When addiction is mentioned, a prescription medication addiction is not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, it is a common addiction. With a prescription medication addiction we mean a dependency on a certain substance, just as with other types of addiction. This dependency expresses itself in a physical and a psychological way. For this reason, it is harder to break out of an addiction, because there are several vicious cycles, namely the physical and psychological ones. Some argue that there also are others factors at play in some forms of addiction.

What is a prescription medication addiction?

When you have a prescription medication addiction, you are entirely dependent on medication. With prescription medication we mean painkillers as well as stimulants, tranquilizers, and so on. A common anxiety in people with prescription medication addiction is that they no longer are in control of certain situations without the medication. That is why prescription medication, when prescribed by a doctor for a short period of time, sometimes is difficult to wean off of, leaving the person to develop a prescription medication addiction.

If you decide to stop taking this medication after your prescription medication addiction, this can temporarily have certain consequences. These consequences are also known as withdrawal symptoms.

How often does prescription medication addiction occur?

A prescription medication addiction seems to be more and more common and reaches all parts of society. We can even take this further and say that an addiction to prescription drugs is being more accepted by our society than other types of addiction, because some of the aspects or factors which are generally associated with other types of addiction are less linked to a prescription medication addiction. Here, we generally consider illegal practices and the limitation of the addiction to certain parts of society.

Types of prescription medication addiction?

Prescription medication addiction entails a broad spectrum of prescription drugs. To give you a better idea of what a prescription medication addiction entails exactly, we sum up some of the most common pills below, which are associated with a prescription medication addiction.

Prescription medication addiction? Are you addicted to tranquilizers?

Addiction to tranquilizers is the third largest addiction in existence. After cigarettes and alcohol, over 10 million prescriptions for sleeping medication or tranquilizers are prescribed. The prescription medication addiction to tranquilizers was mainly an issue in the eighties and nineties, but it still persists today. Just like with other types of medication, people often continue using the drug after their prescription ends, or use more than prescribed. When we consider a prescription medication addiction to tranquilizers, people thus need a certain amount of tranquilizers in order to function 'normally'.

Of course, you do not become addicted by taking one tranquilizer. An addiction only develops if you regularly take tranquilizers during a certain period of time. We often speak of a period of 2 months. Most sources identify this time spam, because at this time the risk of a prescription medication addiction becomes larger after regularly taking tranquilizers. However, we only consider something to be an addiction if you still take the medication after a year on a regular basis.

Prescription medication addiction? Are you addicted to painkillers?

The prescription medication addiction to painkillers is different from the addiction to tranquilizers. Since most painkillers can be found without a prescription from a doctor, there is no chance of your body becoming addicted. However, it is possible that people become addicted to painkillers, which contain some level of codeine. Codeine is often mixed with weaker painkillers. These painkillers are then still available without prescription. An example of such a painkiller is paracetamol.

The vicious cycles of prescription medication addiction?

As mentioned earlier, there are different levels on which a dependency can occur. Below, we sum up the largest vicious cycles of dependency, of which people with prescription medication addiction suffer.

The physical effect

People with a prescription medication addiction often start by taking medication to dull a certain pain or to forget a major event, but after a while the body becomes addicted. In the beginning your body is not used to ingesting the substance, so an effect soon occurs; after a while, however, you will need to use more and more in order to experience the same level or same effect. You thus need more and more to maintain the intoxication.

Furthermore, through large and frequent consumption of the prescription drug, your body starts to consider taking the substance as normal. This means that your body will need the substance after a while in order to function normally. If you then decide to stop anyway, you will suffer from many withdrawal symptoms, which is a "con" for many people to quitting their prescription medication addiction. These withdrawal symptoms can namely be so intense that many people are scared out of quitting. They can even be worse than the reason why people turned to prescription drugs in the first place. Some examples of these withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cramps
  • Muscle ache
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Somber mood

Furthermore, it can take a long time before certain substances are completely gone from your blood stream. For example, the half-life of valium can be up to 8 days. This is also so for Chlordiazepoxide and Flunitrazepam, for example. It thus is not so that, once you stop taking a certain substance, that it leaves your blood stream right away and that potential consequences are halted immediately.

The effect on your mind

Possibly one of the most important components of a prescription medication addiction is the mental dependency on the medication. Here is the major reason for why someone might start using. This often is to forget a major event or to numb the pain as a result of a painful moment. Addiction, and prescription medication addiction too, are often linked to depression, but also to sleeping problems or physical pain.

The effect of a prescription medication addiction on your mind thus regards the effect on your thoughts, feelings, and the behavior that springs from these. Since the prescription medication addiction helps many people numb something painful, the addiction is seen as something positive, almost as a type of reward, such as is the case in cigarettes for example.

Just like your body, your mind experiences certain withdrawal symptoms once you stop taking medication. For example, anxiety and depression can be caused, but the resurfacing of a pain you wanted to push away can, too. That is why people often take a different substance in order to handle these withdrawal symptoms.

Consequences of a prescription medication addiction?

Despite the advantages which prescription drugs seem to have, there are many disadvantages which are connected to the addiction itself and especially to the long-term intake of medication. These problems furthermore return once you stop taking the medication.

A prescription medication addiction can make it so that you are physically less alert. It can make it so that your body declines in more than one manner. Since most people try to continue with their daily tasks as best they can, however, they often notice that everything becomes more difficult with the addiction. For example, because of less alertness and a slowed reaction speed you might fall and break your arm. This often occurs in people with a prescription medication addiction. With older people there can be consequences that lead to something as major as forced hospitalization as a result of long-term prescription medication addiction.

Other than physical consequences, there also are psychological consequences. An addiction, with time, makes it so that you no longer are capable of "free choice". This means that many of your thoughts, emotions, as well as behavior are influenced by your prescription medication addiction. It thus can be so that you feel like you have lost yourself or that your behavior alters completely as compared to the past.

What many informative sources do not mention, is that a prescription medication addiction will likely have a major effect on your relationships. Oftentimes, people with a prescription medication addiction start to isolate themselves, because they want to keep their behavior a secret. Because of the behavioral changes, it often also is the case that people no longer recognize you. You will, for example, start to lie in order to keep your prescription medication addiction a secret. All these changes can severely affect your social relationships. It is clear that there changes can have negative effects in nearly all cases when it comes to social relationships, such as fights, divorces, break-ups,...

How do you treat a medication addiction?

Just like with other types of addictions, there are different options when it comes to treating a prescription medication addiction. If you are looking for a treatment for your prescription medication addiction it is useful to keep your doctor up to date regarding the steps you are taking and the addiction. This way, they are more capable of following up physically.

Furthermore, you should not forget to address an important aspect of a medication addiction, namely the psychological side of things. Since addiction often is a result of a major event, the addiction being an unhealthy habit with which the event is handled, it is useful to work at the hand of therapeutic techniques in order to learn to deal with the aforementioned event, and to choose healthy habits to help deal with this. This is what 15 Minutes 4 Me can help you with. 15 Minutes 4 Me was developed by psychologists and doctors and supports you daily with these new challenges. You can also choose the duration of the treatment yourself, which reduces relapses. Furthermore, you will learn techniques which help prevent the development of new prescription medication addiction!