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Prescription Drug Addiction

In September 2013, Mail Online published a tragic story about prescription drug abuse in the UK. They reported that, according to statistics, more Britons die every year from painkiller and tranquilliser overdoses them from addictions to cocaine and heroin. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

Mail Online says there were more than 800 deaths from prescription drug overdoses last year, representing a 16% increase over the last five years. The number of deaths relating to cocaine and heroin came in at only 718. The good news is that heroin and cocaine deaths are gradually declining. The bad news is that prescription drug overdoses are on the rise.

One of the most disturbing things about prescription drug addiction is that it strikes people we would normally view as being outside the grasp of drug addiction. However, therein is the trap of drugs: those who fear them the least are the most likely to become addicted. Prescription drugs are not feared because we assume our doctors would never prescribe anything that is potentially addictive.

The most commonly abused prescription drugs in the UK are:

  • oxycodone
  • hydrocodone
  • phenobarbital
  • alprazolam
  • codeine
  • morphine
  • dextroamphetamine.

This list of prescription drugs is by no means thorough. It is merely a start to a long list of prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs Britons are using and abusing every year. If you find yourself in that place, please keep reading to the end of this page. We want to help you overcome your addiction.


Classes of Drugs

You may not recognise all the names of the commonly abused prescription drugs we listed above. So to make it easier, let’s talk about different classes of drugs.

The first two drugs are considered opioids. They are used to treat chronic pain after surgery or an accident, or during some sort of prolonged physical rehabilitation. Their ability to numb pain receptors makes them highly addictive if used for long periods.

Codeine and morphine are also very strong painkillers known for their addictive effects. They have been in use at hospitals and medical clinics for decades. Unfortunately, the number of prescriptions being written for these drugs rarely declines from year-to-year.

The next two drugs in our list – phenobarbital and alprazolam – are depressants. They are typically prescribed for people suffering from insomnia or chronic anxiety. Unfortunately, most patients develop tolerance to these medications very quickly. Tolerance requires more medication and, as a result, includes the potential for addiction.

Dextroamphetamine is the last drug our list; it is a stimulant used most commonly to treat ADHD. The scary part about this class of drugs is that a large percentage of those addicted to them do not even know they are addicted. Parents should think long and hard before giving these powerful stimulants to their children.


How Addiction Develops

Addiction to prescription drugs is similar to illicit drug addiction in some ways, but different in others. Perhaps the most pronounced difference is how the habit starts. With a prescription drug, there is usually a legitimate reason for beginning to take it.

An addiction to prescription medications is generally the result of tolerance issues. In other words, the patient taking the drug notices at some point that the current dosage is no longer offering the type of relief experienced when the prescription was brand-new. He/she may attempt to solve that problem by increasing the dosage. That’s the start of addiction.

There are other factors that play into prescription drug addiction, including:

  • Emotional Dependence – Depending on the particular drug, some people can develop an emotional dependence as well as the physical. That emotional dependence makes them fearful of life without the drug, making them believe they cannot cope unless they continue using it.
  • Chronic Medical Issues – There are times when someone will suffer from a chronic medical issue that really cannot be relieved in any other way. Insomnia is a great example. Doctors will often change up prescriptions on a regular basis in order to avoid addiction.
  • Financial Gain – Unfortunately, some people have figured out there is tremendous financial gain to be had in prescription medications. They may steal prescription drugs, purchase unused drugs from family and friends, or otherwise get hold of whatever they can to resell on the street.


Breaking the Addiction

Individuals addicted to prescription drugs need to undergo some of the very same treatments offered to users of illicit drugs or alcohol. However, sometimes they have an additional hurdle to overcome: the medical condition that led to the original prescription.

If that medical condition has already been overcome, it will not have to be dealt with during rehab. But if not, therapists will have to work within the boundaries of that condition in order to help the individual recover. It can be done, but it is challenging at times.

Breaking prescription drug addiction can be accomplished with a combination of several different therapies, including:

  • detox
  • counselling
  • group support
  • life skills building
  • aftercare.


Treatment Options

Any addiction that has had the time to really take hold can be difficult to break. That’s why we recommend a residential treatment programme offered through a private clinic. Residential treatment gives the addict the opportunity to fully devote him or herself to recovery without distraction. A typical residential programme runs between 6 and 12 weeks and is followed by several months of aftercare.

As an independent referral service, our job is to match you up with a residential treatment programme likely to be helpful to you. If residential treatment is not an option, we can advise you regarding outpatient services, drug addiction support groups, and programmes offered by the NHS.

Any programme that is not residential in nature is considered an outpatient programme. These types of services involve the drug addict attending things like counselling sessions and group support at a local facility. After a few hours at the facility, the individual returns home.

We urge you to contact us today if you or someone you love is suffering with prescription drug addiction. We will explain all of the treatment options to you before giving you our recommendations for the most appropriate strategy. If you need help with admissions, we can assist there is well. In either case, do not delay. The road to recovery starts today.

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