Prescription Drugs Addiction Treatment

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America,” according to Gil Kerlikowske, former Director of National Drug Control Policy. When used properly, prescription drugs save lives and bring vitally needed relief from illness. But when abused it can lead to prescription drug addiction and the consequences can be devastating – even fatal.

Prescription drugs are abused whenever they are taken in a manner not intended by the prescribing doctor. Methods of abuse include taking drugs in a greater quantity than directed or snorting crushed pills in an effort to get an enhanced effect. They are being abused whenever they are taken by anyone other than the patient. Unfortunately, a 2014 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that approximately 15 million people aged 12 or older used prescription drugs non-medically in the previous year.

Many drugs can lead to prescription drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the three classes of prescription drugs that are most often are opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants.


Opioids are used to treat intense pain that cannot be relieved through any other means. In addition to pain relief, they can produce feelings of well-being and euphoria. Examples of opioid pain relievers include drugs that contain active ingredients such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Brand names include:

  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Norco
  • Percocet
  • Demerol

According to NIDA “more than 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. The terrible consequences of this trend include overdose deaths, which have more than quadrupled in the past decade and a half.”

Signs of prescription drug addiction vary between classes of drugs. Signs of opioid abuse include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Feeling high (euphoria)
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Increased pain with higher doses
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Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants

Prescription drug addiction is often seen in this class of drugs. These are primarily used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.  Many of them are classified as benzodiazepines (often called “benzos” for short). These include:

  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Halcion
  • ProSom
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin

Allen Frances is a professor emeritus at Duke University. Writing in the Huffington Post he reports that between 1996 and 2013, the death rate from benzo overdoses exploded by more than 500 percent, from 0.58 per 100,000 people  to 3 per 100,000. Benzos are now involved in more than 30 per cent of all overdose deaths, usually in combination with opioids or alcohol.

CNS depressants also include non-benzodiazepine sleep medications such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata. Although they are thought to carry less risk of dependence, when abused, these drugs can still lead to addiction.

The following may be symptoms of CNS depressant abuse:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with memory
  • Slowed breathing
  • Stimulants

Stimulants are often used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Those most often prescribed include Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. These drugs often have a calming effect on patients and allow them to focus their attention. An increasing number of students have been abusing these drugs in recent years in an effort to study longer and improve their academic performance.  A 2015 study found that the rate of stimulant medication misuse among college students was estimated at 17%.

The following signs may be indicative of stimulant abuse:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Agitation
  • High body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Abuse, Addiction and Treatment

Opioids, CNS depressants and stimulants are not the only classes of prescription drugs that can misused, but their abuse is most prevalent. According to NIDA “When abused, all of these classes of drugs directly or indirectly cause a pleasurable increase in the amount of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway. Repeatedly seeking to experience that feeling can lead to addiction.”

Prescription drug addiction is not only psychological. These drugs can also generate a powerful physical addiction. For that reason, prescription drug addiction treatment at Sovereign Health of Florida begins with detox which is the process by which the chemicals that have built up as a result of chronic drug abuse are purged from the body. This is done under careful medical supervision.

Prescription drug addiction treatment may be done on an inpatient basis. We also offer both a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP) in addition to residential treat. At all levels of care Sovereign Health of Florida employs evidence-based therapies that put our patients on the road to lasting recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse don’t hesitate to call us about our prescription drug rehab. To learn more about prescription drug addiction recovery, please call our 24/7 helpline.

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