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Prescription medications are some of the most abused drugs in the nation right now. And, among prescription drugs, opioid-based painkillers, with their highly addictive nature, are often given the majority of attention. However, particularly since the recent crackdown on opioid “pill mills” by law enforcement and the medical establishment, other types of prescription drugs have increasingly become targets of abuse and addiction. Many of these non-opioid prescription drugs are initially prescribed to help treat various forms of mental illness or behavioral disorders, further complicating the treatment of those who fall prey to prescription drug addiction – because the user will also have co-occurring mental health issues that need to be addressed during addiction treatment.

The Rise of Pharmaceutical Psychiatry

Although many of the drugs prescribed to treat mental illness such as depression and anxiety or behavioral disorders such as ADHD can be quite effective if used appropriately, they also carry with them the potential for abuse and addiction. Also, due to the way that our current health system is constructed and funded, mental health professionals are often encouraged to “medicate away” these issues rather than use other methods that do not carry the risks of prescription drug addiction. Furthermore, once patients are prescribed these medications, the level of monitoring and follow-up is often not as regular or complete as it should be, making it difficult for doctors to recognize if patients may be moving into abuse and addiction.

The Descent into Prescription Drug Addiction

The descent from legitimate medical usage to abuse and addiction can occur quite quickly with many prescription drugs. In addition to their effectiveness in relieving or reducing anxiety, depression or other disorders, many of these drugs also cause a high, euphoric feeling that many people find themselves desiring. This high can become an additional reason for users to continue taking these drugs even if their initial condition has receded or become more manageable. Some of these drugs such as the benzodiazepines commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders also cause users to develop a tolerance to their effects, requiring more and more of the drug to be taken to achieve the same effect over time. In addition, many of these prescription drugs cause painful and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms when their use is discontinued abruptly. All of these factors lead many individuals to develop a prescription drug addiction after being legitimately prescribed these drugs.

The Widespread Availability on the “Black Market”

Because so many people have been prescribed these drugs, there is a huge supply that can be diverted into the “black market” of illicit drug sales on the street. This diversion can be the result of trading of one drug for another, theft from family members with prescriptions, and even larger-scale pharmaceutical thefts from pharmacies or distribution centers. In addition, many countries have a flourishing trade in prescription drug distribution via the Internet that is often not well-regulated either by design or oversight of the authorities responsible for drug law enforcement in individual countries. These drugs have the additional danger of being manufactured without proper supervision or quality control and distributed by criminal elements who may misrepresent their ingredients or potency.

A Case Study: Adderall

Widely used as a pharmaceutical treatment for individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD, Adderall can be very effective in helping these individuals gain focus and calm their hyperactive behavior. However, Adderall is actually a very powerful stimulant that can be abused like other stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine. In fact, stimulants like Adderall have become increasingly popular drugs of abuse on college campuses where students use them as “study aids” for “all-nighters” before exams or to enable them to consume even larger quantities of alcohol during binge drinking sessions at parties or other events. This combination of prescription drugs with alcohol or other substances can increase their deadliness substantially.

Nonmedical Adderall Use
piechart showing 60% of Adderall users are between 18 to 25
icons of three people showing two in the same color

The Dangers of Drug Mixing

The dangerous combination of Adderall and alcohol is just one example of how prescription drugs can become even more deadly when combined with one another or alcohol. Benzodiazepines and alcohol are another potentially life-threatening combination. Although benzodiazepines by themselves are almost never responsible for fatal overdoses, when combined with alcohol or opioids they become exponentially more dangerous. For a patient using one of these drugs according to a physician’s advice, these drugs can be considered relatively safe. However, addicts are not known for their meticulous decision-making skills, and they often mix various drugs together without much thought for how they might interact. Unfortunately, a perfectly safe amount of alcohol mixed with a perfectly safe amount of benzodiazepine could end up resulting in death or other serious medical issues. This is one of the reasons that prescription drug addiction needs to be treated in its early stages, as every day of delay has the potential for deadly consequences.

Kicking the Habit Safely & Successfully

When you or a loved finally realizes that they have become addicted to prescription drugs and wants to tackle their addiction, you should not try to do it without professional help. Under no circumstances should individuals who are addicted to prescription medication attempt to detoxify themselves or treat themselves. The only way to combat your addiction to prescription drugs safely and effectively is to attend a prescription drug rehab program.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxification from prescription drug addiction can be severe, and you will need to have professionals present during both the detoxification process and rehabilitation process. During detox, medical professionals can help minimize the pain and discomfort of the process while ensuring that you do not develop dangerous medical complications. During the rehab, professional therapists and counselors can help you get to the root of your addiction problem and develop strategies to prevent relapse in the future.

photo of doctor taking patient blood pressure

Start Your Recovery from Prescription Drug Addiction Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug addiction, it can sometimes seem like a hopeless situation. But, there is hope – in the form of prescription drug addiction treatment. By enrolling in a reputable and certified addiction treatment program, prescription drug addicts can regain control of their lives one step at a time as they begin the journey down the road of recovery. We encourage you to use the resources of Behavioral Wellness and Recovery to do just that, before it’s too late.

Get help today by calling Behavioral Wellness and Recovery 24/7 at 800-683-4457.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

Your decision to regain your life helps and heals your entire family. Do it for them. Do it for you.


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