Prescription Drug Dependence

Prescriptions drugs are causing more overdose deaths in the United States than any one illicit drug or alcohol. As doctors prescribe more medication than ever, overdose deaths due to prescription drug addiction, particularly opioids such as methadone, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, have quadrupled since 1999. In 2014, over 14,000 people died from a prescription opioid overdose in the United States.

From Relief to Addiction

photo of a gloved hand dispensing a container filled with pills to a patient representing what might be the start of a prescription drug addictionPrescription drug addiction often has the most innocent beginnings among all hard drug addictions.Some prescription drug addictions get started due to a condition as mild as persistent back pain although many dependencies stem from pain that is either chronic or severe or both.After taking the same medication for a certain amount of time, patients can get become accustomed to the way that it makes them feel, which turns into wanting the drug and eventually needing it, even after the initial pain may have subsided.

One of the purposes of addiction treatment is to uncover your patterns of substance abuse.

With prescription drugs, an individual often becomes addicted long before he or she is even completely aware of it. This denial is commonly one of the first obstacles that must be overcome in order to address a prescription drug abuse disorder. This is especially difficult when patients are given access to the drugs by doctors who are trusted authority figures.

Can I break free of prescription pill dependence?

Millions of Americans are struggling with prescription pill abuse and addiction every day. Our addiction therapists at Unity Behavioral Health have created several courses of treatment to help patients gain control of prescription drug dependence.

Call Us 24-Hr Helpline 561-708-5295

Prescription Drug Addiction Patterns

The typical behavior of someone in the early stages of a prescription drug dependence includes “doctor shopping,” which entails making appointments with various medical professionals, seeking multiple, concurrent prescriptions, for the same or comparable drugs. In these cases, the condition used to justify the prescriptions may or may not even still be present but, the patient still feels the need for the drugs nonetheless.

Many prescription pills sold by dealers can contain an entirely different set of harmful ingredients, while being indistinguishable from the pharmaceutical version.

Alternate sources for prescription pills can include:

Friends, either freely given or stealthily taken

Black market dealers

A connection that has access to prescription medication at his or her workplace

Once a prescription drug addiction has arrived at this advanced stage, substance abusers incur the risk of further negative effects as dealers are only concerned with their bottom line and will put anything in their products that increases their profits. In practice, this means that many prescription pills sold by dealers can contain an entirely different set of harmful ingredients, while being indistinguishable from the pharmaceutical version. Reliance on street dealers can also make it much easier for users to switch to other harmful street drugs such as heroin as the price of their prescription pill addiction increases.

Not All Prescription Drugs Are Created Equal

There are three primary classes of prescription drugs that lend themselves to addiction, and each type of prescription drug creates a chemical dependency in different ways.


Stimulants such as Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin are prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders and narcolepsy. Stimulants, when taken as prescribed, usually pose a minimal threat of forming a dependence. However, when a patient chooses to abuse his or her prescription, either by taking larger and/or more frequent doses or increasing the potency by crushing the prescription and snorting it, they take on a high risk of becoming addicted.


Opioids such as methadone, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin are prescribed to treat pain. The risk of developing an addiction to prescription opioids is drastically reduced if the regimen only calls for usage over the short-term. This is not to say that those with short-term opioid prescriptions may dose with impunity, but the majority of opioid addictions stem from long-term prescriptions which unfortunately, are often necessitated by chronic pain.

CNS Depressants

Central nervous systems (CNS) depressants including benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax are sedatives used to treat anxiety and convulsions. CNS depressants act on the concentration of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, reducing its frequency of occurrence which in turn, produces a relaxing effect in the patient. However, patients can quickly become tolerant to the medication, requiring larger and larger doses to achieve the degree of drowsiness produced by the initial amount. This is a dangerous characteristic possessed by many addictive substances. Additionally, CNS depressant patients must gradually taper their usage leading up to the end of their prescription if they wish to avoid a potentially life-threatening withdrawal.

If you or someone you know has a prescription drug addiction, please contact us. We can help you get back to the time before your condition and subsequent dependence defined your life. Unity Behavioral Health can show you healthier and more effective ways of treating your root illness. We are a comprehensive recovery center located in scenic North Palm Beach, FL, specializing in drug and alcohol dependence, mental illness, and dual diagnosis. Please give us a call today at 561-708-5295 to learn more.