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Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction is a growing problem in America, one that Attorney General Eric Holder has called a “public health crisis.” This type of drug abuse has skyrocketed in the past decade because of increased drug options and availability. It is important for anyone that is struggling with prescription drug addiction to get treatment for their disorder, because this type of addiction can be very dangerous.

Sobriety is possible. We are here to walk you or your loved one through the recovery process.  Click here to find out more about our intake process.

Types of Prescription Drugs

There are many different types of prescription drugs, but the main three that cause addiction are painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants.


Prescription painkillers are part of the class of opiate drugs, which are derived from the opium poppy plant. Oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and Vicodin are some of the most commonly abused prescription opiates.

These drugs relieve pain and can cause drowsiness, but they also stimulate the reward center of the brain. Because of this, the person who uses opiates will feel a sudden rush of euphoria that over time can be addicting. Instead of the person’s own brain producing dopamine, the chemical that is associated with pleasure, the brain has to rely on the opiates for that sensation. With prolonged use, the person becomes dependent on prescription opiates because they can’t feel a normal level of happiness or pleasure without them.


Benzodiazepines, the class of drugs containing sedatives and tranquilizers, are also often abused. This group includes Xanax, Valium, and Ambien, which are used to help a person sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. These drugs can also cause confusion, dizziness, and slurred speech. When a person abuses a prescription sedative, their body quickly begins to depend on the substance. Withdrawing from prescription sedatives can be dangerous, and should only be done under medical supervision.


Prescription stimulants are another type of prescription medication that is commonly abused. These include ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin. These medications are used to increase alertness and help the person focus. However, when abused they cause a high, increased energy, and a feeling of euphoria, which can lead to addiction.

Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

A person who is abusing prescription drugs will usually keep their addiction a secret as long as possible, until it becomes clear to those around them that they have a problem. One of the most common signs that a person is caught up with a drug addiction is that they will withdraw from family and friends. As the person begins to be controlled by drugs, they will neglect their responsibilities and normal activities. As a result, the person’s family will suffer, as well as their finances, career, and social life. Teens who abuse drugs will suffer from a drop in grades and an increase in behavioral problems. Older adults will become withdrawn and more secretive.

Signs of prescription drug addiction, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings or hostility
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
  • Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

Statistics of Prescription Drug Epidemic

According to the CDC:
  • Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.
  • The drug overdose death rate has more than doubled from 1999 through 2013.
  • In 2013, of the 43,982 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,767 (51.8%) were related to pharmaceuticals.
  • In the United States, prescription opioid abuse costs were about $55.7 billion in 2007.7 Of this amount, 46% was attributable to workplace costs (e.g., lost productivity), 45% to healthcare costs (e.g., abuse treatment), and 9% to criminal justice costs.

Getting Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

The best way to recover from a prescription drug addiction is to enter a professional treatment program. VRC understands the struggle you face when you need help for a prescription drug addiction. We offer individualized treatment programs that are tailored to meet your specific needs. Our programs include intensive outpatient therapy, outpatient therapy, and long term support through our alumni services.

Sobriety is possible. We are here to walk you or your loved one through the recovery process. 

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