Prescription Drugs

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What Is Addiction To Prescription Drugs

At Abbeycare, we understand that drug problems and addictions are not just limited to illegal substances, and many patients who we welcome on programmes at our clinics are addicted to prescription drugs, namely painkillers.

Addiction to widely available, legal drugs understandably causes some controversy, with many blaming the NHS for the sharp increase in the UK’s addiction to Opioids.


A BBC investigation reported that more than two million working age people in England alone are estimated to have taken a painkiller, that was not prescribed to them in 2016-2017, and in many areas of the country, such as the North of England – the prescription rate of opioid painkillers is up to four times higher than in London – showing the effect of both over prescription, and the availability of painkillers on the black market.

On this page, we look to discovery more about painkillers, their addictive nature – as well as some of the treatments and detoxes offered by Abbeycare, which effectively release individuals from their addiction to prescription painkillers.


Opioid Painkillers Explained

Opioids, also known as Opioid Painkillers are medicines, prescribed by doctors to treat pain which cannot be treated by other, weaker forms of painkillers – such as Ibuprofen & paracetamol.


These opioid painkillers work by affecting the opioid receptors in both the brain and the nervous system – which limits and reduces the way our bodies feel pain, increasing our tolerance for pain, whilst reducing our own physical reaction to pain.


A lot of these Opioid Painkillers are well known and include:

  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Diamorphine
  • Dihydrocodeine


These Opiate Painkillers are available from doctors, on prescription – whilst the weaker opioid painkillers such as Codeine are available over the counter at pharmacies, often combined with aspirin or paracetamol.


Because of their addictive nature, Opioid painkillers are are only intended to be used for a very short space of time, and only to treat pain levels and triggers which do not respond to standard painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol.

Although opioid painkillers are safe to take when professional opinion is sought, as mentioned they can very quickly become highly addictive.

Many people who come through our doors, initially report feeling that prescription painkillers are not as addictive as other illegal substances and drugs, when this simply isn’t the case.


Signs of Opioid Painkiller Addiction

Prescription Painkiller addiction can be incredibly hard to detect in individuals, the nature of the medication means that small packets can be easily hidden, whilst the drugs are easy to take.

Whereas an alcoholic or a heroin addict would leave drug paraphernalia, or bottles of alcohol lying around – and become obsessed with either drinking or taking drugs – those addicted to prescription drugs tend to be able to mask their behaviour much better.


Common behaviours caused by prescription drug addiction, include:

  • Very little care in personal appearance
  • Invention & complaints about conditions that would warrant drug use
  • Regular trips to the Doctor
  • Buying prescription drugs from the black market


The above acts and behaviors are also caused by, and added to by the following:

  • Mood swings & depression caused by the lack of available drugs
  • Anxiousness – exacerbated by drug availability
  • Insomnia
  • Increased reliance on alcohol


If you recognise any of the above signs in either your own behaviour, or that of a loved one – it’s highly likely that you are being negatively affected by addiction to prescription drugs.


Dangers of Opioid Painkiller Addiction

The dangers which lie with Opioid Painkiller addiction, mirror other types of substance and drug addiction- whether it’s alcohol addiction or illegal heroin addiction.

The Dangers are both physical and psychological, with the body suffering under constant substance abuse.


Painkillers can damage everything from the liver and kidneys, to the heart and the brain – with permanent damage being suffered by those using painkillers over an extended amount of time.

Heavy use can also trigger problems with mental health, with chemical changes taking place in the brain that affect behaviours – increasingly the likelihood of both depression and anxiety.


Amongst those who abuse prescription painkillers, there is an incorrect school of thought that because these drugs have been prescribed by a Doctor, they can do us no harm.

This belief, in our view is one of the biggest causes of prescription drug addiction.


Prescription Drug Treatment & Detox

At Abbeycare, we apply the same general approach for dealing with prescription drug addiction – as we do with other types of drug addiction.

The approach we have developed, which encompasses both physical & psychological treatments encompasses everything from group and individual counselling, right across to light medication and sedation.

It’s an approach that works.


That’s not to say all treatments are the same, every patient who walks through our doors receives a completely bespoke and tailored approach to beating their addiction, based around their exact requirements.

At Abbeycare, we are here to help you, or your loved one kick the addictive and restrictive habit of prescription drug addiction.

Get in touch to learn more about what we do.

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

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Last Updated: November 1, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.