Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment


Table of Contents

Prescription Drug Addiction and Treatment Options in The U.S.

Prescription drug addiction is an issue that affects millions of Americans. Many people are able to quit cold turkey, but they relapse due to the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting these drugs. Fortunately, there are many treatment centers in the U S. that have effective programs for completing a successful rehabilitation process for prescription drug addiction.


What Are Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drug addiction is the physical dependence on a medication that was originally prescribed by a doctor. Prescription drugs are medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from pain to depression. 

These medications can only be legally obtained with a doctor’s prescription and are available in both brand name and generic forms, but they all function in the same way. Most prescription drugs are used for treating medical conditions and illnesses, but some are also used to treat psychological disorders or help people with addictions recover from their habits. 

The most common prescription drugs include painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants. These drugs are often highly addictive and can cause serious side effects when taken improperly. Addiction to these drugs can occur when someone takes medication as prescribed by their doctor and then continues taking it long after the symptoms have subsided.

The Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction is a serious health problem in the United States. An estimated 6.2 million people are addicted to prescription drugs, including painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that prescription drugs were involved in nearly half of all US overdose deaths in 2008.

The most commonly abused prescription drugs include painkillers (opioids), sedatives (Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants), and stimulants.


Diphenoxylate (Lomotil).

Fentanyl (Duragesic).

Hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Hydromorphone (Dilaudid).

Meperidine (Demerol).

Morphine Sulfate.

Oxycodone (OxyContin).

Oxymorphone (Darvon).


Alprazolam (Xanax).

Diazepam (Valium).

Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal).

Sertraline (Zoloft)

Zolpidem Tartrate (Ambien)


Amphetamines (Adderall).

Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine).

Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).

Prescription drug abuse is not a new problem. It has been around for decades, but the number of people abusing prescription medications has increased dramatically in recent years. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that the number of people abusing prescription drugs has increased by nearly 400% in the last 20 years. 

The most common cause of prescription drug abuse is people using medications that were not prescribed to them. People who are addicted to drugs may turn to prescription medication because they can get a hold of it more easily than illicit street drugs.

Risk factors for prescription drug addiction include a family history of substance abuse, mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, and previous treatment for substance abuse. This particular addiction is most prevalent in the western region of the United States, particularly in states such as California and Arizona. In addition to the western region, prescription drug addiction is also prevalent in southern states like Alabama and Tennessee.

Prescription Drug Addiction Amongst The Elderly

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to prescription drug addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), older adults have a higher risk of being prescribed painkillers for long-term use. Many older adults are prescribed these drugs after surgery or an injury. The long-term use of these medications can lead to addiction and other serious health problems, such as organ damage or heart disease.

Older adults are also more likely to experience feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. These factors can lead them to self-medicate with prescription drugs. They may not be aware that they become dependent and addicted to their medication.

Complications resulting from prescription drug abuse have been a growing problem in the US. In 2010, an estimated 1.9 million people aged 12 or older needed treatment for problems related to prescription pain reliever use and an estimated 467,000 people needed treatment for problems related to prescription stimulant use.

What Is the Difference Between Physical Dependence and Addiction?

Physical dependence and addiction are two different things. Physical dependence is when the body adapts to a substance and withdrawal symptoms occur if the use of that substance is stopped abruptly. Addiction, on the other hand, involves psychological dependence in addition to the physical. Psychological dependence is when a person has to use a substance in order to feel normal and function normally. Addiction is associated with compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful effects, and giving up other activities in order to use.

Prevention of prescription drug addiction should be a high priority for public health officials. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing form of substance abuse in the United States, and it has been estimated that more than 5 million Americans over the age of 12 have abused prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet. The majority of these people are not addicted to heroin or other illicit drugs, but rather they have become addicted to prescription drugs through their own use or the use of family members and friends.

Research has shown that prescription drug abuse among teens and young adults can be prevented by educating them about the harmful effects of abusing these drugs. This education should begin early in childhood and continue through the teen years. It should be included in school curricula, and parents can reinforce it at home.

This prevention effort must also include drug education for adults, who are often the first to introduce these drugs to teens as well as the elderly who inadvertently become addicted due to pain management. Prescription drug abuse is the most common form of drug abuse in America. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 4 out of 5 people who try prescription drugs for non-medical reasons get them from family and friends.

How Is Prescription Drug Addiction Diagnosed?

Prescription drug addiction is diagnosed with the same criteria used to diagnose abuse of illicit drugs. A person who takes a prescription medication in larger amounts or over a longer period than prescribed, or for reasons other than for which the drug was prescribed, may be misusing or abusing the prescription medication.

How Is Addiction to Prescription Drugs Treated?

A person who is addicted to a prescription drug will need treatment in a drug rehabilitation program. Treatment of prescription drug addiction may include behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational incentives, or disulfiram.

The first step in treating prescription drug addiction is detoxification from the addictive substance. Detoxification is the process of removing a drug from the body. The most common way to detoxify from prescription drugs is through a medically supervised withdrawal program that takes place in an addiction treatment

Treatment for prescription drug addiction is available, but it depends on the type of abuse. For example, if the abuse is of painkillers, then treatment will probably be a detoxification program. If it’s an addiction to stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall, then treatment will probably consist of a rehabilitation program.

How Common Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drugs are the second most commonly abused category of drugs, after marijuana. In addition to being prescribed for pain management, prescription medications can be obtained from friends or family members who have prescriptions for them.

According to the NIDA, over 50% of teens and young adults who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from someone else. This means that a large percentage of prescription drug abusers are getting their medications illegally. They also state that over the past decade, there has been a 400% increase in prescription drug abuse.

The Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse can have severe physical effects on the user. Some of these include

  • Mood Swings
  • Erratic Behavior
  • Feeling ‘Stoned’ or “High”
  • State of Confusion
  • Oversleeping or Lack of Sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Hyper activeness
  • Neglect of Hygiene and Appearance
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Overdosing
  • Addiction
  • Indulging in criminal behavior to fuel their addiction

The most common cause of death from prescription drug abuse is by an overdose.. In 2010, there were more than 16,000 deaths related to prescription pain reliever overdose and more than 5,000 deaths related to prescription stimulant overdose. 

Other medical consequences of prescription drug addiction are liver damage, liver failure, kidney issues, and cardiac problems including irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest. 

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment in The U.S.

Besides the individual and group rehabilitation treatment modules that emphasize medical and behavioral treatment, facilities such as West Valley Detox will go further to recognize and treat any underlying issues causing the abuse of prescription drugs as well as aiding in restoring the person to a healthy and wholesome life.

The treatment focuses on cognitive behavior therapy which provides an understanding of the root causes of the thoughts and behaviors that result in the abuse of prescription drugs. The person suffering from this addiction is required to focus on his or her own life and develop ways of changing and improving it. This therapy, which has proven to be successful in the treatment of addiction and depression, aims to help develop skills of resilience and the ability to cope with negative emotions, which are vital in recovery. 

Holistic therapy focuses on the whole person including the mind, body, and spirit. To achieve physical healing, the person must be well physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Activities such as spa treatments, yoga sessions, acupuncture, massage therapies, eating a balanced diet, engagement in adventure, and involvement in art, music, and writing help to keep the patient constructively busy. This in turn results in reducing the risk of a relapse. 


Inpatient Rehab Facilities For Prescription Drugs

Inpatient or residential treatment facilities are suitable for patients who require close supervision resulting from heavy dependence on prescription drugs. All over the U.S., there are well-established inpatient rehabs and people can choose to get treatment within their own state or out of state. Research has shown that those who opt for out-of-state facilities are more successful in recovery as they are away from their triggers, break their destructive routines and cut off from people who might lure them back to the prescription drug abuse.

Inpatient facilities are ideal for those to receive intensive treatment where they can focus solely on recovery and putting their lives in order once again without the worry of family and work routines. They also provide detoxification to flush out the toxins that are brought about by prescription drug abuse. Detox also involves withdrawal symptoms from prescription drugs which can include agitation, anxiety, diarrhea, hallucinations, irritability, muscle cramps, pain, and in severe cases, even seizures. An inpatient facility that provides detox such as West Valley Detox will have medical providers to manage these symptoms with medication.

The many advantages of a residential treatment facility are

  • to be away from regular life and triggers that cultivate the craving for drug abuse and allows one to solely focus on recovery.
  • provides a conducive environment and a sense of assurance where they can seek assistance from professionals around the clock.
  • ensures close monitoring, which gauges progress and in other cases, the treatment provider can change the treatment module based on what seems to work best for the individual patient.
  • teaches patients, through life-changing programs, how to continue with recovery and stay off drugs which give them a full, healthy life.
  • reduces the chances of relapses as detoxification is carried out which curbs the urge for abuse.
  • allows the patient to have a high degree of privacy and confidentiality with regard to the patient’s treatment. 

Prescription drug addiction inpatient treatment typically includes a component of aftercare in order for it to be successful as this addiction has a higher risk of relapse than other types.

Outpatient Treatment

When a person getting treatment lives at home but goes to a facility to attend counseling sessions on a daily, weekly, or even monthly cycle, it is referred to as outpatient treatment. This treatment module allows for the patient to continue with their normal daily life, work commitments, and family life, except for the few hours they spend at the facility. 

Outpatient treatment also relies on family members or loved ones to provide emotional support, unlike inpatient facilities.  The costs are significantly less than inpatient treatment and in many facilities, they even provide pay as you get treatment rather than one large payment prior to treatment.