What Are the Most Addictive Prescription Medications?
Your doctor may provide you with prescription medications to protect your health and well-being. For example, opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet can provide much-needed pain relief if you are recovering from major surgery. Or, if you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks, you may find short-term benefits in benzodiazepines such as Xanax. However, there is an addictive component to some drugs, even when people take them exactly as prescribed.
How do people get addicted to their prescription medications, what meds have caused people to develop an addiction – and what signs of prescription drug dependence should you be aware of?
The Anatomy of an Addiction
Most addictive drugs cause happiness or even a euphoric effect by acting on the brain’s reward system. A neurotransmitter called dopamine floods the brain in much higher amounts than usual, which causes people to reach for the drug time and again to experience this pleasurable sensation.
With prolonged use, it’s possible to develop a tolerance, which means it takes higher and higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effects. As the addiction progresses, you may notice that you don’t feel “right” or “normal” when you’re not using the drug. If you become addicted to your prescription medications, you may take them compulsively, even when drug use begins to have negative consequences on your life.
Addictive Prescription Medications to Be Aware Of
If you’re under a doctor’s care and worried that you might develop a substance abuse disorder from any drugs they may prescribe you, here are some medications to put on your watch list.
- Opioids: Painkillers such as Percocet, Demerol and fentanyl fall under this category, as does a cough medicine called codeine.
- Depressants: Also known as tranquilizers or benzodiazepines, drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin and Valium create an intensely calming, soothing effect by depressing the function of the central nervous system.
- Stimulants: Drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin increase focus and attention, which is why doctors so commonly prescribe them for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Their ready availability among the student population has created a problem at some schools, when younger people taking these drugs for a legitimately prescribed purpose sell them to peers who use them recreationally.
Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction
How can you tell if you or a loved one is abusing prescription medications? Knowing the red flags of addictive behavior can help.
- Continued use of the drug, even after the condition the doctor prescribed it to treat is no longer an issue
- “Doctor shopping” to try to get more of the medicine
- Using someone else’s prescriptions
- Taking the medication outside the prescribed instructions, such as using it more often or in higher doses than instructed
- Changes in behavior or mood, such as hostility, anxiety or agitation
- Lying or stealing to get more of the drug, such as forging prescriptions or claiming to have lost their remaining doses of medication
- Experiencing physical problems like insomnia or flu-like body aches when trying to quit or scale back use
- Lack of interest in participating in regular daily activities
- Withdrawing from family and friends, especially those who question the harmful behavior
- Financial problems associated with maintaining an addiction
How to Get Addiction Help
No matter how much they may be beneficial for their originally intended purpose, prescription medications can be extremely harmful if an addiction takes root and begins to negatively impact your health, happiness and well-being. However, treatment programs are available to help overcome a substance use disorder and allow you to regain control of your life.
If you’re seeking help for yourself or a loved one, a facility that provides a full continuum of evidence-based care will provide the best chances of recovering successfully and reclaiming a brighter future. Beach House’s beautiful oceanfront treatment center provides an ideal environment to begin the healing process. Contact us today for a confidential assessment.