People tend to believe that prescription medications are safer than illicit drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) .  After all, prescription tablets and capsules are not created in someone’s kitchen; they are manufactured to a precise dosage in a clean environment under strict guidelines. It is a logical, but flawed, conclusion.

Under a doctor’s care, prescription medication helps you manage acute and chronic health conditions. When it is abused, however, the results can be harmful or even deadly.

Prescription Drug Abuse Does No’t Follow a Single Path

If you are addicted to prescription drugs, your addiction probably did not begin because you started searching through someone’s medicine cabinet or buying drugs on the street. Different paths may lead to prescription medication addiction.

In some cases, the medicine is initially prescribed for you by a doctor to manage a health condition, but addiction remains after the prescription runs out.

Oftentimes, prescription drugs are offered to you by a friend or relative. Abuse may begin by taking someone else’s medication to solve ordinary aches and pains.

There are other ways to fall into addiction as well. You may have a prescription but take a higher dosage than ordered by your doctor, take it a different way such as crushing and snorting, or simply take it to get high. The euphoria associated with certain prescription drugs, says NIDA, is “one of the main reasons people abuse them.”

Prescription Drugs Affect the Brain in Similar Ways to Illicit Drugs

The pleasant sensation of taking a prescription drug is triggered by the drug’s direct effect on the brain. Different prescription drugs affect the brain in different ways. Depending on the person and the drug, the sensation may be energizing, calming, or euphoric.

Prescription stimulants, opioids, and depressants create sensations that some people enjoy, but these drugs not safer by virtue of the fact that they are pharmaceuticals. Prescription stimulants, says NIDA, “affect the same neurotransmitter as cocaine.” Prescription opioids and heroin behave similarly, as do prescription depressants and certain “club drugs.”

When you consider the addictive nature of their illicit counterparts, such as cocaine and heroin, the real dangers of prescription medications become much clearer. The bottle might have a physician’s name and a pharmacy address. The contents of the bottle might have a tidy shape and uniform color. The effect of abuse on the brain is the same as if it was a crude powder wrapped in foil and stuffed in a stranger’s pocket.

Addiction to prescription  drugs does not start with the familiar long-term effects such as physical pain, job loss, loss of health, and social stigma. After all, if getting high was not pleasurable, at least in the beginning, there would certainly be fewer people suffering from addiction.

Over time, the pleasure of getting high gives way to the dark, physiological realities of being an addict. Instead of a desire for pleasure, there becomes a need for the prescription drug. From that need, a host of complex and even life-threatening conditions often emerge.

Fortunately, recovery from prescription medication addiction is possible with the help of trained, caring professionals. In a clinical setting, whether inpatient or outpatient, the layers of addiction can gradually be shed to reveal the healthy, drug-free person underneath.

If you or someone you care about has an addiction to prescription drugs, please contact us to learn about effective treatment and long-term recovery.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.