Prescription drug addiction is one on the most insidious problems facing the United States today. Not only do hospitals, doctors, and law enforcement have to worry about the myriad of illegal drugs entering the country today, they have to worry about a few of the drugs prescribed by our own doctors to everyday unsuspecting citizens. Some prescription drugs are highly addictive and easily diverted. The addictive prescription drugs usually fall into three classes. These three classes are:
- Painkillers – hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl
- Sedatives – benzodiazepines, sleeping medication,
- Stimulants – Ritalin, ADHD medications, amphetamines
Each of these is both potentially addictive to the person holding the prescription and addictive to those who divert it or take it without a prescription. If you are prescribed one of these medications, it is important to be aware of its addictive nature. Although the majority of the people on these prescriptions do not become addicted, some will start to take it against the recommendations of their doctors and wind up need of some form of addiction treatment.
How is Prescription Drug Addiction Treated?
Prescription drug addiction treatment varies depending on the drug involved and the person’s reasons for becoming addicted. Most treatment protocols begin with an attempt to taper down the drug, until the person is off it. This works well for mild addictions and when the person does not have ready access to another source of the drug. During tapering, the doctor gradually prescribes less and less of the drug until the person is taking so little that they do not notice withdrawal symptoms.
Unfortunately, tapering does not work well with many prescription drug addictions. In these cases more substantive methods need to be taken. The type of treatment very often depends on the type of drug and why the drug was prescribed in the first place.
For painkillers, medication assisted treatment is usually employed. This is a combination of counseling and a replacement drug such as methadone or Suboxone. This treats the chronic pain and the addiction at the same time.
For sedatives, counselors work to correct the reasons that people need a sedative. If it is an anti-anxiety medication like benzodiazepines, doctors try to solve the issues that cause the anxiety. If this is not possible, a doctor may prescribe a less addictive and less powerful medication.
For amphetamines or medication for ADHD, counseling and alternative drug therapy is often the treatment. Unfortunately, some people cannot live normally without this medication. Scientists are currently working towards finding a new method of treatment ADHD and related disorders without using addictive drugs. Some ADHD medications are less addictive than others but tend to be less effective.
The major problem with prescription drug addiction treatment is that many addicts begin using the prescription drug to treat a condition. The condition does not simply go away because the person is addicted to the drug helping them. Many doctors recognize this and researchers are currently working on new medications and ways to help those who are addicted to prescription drugs.