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Treating Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction

Not so long ago, drug education was taught in schools in a very particular way. Drugs are bad. Don’t use them at all, even if you think you won’t get addicted. Drugs like cocaine and heroin will destroy your life, and marijuana will start your descent into the life of a drug addict.

While that approach was in any case distorted at the time, it is now completely redundant. Millions of drug addicts in the United States have never touched an illegal substance. They were not pressured into trying drugs by friends or other addicts. Rather, they were prescribed legal drugs by medical professionals.

Addiction to prescription drugs – opioid painkillers especially – has become an epidemic. No one is immune to it, no matter how careful they are to follow the law and make responsible decisions. When you’re in pain, you need relief, and opioids are often the most clear-cut solution.

All drug addiction has multiple components. There is the dependence on the substance itself, as well as an underlying reason the individual started using it. This is all the more evident in prescription drug addiction. The physical reason for which the drug was initially prescribed needs to be treated, while the individual detoxes and learns to weather the cravings.

Here is what to expect when you or a loved one begin treatment for prescription drug addiction.


The first stage of treatment is detoxification from the substance. This is the period in which the substance is purged from your body, breaking the physical need to use. Detox needs to be done in a controlled environment with medical professionals on hand. Doing it alone is dangerous for a number of reasons.

In the first place, no matter how good your reasons for detoxing are, the physical effects of withdrawal may drive you to use the substance again before it is completely eliminated. Few people can weather that storm.

Secondly, your body has come to rely on the substance. Without it, physical processes may begin to break down. Detox therefore needs to be done in a considered and measured fashion. Professionals experienced with substance abuse will determine a program according to which you’ll detox, making sure you don’t withdraw too quickly.

There can also be indirect effects of withdrawal that can be dangerous. For example, vomiting and diarrhea can dehydrate the individual.


In many cases, rather than withdrawing from substances completely, professionals will prescribe alternative medications to help detox and recover. These can prevent withdrawal effects, as well as prevent further cravings.

Opioid Alternatives

The most common medication used to treat opioid abuse is methadone, which itself is a synthetic opioid. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist which partially activates the opioid receptors, is also commonly used.

The common belief that this simply replaces one addiction with another is based on a misunderstanding of what these drugs do. They do not produce a high, but rather provide the balance the body is missing when the abused substance is taken away. They help the individual stay healthy so that they can recover from the physical and mental symptoms of addiction.

Naltrexone is another common medication used to treat opioid addiction. It prevents other opioids from binding to opioid receptors, so that the abused substance can no longer have any real effect. Some people take naltrexone injections which are long-acting and help prevent relapse for a period of months.

Sedatives, Tranquilizers, and Hypnotics

Withdrawals from sedatives and tranquilizers can also be dangerous for people addicted to these substances. Detox should be carried out gradually, and in the hands of a medical professional. At present, there are no medications which can help individuals detox, although research on the subject is ongoing.

New Coping Mechanisms

A lack of adequate coping mechanisms is one of the common reasons that people turn to substances. When it comes to prescription drugs, there is almost always an actual need being addressed, including pain relief and relief from insomnia.

Simply withdrawing from the substance therefore cannot be the only form of treatment. Behavioral therapy provides the opportunity to create new, more effective, coping mechanisms.


Individuals suffering with all kinds of substance abuse find counseling helpful. Counseling helps them identify the underlying problems and talk through them. When it comes to prescription drug abuse, the underlying cause is generally already known, and is not necessarily connected to psychological reasons. However, psychological issues can form while the person is addicted to the substance.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common substance abuse treatment program. CBT can help identify triggers that lead to drug abuse. It can help individuals rewire their associations with the substance and find new, more effective ways of coping. They learn that they do not need the substance, and explore how they can function in a healthy way without it.


What if the problem for which the drug was initially prescribed still persists? This is often true in cases of chronic pain or insomnia.

Mindfulness is an effective and popular way of managing chronic pain. It trains individuals to reconsider their associations with pain so that it is no longer as frightening. They can learn to ride the wave of the pain, watching it ebb and flow, recognizing that it is not always at full intensity and that when it is, the feeling will not last forever.

When used in conjunction with CBT, as well as non-addictive medications that can lessen the pain, mindfulness-based techniques are very effective.

Regarding insomnia, CBT techniques can be used to test the assumptions that may exacerbate the problem. Mindfulness-based techniques can help individuals fall asleep, as well as train them not to panic when sleep evades them.

Get Treatment Now

Prescription drug abuse is a major epidemic in the United States and around the world. With appropriate care, including detox, medication, and therapeutic interventions, it can be overcome successfully.

Get treatment for yourself or your loved one now, and live the life you deserve.

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