Can It Be Called an Addiction if It’s Prescribed?

Despite an epidemic of prescription drugs misuse, many people are still under the mistaken impression that because certain drugs come from a pharmacy, addiction to them isn't possible. The fact is, just because some medications are prescribed, that doesn't mean that they cannot be dangerous or addictive. Many addictions begin with the use of prescribed medications. It is important to dispel some of the myths about prescription drug-related addiction.

What Does Misuse of Prescription Drugs Mean?

Misuse of prescription drugs means a person is using a medication in a way that is not in line with the doctor's prescription in terms of frequency or dosage for a particular health issue. Misuse also includes changing the route by which the medication is administered or taking drugs not prescribed to you. Since 2000, researchers have found that the prevalence of prescription drug use disorders has been reflected in an increased number of emergency room visits and overdose deaths. Whether initial use was accidental or voluntary, over a period of time, repeated use can lead to changes in the brain, which then affects the behavior, including impulses and cravings.

The most commonly misused prescription drugs include opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants. Even at prescribed doses, these medicines have side effects. That is why you need a prescription by a medical doctor to monitor the use of them. Many people are not aware of the heightened risks from increased side effects. Some people can even combine medicines at the same time with the intent of achieving a high, but that also can be extremely dangerous. Severe health consequences have happened to many young people who were ignorant of the risks of combining prescription drugs.

How to Prevent Prescription Drug Misuse?

Everyone can play a role in the prevention of this kind of risky behavior. First, physicians or clinicians ought to try their best to balance the legitimate use by patients and the potential risk for misuse. These include warning patients about the correct use and dosing. People who have been prescribed certain medications should follow the directions as explained by the physician and pharmacist, and they should be aware of their drugs' interactions with other substances, especially alcohol. It is important to take medication as prescribed and never experiment with dosage or frequency without getting approval from your physician. 

Young people may access their parents' prescriptions if they are not stored safely or if they have not discarded expired medications. Parents should educate their children on never using another person's prescription and never giving their own prescription to another person. To help prevent abuse, some scientists have proposed developing equally effective but non-addictive medications such as non-opioid painkillers. 

How to Identify Subscription Misuse Among Young People?

Young people who misuse prescription drugs do so for a few reasons: 

  • They are easily accessible from their parents
  • The drugs are not illegal
  • They can be easily found through friends and peers
  • There's less stigma attached to prescription drug use

Over the long run, young people who are misusing prescription drugs may display behavioral patterns that are easy to identify. Some signs include social isolation, frequent fatigue, depression, hostility, and aggression. Some teens and adolescents lose interest in previously enjoyable activities. It is always good to catch the signs of drug use early, but by the time these behavioral patterns begin to show, their addiction has likely become chronic. 

Scientists have found that repeated drug use can change one's brain structure, impacting a person's learning, memory, judgment, decision-making, and behavioral control. For teenagers and adolescents, this is an especially hard reality — drugs become hard to quit. Early intervention begins with education. By explaining to young people the physiological side of addiction and why it is difficult to use one's willpower to quit drugs, we can prevent addiction before it occurs. Parents and teachers need to be educated and informed about the danger of this prescription drug epidemic so that they can better guide young people. 

Can Prescription Drug Addiction Be Treated?

Just like other kinds of addiction caused by substance use, prescription drug addiction can be treated. Often it takes a combination of detoxification, counseling, and medications. Behavioral treatment is an important component because, by the time someone develops an addiction to prescription drugs, he or she has also grown into unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior. 

Many people also experience disruptions in personal or family relationships. Behavioral therapists try to coach patients into identifying and avoiding situations that could lead to relapse. These treatments usually take the form of individual, family, or group counseling. It is an overall effort to coach recovering individuals so that they can return to healthy functioning in the workplace and among family and friends. 

Certain addictions to prescription drugs should also be treated with medications that prevent the addictive substance from affecting the brain or lessen withdrawal symptoms like nausea, chills, muscle pain, etc. Often these medications also need to be used in combination with behavioral treatments because the physiology and behavioral patterns are interconnected.

Do you understand that misusing prescription drugs can also lead to the disease of addiction? Is a loved one of yours developing this kind of addiction? Once a person begins misusing prescription drugs, addiction can begin playing a role in rewiring their brain and changing their behaviors. This is part of the reason why it is so hard to fight prescription drug addiction. You need to work with a professional interventionist before it is too late. The longer you wait, the more entrenched addictive habits can become. At South Florida Intervention, we strive to help you understand what is at stake and why it is important to act now. We provide clients with tailor-made recovery coaching and case management. Our intervention strategies also include sober escort and parent coaching. Call us at (202) 390-2273, and our experienced staff can help answer your questions about prescription drug addiction and design a treatment plan.