What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?
The majority of prescription drugs misuse in the UK is comprised of:
- Co-codamol (Solpadol® or Kapake®)
- Diazepam (Valium®)
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol®)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin ™)
- Pregabalin (Lyrica™, Alzain™, Lecaent™, Rewisca™)
- Opioid Painkillers (Tramadol/Ultram®, Hydrocodone/Vicodin®, Oxycodone/OxyContin®)
- Anti-depressants (Citalopram/ Celexa® and Amitriptylin/Elavil®)
- Stimulants (Adderall®, Concerta®, Ritalin®)
Usually, people consult health care practitioners or their GP to get prescriptions for these medications.
The use of these drugs is prompted by a legitimate health concern such as chronic pain or insomnia. But with time, some individuals develop a tolerance for the prescribed medicine, where larger and larger doses are needed in order to experience the same relief from (e.g.) chronic pain.
Most did not set out to become addicted to medication and subsequently can seek help from the NHS.
However, because of limited funding, these public treatment options can be less than ideal.
For a more comprehensive form of treatment, individuals often get a hold of specialists in a rehab clinic such as Abbeycare.
What Prescribed Medicines Are Most Prone to Misuse?
Prescribed drugs or medicines most prone to misuse, abuse, and addiction are described in this section. Succinctly given in detail are physical symptoms of addiction to these medications.
Co-codamol (Solpadol® or Kapake®)
Used for: pain relief; can ease headaches, migraines, and toothaches
Physical Symptoms of addiction: decreased appetite, moodiness, anxiety, sleepiness, clammy hands and feet
Popular appeal: individuals use co-codamol as a stronger drug to cope with routine causes of pain when aspirin an ibuprofen does not seem effective anymore.
Used for: treatment of anxiety and panic attacks
Physical Symptoms of addiction: clumsiness/ loss of coordination; decreased appetite, sleepiness, shaking/tremors
Popular appeal: Largely referred to as “Valium”, diazepam is part of a group of drugs called benzodiazepines, which emerged as a safer form of anti-depressant drug than older types of anti-depressants. Because diazepam was freely prescribed during the early years when the drug’s addictive component was not yet fully known, diazepam use became widespread. The drug’s calming effect can reportedly quell feelings of panic.
Used for: treatment of anxiety, sleep disorders, and seizure disorders; can also be used as a relaxant that eases tension in the muscles
Physical Symptoms of addiction: clumsy/ loss of coordination, speech is slurred, slow to react, seems confused a lot, forgetfulness
Popular appeal: This drug is strongly associated with drug-facilitated sexual assault, involving both men and women. The drug is often referred to as a “date rape drug”. Offenders mix the drug into the intended target’s drink. After ingestion, the victim is rendered unconscious or irresponsive.
Gabapentin (Neurontin ™)
Used for: treatment of nerve pain, epilepsy and restless leg syndrome; treats nerve damage (neuropathy), can promote calm and/or help a person fall asleep
Physical Symptoms of addiction: Clumsy/ loss of coordination; speech is not clear, heart palpitations, ‘zombie-like’ state, moodiness
Popular appeal: Combining gabapentin with opioid painkillers like hydrocodone is reported to make a person feel euphoric or blissful.
Pregabalin (Lyrica™, Alzain™, Lecaent™, Rewisca™)
Used for: treatment of epilepsy and anxiety, shingles, painful diabetic neuropathy (injured nerves), or any other painful injury
Physical Symptoms of addiction: Similar to gabapentin, these are clumsiness, unclear speech, heart palpitations, ‘zombie-like’ state, and moodiness
Popular appeal: Dubbed the “new Valium”. Both Pregabalin and Gabpentin were previously prescribed medicines that can be accessed using electronic prescriptions. Their widespread use became prone to misuse when persons started combining the drugs with heroin and other opiates. At present, both Pregabalin and Gabpentin are reclassified as class C controlled substances.
Opioid Painkillers (Tramadol/Ultram®, Hydrocodone/Vicodin®, Oxycodone/OxyContin®)
Used for: long-lasting (chronic) pain, post-operative pain, cancer pain, cancer breakthrough pain
Symptoms of addiction: Increased drowsiness or sleepiness, person seems to have flu more often; unexplained weight loss
Popular appeal: These types of drugs reportedly elicit blissful feelings aside form pain relief. The use of Opioid Painkillers poses high risk for overdose, especially when it is partnered with alcohol consumption. Overdosing on Opioid Painkillers can be countered by using a naloxone kit provided by the NHS.
Anti-depressants (Citalopram/ Celexa® and Amitriptylin/Elavil®)
Used for: Treatment of depression, neuropathic (nerve damage pain), chronic tension headache/migraine;
Symptoms of addiction Citalopram and Amitriptylin: changes in appetite, strange sleep patterns, slurred speech
Popular appeal: Both these drugs can be used in combination with other illicit drugs to heighten the feeling of euphoria. Some persons also make use of these drugs as “downers” to counter the effect of stimulants. Amitriptylin is sometimes prescribed to treat bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) in children aged 6 years and above as a last resort.
Stimulants (Adderall® Concerta®, Ritalin®)
Used for: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Narcolepsy (a disorder characterised by falling asleep involuntarily when feeling relaxed)
Symptoms of addiction: Feeling high (euphoric feelings), increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate
Popular appeal: These drugs help persons who have difficulty concentrating to keep focus on tasks at hand. Thrill seeking is associated with the casual use of the drug, as it can bring about a high or a “buzz”.
General Physical Symptoms of Prescription Drug Withdrawal
Physical symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal vary widely. However, a general guide is provided in the following section:
- Sensitive to stress/ easily irritated
- Problems coordinating movements
- Sleeps all the time or has a hard time sleeping
- Emotionally reactive or does not react at all (numb)
- Cannot think clearly/ out of focus/ easily distracted
- Memory problems
Specific Details for Selected Prescription Drug Withdrawal
Withdrawal for Diazepam (Valium®) can be most intense 2 to 4 days after last use.
Withdrawal for Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol®), half of the effect is gone within 18-26 hours; the drug can stay a few more hours more before complete elimination.
Withdrawal symptoms from Stimulants like Adderall®, Concerta®, and Ritalin® can be most demanding 10 hours after the drug is consumed.
Specific withdrawal symptoms for Opioid Painkillers start within 12 after the last dose. These symptoms include:
- Heart beating too fast
- Bone or Joint aches
- Runny nose or tearing
- Vomiting, diarrhoea
- Tremor, especially hand tremor
- Gooseflesh skin
General Psychological Symptoms of Prescription Drug Withdrawal
Even as physical symptoms of withdrawal from prescription drugs vary, the pattern for psychological dependence is similar, no matter what type of drug is abused. These psychological signs of drug withdrawal are described below:
- Needing a higher dose of the prescribed medicine to achieve its effects
- Needing a daily dose “just to feel normal”; without the drug, the person would find it challenging to carry on with daily activities
- The person takes more prescription medicine than originally intended.
- The person plans daily activities around the use of the drugs.
- Skipping previously enjoyed activities especially with family in order to spend more time procuring r taking the drug
- Secretive behaviour surrounding the procurement of prescribed medicine
- Anger and irritability when hindered from obtaining the drug
Prescription Drugs Withdrawal Timeline
The duration prescription medicine withdrawal depends on what kind of medication is taken, how much of it is taken and how long an individual has been taking it.
However, a general guide is provided below:
Day 1 to Day 3
Initial symptoms include cravings, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, and anxiety
Day 4 to 7
Usually withdrawal symptoms peak during this period. The following are common complaints:
- Irritability/ anger
- Low feelings including guilt, worthlessness, sadness
- Persistent insomnia
- Cravings for prescription drugs
- Spaced out/ confused/easily distracted
Day 7 to 10
During these days, a person can feel better enough to transition from detox to the rehab therapy stage. Although still new to not having prescription medicine as a part of daily routine, if adequately supported, the individual is expected to come through with ease.
Prescription Drugs Treatment
Prescription drugs treatment has three distinct phases: detox (withdrawal), rehab, and aftercare.
What Is Prescription Drugs Detox?
Because most individuals use prescription medicines for legitimate health concerns, detox from these medications means professional help is needed.
It is crucial that the person is treated for the chief health care concern, but the misuse of a prescribed medicine is prevented. For example, if a person is suffering from severe pain, it would not be safe to stop pain medication. In a supportive setting such as a rehab clinic, there would be ways to address the needs of persons suffering from severe pain even as they are recovering from pain medication addiction.
Alternative medications and gradual scaling down of the substance misused can be part of the steps taken in prescription drugs detox. In both methods, professional supervision from an addictions specialist is crucial.
Other reasons why a detox done in a residential programme is valuable include:
- Access to professional help 24/7
- Empathic, dedicated, and experienced staff
- A residential rehab programme is set up in such a way that detox is not the end-all be-all, but as part of a long-term recovery goal
Rehab for Prescription Drugs Addiction
After a successful detox, clients in a rehab centre can have individual or group therapy sessions. There are many approaches in rehab therapy, but the methods proven effective are:
- Individual Addiction Keywork Sessions
- Group Therapeutic Work (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
- 12-Step Facilitation
- Family Support Groups
In a rehab clinic with a whole-person outlook, like Abbeycare, Holistic Therapy is also on the offer.
Therapy in rehab is focused on probing deeper into motivations causing addiction to prescription medicines. These deeper reasons may emerge during treatment and are likely to cause emotional reactions. Hence, guidance from addiction specialists may be valuable in order to cope with the stress of changing a lifestyle pattern.
Prescription Drugs Rehab Aftercare
At Abbeycare detox clinic, aftercare is treated as one of the most critical aspects of long-term recovery from prescription drug addiction.
A person recovering from active addiction would need to depend on a strong social support system, composed of family and friends. In addition, to be pro-active, rehab aftercare involves formulating a detailed plan.
In the aftercare plan, these elements are explicitly spelled out:
- What activities the person will do whilst in recovery
- How life in recovery is foreseen to be
- Practical considerations during recovery (who to call, where to go for meetings, etc.)
- How to deal with emotional concerns during recovery (triggers, prevention plan, etc.)
- Arrangements with a personal sponsor
In a rehab centre like Abbeycare, a dedicated case manager is responsible for anticipating a client’s needs during and after rehab. Because addiction can be characterised as chaotic, having a solid plan can bolster a person’s chances of kicking prescription medication addiction for good.
- Is it safe to detox from prescription drugs at home by myself?
It is not considered safe practice to detox alone at home. Most persons who take prescription medicines do so to alleviate symptoms form a health concern. The chances of serious harm are exacerbated if the person tries to detox in a sudden manner. A&E incidents from detox without professional guidance are usually because of:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart beat (too slow or too fast)
- Difficulty breathing
- Hallucinations/ Disorientation
- Suicide attempts
- How is outpatient detox different from inpatient?
For public outpatient programs, these are facilitated by NHS Drop-in clinics. The drop-in clinic is a form of community-based treatment option which any UK citizen can access for free.
Outpatient clinics by the NHS mean:
- The individual can live at home and continue with normal activities whilst recovering from drug addiction.
- Methadone or buprenorphine treatment as a primary means of treating prescription medicine addiction
- Having a keyworker to monitor progress
- Training in naloxone administration (in case of overdose)
- Training in the safe use/procurement/disposal of injecting equipment
- Completion of drug use/treatment diaries
- Urine and oral fluid samples for monitoring progress
Choosing a private inpatient rehab means a client stays at a clinic with a structured programme in place. The duration of the stay is 28 days, on average. The goal is to have a predictable, controlled environment where a client is supported by experts in addiction rehab.
The NHS does provide public inpatient rehab, but the long waiting times can deter individuals from enquiring about the process. For ease of admissions and high quality care, dial Abbeycare direct.
- Can I use the prescription drugs again after rehab?
No. As an abstinence-based centre, Abbeycare believes in discontinuing prescriptive drug use permanently after completing the rehab process. Health care practitioners would be able to provide suitable substitutes to treat the health care concern that prompted the use of the prescribed medicine in the first place.
Knowledgeable specialists usually consult a list of safe medications especially intended for persons in addiction recovery. These medications, combined with comprehensive rehab aftercare support bolster long-term recovery for prescription medication addiction.
- How much does prescription medicine detox/rehab treatment cost?
To get an answer instantly, use the Abbeybot below.
Or contact us directly for specific enquiries.
The price for treatment is subject to agreement from Abbeycare’s admissions and clinical teams, following the initial conversation.
- How long does prescription medicine detox/rehab treatment last?
Typically, detox can last from 2-12 weeks. Rehab usually can take up to 28 days.
However, the duration of a person’s stay depends on:
- What type of prescription drug(s) taken
- Dosage of the drug(s) taken
- How much of the substance was taken
- Symptoms that cause most concern
- Other health or emotional concerns that the person may experience alongside prescription medication misuse
If you want more questions answered about presctiontion dugs, read our prescription dugs FAQ page.
How To Book
To book into Abbeycare for Prescription Drugs help, call our enquiry line direct on 01603 513 091.