When you are going through a difficult time, it can be tempting to turn to something that you believe will help with negative feelings or physical pain. This is how many people can find themselves in a position where they are misusing medications prescribed commonly by healthcare providers. Here we will examine the main medications that are prone to misuse, the common side effects of prescription medication dependence and how to get help and treatment.

If you have abused medication, are struggling to stop taking it or feel constantly tempted to take tablets that you don’t really need, this page will tell you everything you need to get support.

What is prescription medication addiction?

Prescription medication misuse is a form of dependence on medications that are ordinarily prescribed by a doctor. Examples of misuse include being prescribed medication by your doctor and continuing to take it after the course has ended, or obtaining it outside of a healthcare setting. Common addictive substances include tranquilisers, stimulants and opioids. All of these substances can be addictive if misused, and you should always take these with great care.

Addiction happens when you feel compelled to take the substance even though you may not want to or sense that it is not good for you. This could occur if you’re prescribed some painkillers for an injury and noticed that they help you to sleep better, are prescribed sedatives to help during an unusually stressful time or even if offered a friend’s ADHD medication to help with some exam pressure and then struggle to work without them.

As well as being unable to stop, you may feel that you have to increase the dosage to get the same effects. Some prescription medication is extremely susceptible to abuse, and this should be managed carefully with your healthcare provider. It is dangerous to take medication that is not yours or to take your own medication for non-prescribed reasons.

If you are taking medication that is not yours or taking medication that was prescribed for you that you no longer need, you may have developed an addiction to prescription medication.

Why rehab for prescription medication addiction?

Prescription medication rehab treatment centres offer a space away from daily life to focus on your treatment and recovery. It can be very challenging to deal with an addiction from home, surrounded by the same daily stresses that are often part of the problem. You may also be able to easily access prescription medications at home, which is not the case at a treatment centre. Addiction rehab offers specialist support and medical care to help you come out of your addiction safely and with the right kind of support.

Possible side-effects of prescription medication addiction

The side effects of an addiction to prescription medication varies depending on the medication.

  •    Opioids can cause low blood pressure, slowed breathing rate, coma and overdose can cause death.
  •    Tranquilisers can cause low blood pressure, slowed breathing, memory problems, overdose can cause coma or death. Withdrawal can cause seizures.
  •    Stimulants can cause high body temperature, heart problems, high blood pressure, seizure, tremors, hallucinations, aggressiveness and paranoia.

As with all addictive substances, taking these medications can cause changes in brain chemistry that can lead to addiction. As your brain adapts and becomes used to being on the substance, you can experience serious withdrawal effects if you do not take them, leading to increased usage to avoid the withdrawal effects. Over time this can lead to an addiction which can seriously impair your quality of life and cause serious health consequences.

Recognising prescription medication addiction

There are a number of warning signs that indicate an addiction to prescription medication. If any of the following apply to you, we advise you to call us for confidential advice:

  • Once the treatment is over for an original problem, you may continue to use medication or have a hard time stopping
  • You may create or exaggerate symptoms to obtain more medication
  • You may develop secretive behaviour to try to obtain the medication
  • You may decline any treatment options that do not include medication (e.g. physiotherapy, talking therapies, pain management)
  • You may experience changes in mood or behaviour
  • If you miss doses of medication or try to stop on your own, you may experience symptoms of physical withdrawal such as aches and pains, night sweats and insomnia
  • You may develop a tolerance to the medication, requiring more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effect
  • You may distance yourself from close friends and family, especially those who have noticed you have a problem
  • You may be purchasing prescription medication illicitly and therefore develop financial problems

Getting help for prescription medication addiction

There is a lot of support out there for people struggling with prescription medication addiction. It is essential that you do not try to overcome this on your own, as there can be serious health risks associated with the withdrawal of prescription medication. You will need support with the physiological addiction and withdrawal as well as the psychological dependence and dealing with the underlying causes. The best first step is to call your centre of choice or our number at the top of this page to organise a reassuring rehab programme within 24-hours.

Alternatively, speak to your GP, who can advise you on how to move forward. They may suggest a specialist addiction counsellor, or in some cases, they may recommend that a rehabilitation service (rehab) is the best way to conquer your addiction.

What does rehab for prescription medication involve?

Prescription medication rehabs are specialist services designed to treat people with addictions. Staff are qualified and experienced in working with a number of addictions and will be able to help you face and identify any underlying causes and discover healthy coping mechanisms. Once you are admitted, you may be assisted with a detox process which will allow you to gradually come off the prescription medication. The withdrawal effects will be managed with medication so that you do not need to worry about the dangerous side effects of prescription medication withdrawal.

You will then receive a range of psychotherapies aimed at helping you to uncover the reasons for your addiction, help you to learn to manage stress and difficult feelings better and help you to learn to manage cravings and relapses in a supportive environment. You may then receive a package of aftercare following your treatment to support you when you go home. This is an important part of the rehab process and something you should check for when arranging your rehab programme.

How long does rehab for prescription medication last?

The length of rehab can vary depending on the organisation offering it, on your financial situation and on your circumstances. There is no fixed length for rehab of prescription medication. However, we advise that an average of 4-12 weeks of rehab provides the optimum amount of support for a successful recovery.

Rehab options for prescription medication addiction

The way that you access rehab can vary a little from one centre to another and depending upon your personal circumstances. There are inpatient options, outpatient options, and a range of funding options depending upon your needs. It is important to understand the difference between these options so that you can access the support that is most appropriate to your medical needs and circumstances.

Inpatient vs outpatient

Inpatient rehab involves staying at the rehab centre for the duration of your treatment. You will receive 24/7 support from medically trained staff and a full daily programme of therapies to assist you with your recovery.

The other option is to attend rehab on an outpatient basis. This means that you will attend scheduled appointments at the centre and carry out the rest of your recovery at home. This can be helpful if you have commitments you cannot be away from. However, it can also mean that you do not get the most out of the rehab process since you will not have 24/7 medical and peer support.

Private vs NHS

The NHS can sometimes offer rehab for prescription medication addiction. The first step would be to discuss your options with your GP and find out what is available. The waiting list can be very long for NHS addiction treatment, and addictions are more straightforward to manage the sooner you can access treatment.

It might be preferable to explore private treatment options, which can generally be accessed very quickly. Private prescription medication rehab can be paid for through self-funding, or on some occasions, can be fully or partially covered by private insurance. The costs vary and there may be flexible plans to suit your needs, so it is worth talking to private rehab facilities to find out if they can accommodate your budget.

What does Recovery.org offer for prescription medication rehab?

We put you in touch with centres that can facilitate your entire recovery journey, from detox to aftercare support. After admission, where you will learn more about your stay, you will go through a medically-supported detox whilst receiving round the clock medical care. This is a vital step of successful recovery, as you learn healthy coping mechanisms and address any underlying anxiety in a supportive and caring environment.

A range of psychotherapeutic and holistic therapies are offered in the rehabs we work with, which help you to learn more about yourself and your addiction, including the role it plays in your life and identifying triggers and managing stress effectively. This ensures you are not tempted to use prescription medication or other addictive substances to manage your feelings, which is a key tool for a successful recovery.

Prescription medication rehab aftercare

Aftercare is the ongoing support that you receive once you have completed your detox programme and therapy and are ready to return home. It is an essential part of the rehabilitation process, without which you may find that you are left feeling unsupported once you leave rehab and try to return to daily living at home. NHS self-referral services and charitable organisations such as Turning Point may offer a less comprehensive package of aftercare support, so this is an important point to check when you explore the different options available to you.

How to help someone with a prescription medication addiction

Although addiction can be isolating and unpredictable, reaching out to someone struggling does not mean you can make them seek help before they are ready to do so. It can be really hard to take those first steps, but having honest conversations with someone you are worried about and listening to their side will build trust in the recovery process. When they are ready to start their start your recovery journey, they will find that you are supported by understanding and caring professionals.

They can start by speaking to their GP to explore what options are available to them. You can also do your own research together and explore private rehab centres if you would like to access support more quickly and receive a more comprehensive package of care. Remember that help and support are out there for you when you are ready to take that first step.

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