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Can prescription drugs be addictive?

Are prescription drugs addictive? The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Beyond the usual illegal suspects, like heroin and cocaine, there are numerous addictive prescription drugs that can lead to powerful dependencies. Port of Call investigates.

Prescription Drugs addiction

What are prescription drugs?

It is not just alcohol and illegal drugs that can lead to complex addiction issues. Some UK prescription drugs can also be highly addictive and a dependence on these types of substances presents its own unique set of challenges.

Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs include:

  • Opiates: like codeine, which are prescribed to treat pain.
  • Antidepressants: including citalopram and mirtazapine.
  • Central nervous system depressants: including barbiturates and benzodiazepines like diazepam and temazepam, which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
  • Stimulants: used to treat ADHD, such as dexamphetamine.
  • Antihistamines: such as chlorphenamine.

Some over the counter medications, mainly Codeine based analgesics, such as the following can also be addictive:

  • Ibuprofen and Codeine (Nurofen Plus for example)
  • Paracetemol and Codeine (Solpadeine for example).
  • Some cough medicines (for example some types of Benylin) also contain Codeine.

The symptoms of a prescription drug addiction

If you feel like you cannot cope without a drug, and have a desperate need to obtain and consume that drug to soothe uncomfortable feelings, then you may be addicted to prescription drugs.

You may also observe one or more of the following:

  • You need to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect.
  • You ask for repeat prescriptions before they are due.
  • You have difficulty moderating or stopping.
  • You feel guilty about your drug use.
  • You have experienced problems with work, money or legal issues due to your drug use.
  • Your are secretive about your drug use.
  • You have arguments or disagreements with your family about your drug use.
  • You use other medications to alleviate the side effects of prescription drugs.
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping/reducing the drug.
  • You continue to take the drug despite actual or likely negative consequences.

Prescription Drug Case Study Example

Samantha, 20, from Cheadle Hume became addicted to the anti-anxiety benzodiazepine, Valium, at the age of 17. This is Samantha’s story.

“In the lead up to my A-Levels I began getting really severe panic attacks. I was lonely, under pressure, and stressed. My mum had a secret drawer full of Valium, for when she felt low occasionally, and in the middle of a particularly bad panic attack I raided her supply.

“I felt instantly better. It very quickly became my default coping mechanism. But I soon began needing bigger and bigger doses to calm myself down. I knew it was a bad idea, and that I was becoming dependent, but the thought of stopping made me more stressed than ever.

“Things came to a head when mum’s tablets ran out. I was frantic; there was no way I was going to go to the doctors for a prescription. In my panic I searched the internet for advice about prescription drug addiction and found Port of Call. After listening to my story, they suggested that I should go to a rehab clinic for a gradual detox programme and rehab counselling.

“They found a clinic close by within days. Obviously I had to tell my mum, which was really upsetting, but she was really supportive and understood how addictive the Valium could be. I had to miss my A-Level exams to go into rehab. But luckily my school were really supportive and let me resit once I’d recovered. With Port of Call’s help I managed to wean myself off the drugs and passed my exams the following year.”

Treating Prescription Drug Addiction

There are many ways to get help and Port of Call are here to assist you. We will give you a free and confidential assessment over the telephone and can then help you find the most appropriate treatment and support near to your home. Please call us today on 08000029010, we are ready, willing and able to help you through prescription drug addiction.

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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