painkillers.

Other prescription drugs of addiction are stimulants which treat disorders like ADHD, and central nervous system (CNS) depressants which treat anxiety, sleep disorders, and other behavioural conditions.

Some prescription drugs of addiction are stimulants which treat disorders like ADHD, and central nervous system (CNS) depressants which treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

Because the medicines were originally prescribed by a doctor, people feel that they are not addicted, even when they realise that they have a problem, they feel that it is not the same as being addicted to street drugs.

Download our e-book discussing prescription drug addiction.

What may have begun as pain relief has escalated to dependence and become an addiction. A prescription addict uses medication for more than which they were originally prescribed.

Prescription drug addicts come to depend on the medication to feel better and experience powerful cravings in between doses. Addicts continue to use medication drugs despite the negative consequences, including relationship difficulties, problems at work, or the risk of physical harm from excessive use. An example would be when a doctor prescribes

An example would be when a doctor prescribes tranquilisers after a trauma. The person feels calmer and is able to sleep better with the medication, so he takes it for longer or more often than the doctor prescribed. When the medication is finished, he returns to the doctor for another prescription, and the cycle begins, possibly leading to addiction.

Unfortunately, the elderly are more vulnerable to prescription drug addiction as they are often prescribed so heavily with medication. In some cases, it is difficult to tell whether drug addiction is taking place or whether the physical condition that caused the need for the drugs has worsened and so increased dosages are needed.

It is always important for patients to follow their doctor’s and pharmacist’s instructions regarding medication. It is also wise to make the doctor aware of a patient’s previous or current substance abuse problems and to let the doctor know if there has been a problem with drug addiction in the family.

Prescription Drug Addiction Danger

The problem with painkillers is that their purpose is to eliminate the debilitating pain that the individual is living with, however, the symptom is treated, rather than the cause of the pain. Because the symptom persists, painkillers are often prescribed over a lengthy period of time, which can cause a dependence on them. It is estimated that around 20% of people in America have used prescription drugs inappropriately and that in some areas, abuse of prescription painkillers has overtaken cocaine and marijuana abuse.


Prescription medications are drugs and they work on the brain in the exact same ways that illegal drugs do. When a person who is addicted to prescription drugs uses them, the medication changes the brain’s chemistry and makes it less effective at producing chemicals like dopamine or endorphins.

Because the brain stops producing these chemicals itself, they need to be introduced in another way. This is when the prescription drug addict has become physically dependent on the medication.

The Long Term Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

Drug interaction is a complication of prescription addiction. The doctor or pharmacist needs to be aware of everything the person is taking so that they prescribe a medication that will not produce side effects when combined with the other prescription medication already in use. Vitamins and herbal remedies are included in these combinations. Alcohol consumption and prescription drugs combined can produce side effects too. Sedatives, painkillers and alcohol may affect the central nervous system, leading to respiratory distress or failure, or even death. One can never be too careful when mixing substances.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Rehab centres can help with prescription drug treatment. Inpatient treatment ensures that any medication given is closely monitored while the individual receives help. Treatments for prescription drugs are similar to treatments for illegal drugs that affect the same brain systems. So, buprenorphine is used to treat addiction to opioid pain medications, and behavioural therapies are most likely to be effective for stimulant or CNS depressant addiction—which do not have medications. The use of medications like buprenorphine is not simply replacing one drug addiction with another. It is used in maintenance treatment and is prescribed and administered under controlled conditions, weaning the patient off drug use.

Follow-up care after the inpatient treatment is a huge help and should include individual and group therapy sessions, as well as a regular support group with other recovering drug addicts.

Prescription drug abuse is not a new problem, but it needs public attention. It is vital that we are aware of the dangers associated with the inappropriate use and abuse of prescription medications. Help is available, so it is not necessary to remain trapped in the vicious cycle of prescription drug addiction. Contact one of our treatment coordinators today for guidance and confidential advice on where and how to receive help.

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