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what causes prescription addiction

What Causes Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction is a rising problem in the United States. Drug abuse can become ongoing and compulsive, even despite adverse consequences. This form of addiction affects people of all age groups, including teenagers. Opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medication, stimulants, and sedatives are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs. However, when it comes to figuring out what causes prescription drug addiction, the answers might be more complicated. 

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the specific drugs. Most of the prescription drugs abused are those that have mind-altering properties. There are many types of prescription drugs available in the market. However, these are the most commonly abused ones:

  • Opioids — like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and meperidine (Demerol)
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants — such as phenobarbital (Luminal), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax).
  • Stimulants — including methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall).


These prescription painkiller medications contain oxycodone or hydrocodone, both powerful painkillers that are highly addictive. 

  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Poor coordination
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness


Anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium or hypnotics like Ambien help treat anxiety and sleeping disorders but are also highly addictive. 

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed breathing


Mostly to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some sleep disorders, you can find these as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine. 

  • Increased alertness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

What Causes of Prescription Prescription Drug Addiction?

It’s impossible to pinpoint a specific cause of addiction. However, when it comes to prescription drugs, these substances can rewire the brain and affect its reward system, which could potentially lead to addiction. However, people abuse prescription drugs for a myriad of reasons, including:

  • Relieving tension
  • Reducing appetite
  • Increasing alertness
  • Experimenting with drugs
  • Improving concentration at school or work performance
  • Maintaining another addiction and prevent withdrawal

Of course, most prescription medications find their ways to the streets. Drug dealers often have multiple prescriptions to get access to many medicines. Then, sell these on the streets without a doctor’s order.

However, these drugs sold on the streets can be dangerous. Most of the time, drug dealers will combine them with other substances to add volume or enhance people’s experiences. These types of medications can cause severe adverse reactions that could be hazardous to someone’s health. Not to mention, these often include more addictive substances that increase someone’s chances of developing an addiction.  

Risk Factors

Of course, when it comes to addiction, many risk factors should serve as red flags for people who’ll be using prescription drugs. Some of these risk factors can be:

  • Past or present addictions to other substances, such as tobacco or alcohol
  • Family members with a history of substance abuse
  • Pre-existing psychiatric disorders
  • Exposure to a social environment where there’s drug use
  • Easier access to prescription drugs
  • Lack of knowledge about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Prevention is all about educating yourself and others about the consequences of misuse. Some of the medical complications of prescription drug abuse include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing
  • Memory problems
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

For Teenagers

Young people are among those misusing prescription drugs the most, partially because these drugs are readily available at home, and they take them from their parent’s medicine cabinets. As a parent, discussing the dangers of prescription drug abuse can help prevent addiction in the future. 

  • Emphasize the dangers of prescription medications
  • Let them know it’s not okay to share medicines with others or take drugs prescribed for someone else
  • Discuss the risks of mixing alcohol with drugs
  • Make sure they’re not ordering online as many sites sell counterfeit, illegal drugs
  • Properly dispose of your unused or expired medications and avoid keeping them in the house

For Adults

Adults who need a prescription painkiller after surgery or to treat a medical condition can often find themselves developing physical dependence. Make sure you’re aware of the risks of taking those medications and practice prevention mechanisms to stay away from addiction. 

  • Make sure you’re getting the right medication, discuss non-addictive solutions before choosing a drug with high potential for addiction
  • Talk to your doctor about how you feel while taking the medication to ensure it’s working
  • Follow the directions carefully and don’t stop or change doses on your own
  • Beware of the effects of your medication and what to expect
  • Never use another person’s prescription, even if they have a similar medical condition
  • Avoid ordering prescriptions online, unless they’re from a trustworthy pharmacy to avoid counterfeit drugs

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment

Millions of people struggle with prescription drug addiction and have abused drugs in the past. However, once people become addicts, cutting these drugs, cold-turkey can be life-threatening, so most people start with a partial hospitalization program (PHP), in conjunction with detox programs to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Types of Addiction Treatments

It’s paramount to speak with an addiction treatment specialist to determine the best way to start seeking help for addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug addiction recovery programs include:

  • Medical Detox: In this clinically supervised detox process at treatment centers, we ensure the patient’s safety and make the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and using medication-assisted treatment services to guarantee a complete detoxification process. 
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Since many long-term addicts often struggle with mental health disorders, a dual diagnosis program can get them the help needed to treat both conditions simultaneously. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Most of the time, these sorts of addictions develop due to compulsive behaviors that must be treated at the source, with CBT being one of the most popular evidence-based treatments to treat addiction. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs: When patients are looking to seek addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving, IOPs are a more flexible option that still gives people access to the help they need. 
  • Long-term Recovery Programs: With long-term recovery assistance, patients can have the ongoing support they need to maintain long-lasting sobriety. Recovery programs are crucial to relapse prevention. 

Get Help Today

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, seek help immediately. Call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction center specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

Our philosophy revolves around treating each patient on a case-by-case scenario because we know no two addiction stories are alike. Start walking towards your recovery, and we’ll be here supporting you and your family every step of the way. Please don’t wait another day to start addiction treatment–your life depends on it. 

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