Can a person become addicted to prescription drugs prescribed by a doctor?

Yes, you can become addicted to prescription drugs prescribed to you by a prescribing doctor.  The most common prescription drugs people become addicted to are prescription opioids, central nervous system depressants, central nervous system stimulants, and prescription sedatives.  There is a dangerous risk of addiction and severe health consequences if these drugs are not taken as directed by a health care professional. Prescription pain reliever misuse was the second most common form of illicit drug use in the United States in 2018.  It was estimated that around 3.6% of the population was misusing pain medication is some way. In 2017 an estimated 18 million people in the United States were abusing prescription medication. Despite these drugs being prescribed for medical purposes, millions of Americans become addicted to them.  The high prevalence of prescription drug misuse varies depending on age, gender, and other factors. The ease of access to these drugs is the leading cause of why someone becomes addicted to them.  

Most prescription narcotics produce a desired effect, such as pain relief, euphoria, dissociation, and a false sense of well-being.  The drugs affect the reward center of the brain producing these enhanced feel-good feelings. The reason these drugs become addictive is because of misuse, which leads to tolerance and dependence.  A tolerance for prescription drugs happens when a person no longer responds to a medication the way they did when they were first prescribed it. It takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same effect as when the first time it was used.  This is common and seen the most with prescription opioids, which is why they are so addictive. This is the reason why someone with an addiction is using more of the drug as their addiction progresses. Most prescription drugs have no ceiling effect, which means the longer you remain on the drug, the more of a tolerance is developed.

Drug dependence means that when a person stops using a particular prescription drug, their body goes through withdrawal.  Withdrawal is a variety of physical and mental symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on many factors, such as the type of drug, the amount taken, and the length of time the drug has been consumed for.  Those individuals who take these prescription drugs for longer than needed will develop a dependency. There is no way around this because your mind and body become accustomed to the foreign substances making it feel good. Drug dependency leads to addiction, which results in drug-seeking behavior and using drugs despite the consequences to your health and social well-being.  Drug addiction becomes worse and does not get better unless the proper treatment is obtained for the addiction. Prescription drug addiction is an ongoing problem throughout the United States, and each year more people seek treatment for prescription drug addiction.        

Most prescription drug addictions begin with a prescription and, unfortunately, quickly spiral out of control. Prescription drugs become physically and psychologically addictive, which means the drug user requires a higher dose as their tolerance increases. Someone who remains prescription stimulants, sedatives, or pain medication for longer than required does develop a physical dependence. Unfortunately, the dependence is only met with more drugs and an increased dose to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is the most common way that someone becomes dependent on prescription drugs, but may not be addicted to them.

An addiction involving prescription drugs means the person abuses the drugs for the intoxicating effects despite the consequences. Many of these problems begin with a prescription taken longer than needed, misused with alcohol, or taken in excess. Unfortunately, because of the intoxicating effects caused by these drugs, they become addictive. Prescribing doctors warn patients about the potential for addiction, but it depends on the person taking the drugs. If someone is prescribed these drugs, they must be taken as directed and only as needed. Prescription sedatives, stimulants, and pain medication does become addictive and dangerous. Most cases of overdose, whether fatal or not, involve mixing these drugs with alcohol or street drugs.

Across the United States are treatment options to help people addicted to prescription drugs. Someone dependent on prescription drugs but not addicted benefits from a medically supervised detox. Withdrawal symptoms are dangerous and do cause physical and psychological pain and discomfort. Withdrawal management involves using other medications to control withdrawal symptoms, and medical detox programs use this technique to manage dangerous withdrawal. Someone that is addicted to prescription drugs also requires a medically supervised detox, followed by residential rehabilitation. Inpatient drug rehab centers offer short-term and long-term services.

Typically, an addiction assessment would determine what length of rehabilitation is required. Long-term drug rehab centers benefit addicts with length addiction histories and chronic relapse. Most prescription drug addiction involves other drugs and a lengthy history of addiction requiring well-rounded treatment. However, it is not always easy to convince someone addicted to prescription drugs they need help. Family intervention is a successful approach, and the best way to organize an intervention is by hiring a professional interventionist. Certified interventionists are qualified to counsel the family and perform the intervention.

Family interventionists spend the first day working with the family, arranging who will be at the intervention, where it will occur, and when. The next day is when the intervention takes place, and the family must follow through with their plan and not back down, which means following through with the consequences if needed. An interventionist would escort the addict to treatment when the intervention is successful and continue to work with the family while their loved one is in rehabilitation.

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