Prescription Drug Addiction: Recognizing the Signs

Of the many mind-altering, addictive substances to which people can become addicted, one of the most dangerous isprescription medication, which is why it’s important to recognize prescription drug addiction as soon as possible.

Like alcohol, prescription painkillers are legal drugs if they are obtained and used as intended. Unfortunately, painkillers are highly susceptible to abuse and diversion, which refers to the tendency for those who are prescribed opiate painkillers to illegally distribute them through a variety of channels to individuals who buy them on the street for the purpose of recreationally abusing them.

After OxyContin was released in the 1990s, the United States quickly fell into a major painkiller addiction epidemic that continues to affect society today. As such, it’s important for individuals to be aware of the warning signs of prescription drug addiction so that they can recognize this harmful, life-threatening habit in others.

Why Are Prescription Drugs Addictive?

Prescription painkillers are opiates, which means they are synthetic substances that are chemically similar to morphine and the opium from which morphine is derived. Typically, these drugs are prescribed to individuals who have sustained some sort of injury or when an individual suffers from a condition that involves chronic pain as opiates are effective in alleviating moderate to severe pain.

When a person takes an opiate painkiller, the drug binds with the opioid receptors in the brain, diminishing the individual’s capacity for pain. Additionally, opiate painkillers cause a spike in neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which also help an individual to overcome pain. However, when painkillers are abused by taking more than the prescribed amount or by taking the drug when they’re not actually needed, the effects are compounded.

The individual experiences an intoxication and euphoria from the drug due to the substance binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, as well as from the surge in production and activation of neurochemicals. When an individual finds the experience to be enjoyable and begins abusing painkillers frequently, the individual’s body must adapt to his or her continuous consumption of opiates. This causes the development of additional opioid receptors in the brain with which more of the drug can bind.

Yet, this also means that more of the drug is needed to satisfy the individual’s desire to achieve a high level of intoxication. Additionally, the brain begins relying on the painkillers as the source of neurochemicals by reducing its own natural production of the substances. At this point, the individual has become physically dependent on opiates and will likely experience withdrawal symptoms after only a few hours without taking opiates.

Self-Medication and Opiate Painkiller Diversion

To recognize some of the signs of an opiate painkiller problem, it’s important to understand how and why individuals misuse opiate medication. Individuals who are prescribed opiates or opioids that they begin to misuse are often exhibiting a form of behavior known as self-medicating.

Whether they are trying to alleviate symptoms of a legitimate condition or are using the medication to alleviate their emotional distress, such individuals take it upon themselves to increase their dosage or begin taking opiates that aren’t prescribed to them, which renders the painkillers ineffective.

Alternately, individuals who are prescribed opiate painkillers might be diverting their medications, or selling them to substance abusers for a profit. Individuals who divert their prescription medications don’t usually abuse the drugs themselves, but it’s just as bad to sell them to individuals who shouldn’t be taking them for recreational abuse.

Prescription Drug Addiction and Dependency Signs

If an individual is abusing prescription drugs, there are signs that may indicate a problem.

One of the most common signs of a prescription drug addiction is a tendency to appear incredibly drowsy and lethargic, sometimes even beginning to fall asleep while sitting up or even standing—often colloquially referred to as “nodding out.”

While opiates bind with the brain’s pain receptors to prevent the individual from feeling pain, opiate painkillers also act as a depressant on the body, causing drowsiness, slurred speech, slowed cognition and reaction.

These individuals also will frequently be defensive when asked about their drowsiness, making excuses that serve to justify their being on the brink of sleep while sitting or standing. When a prescription drug user actually does nod off, their breathing will be incredibly, unnaturally slow. In fact, it may be difficult to detect that the individual is breathing at all.

When an opiate painkiller addict is without painkillers for one day or more, they will begin to exhibit symptoms of withdrawal. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms experienced by a person in opiate addiction include sweating, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, twitching or jerking of the limbs, sneezing, watery eyes, sniffles, aches and pains throughout the body, moodiness, and pronounced insomnia.

With these symptoms being so unpleasant and potentially painful, the majority of individuals with prescription drug addiction will become quite desperate to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay, which might result in resorting to behaviors such as stealing—even from their own loved ones—to obtain painkillers and overcome this uncomfortable period.

A Better Life Is One Phone Call Away

It many cases, there are clues that an individual might be suffering from prescription drug addiction or some other type of drug. It is important to be aware of these signs so that people who are struggling with addiction can receive the help they need to beat this deadly disease.

If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about treatment, call all New Perspectives at 855-463-0793 today or connect with us online for a free consultation and assessment. Let one of our recovery specialists help you or your loved one begin the journey of healing and regain physical and mental health.

What are the Different Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment Approaches?

There is no one treatment program that works for everyone who struggles with addiction. The best treatment centers tailor programs for the individual based on a variety of options.

And the drug treatment industry has no shortage of choices when it comes to treatment approaches. Everything from outdoor therapy to the experimental use of powerful psychedelics like DMT is available in addiction recovery programs around the world. However, there are a few that are mainstays in the industry because of their proven track record in scientific studies. These approaches are called evidence-based addiction treatment approaches.

Evidence-based treatment is broken into two broad groups: pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies. Usually, the effectiveness of these treatment options depends on the drug of abuse and the individual. The most effective treatment centers will individualize treatment by using many of the different approaches in conjunction with one another.


In addiction recovery, as with most other diseases, there are pharmacotherapy options available, which is the use of pharmaceutical drugs to promote healing. Prescription drugs are often used to curb the effects of withdrawal in detox but they can also be used as a substitute for the drug of abuse. Using replacement substances is a safer way to wean addicts off of a particular substance.

Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is a serious disease and can be difficult to recover from without treatment. However, there is an effective pharmaceutical that is commonly used to treat opioid addiction called methadone. Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist that blocks withdrawal and reduces cravings. It’s widely available in the United States, with it being illegal in only three states. Methadone has been found to be more effective when paired with behavioral treatment.

Tobacco Addiction

Pharmaceutical treatments for tobacco addiction are probably the best-known forms of pharmacotherapy for addiction. Nicotine sprays, gum, and patches are all forms of nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). Nicotine replacement curbs withdrawal symptoms that may otherwise encourage continued smoking. It also introduces nicotine into the system in a way that avoids inhaling harmful smoke and tar into the lungs.

Another prescription that is used for smoking cessation is bupropion, sold under the name Zyban. It was originally sold as an antidepressant but it was found to have stop cigarette cravings. Because tobacco is an appetite suppressant, people who quit often gain weight. The similar appetite suppressing effects of bupropion also help smokers quit without gaining weight.

A drug called varenicline also can be used to treat tobacco addiction. The drug blocks the dopamine-releasing effects of nicotine which stops it from reinforcing addiction.

Alcohol Addiction

Several pharmaceutical drugs are used to treat alcohol dependence. Naltrexone is used to block opioid receptors that would otherwise cause alcohol rewarding effects. Other drugs, like acamprosate, are used to curb withdrawal symptoms and maintain abstinence. For alcoholics who are highly driven, Disulfiram is a drug that will impede your body’s process of breaking down alcohol, which causes nausea and palpitation if the user drinks alcohol.

Most pharmaceutical treatment options are made more effective when coupled with behavioral therapies. However, pharmacotherapies are often useful on their own.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies are designed to work through addiction and other mental health issues psychologically. Different treatments may focus on providing motivation to persevere in abstinence, modifying attitudes and behaviors to avoid triggers, or working through deeper issues that may have led to addiction in the first place.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment that was developed for alcohol addiction but later applied to marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine. CBT focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors in anticipation of common pitfalls of addiction recovery. This often means identifying potential triggers and training your mind to handle them.

To effectively cope with cravings and stress, CBT helps people in recovery develop a strong sense of self-control. This helps them avoid or deal with high-risk situations and process cravings even after treatment is completed.

12-Step Programs

The 12-step program was developed and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Later it was also redesigned for stimulant and opiate abuse. The fundamentals remain the same across all addictions and are usually practiced in 12 steps that can be described in three basic principles:

  • Acceptance that drug addiction is chronic, it can’t be controlled with willpower alone, and that abstinence from the drug is the only way to combat it
  • Surrendering to a higher power and accepting help from fellow recovering addicts and the support structure of that community
  • Following the 12 steps and becoming involved in meetings and activities

Twelve-step programs are one of the most common treatment models across addiction treatment centers in the United States. Studies have examined the effectiveness of 12-step programs for alcohol and, to a lesser extent, drugs. Most agree that they are an effective, low-cost aftercare program.

Family Behavior Therapy

It’s often said that addiction is a family disease because of the effect it has on the people close to the addict. Because addiction hurts families as a whole, family behavioral therapy (FBT) aims to repair any damage done to relationships because of addiction. FBT involves talk sessions with the person in recovery and one or more family members or significant others. During sessions, behavioral goals are identified and reviewed in each subsequent session.

Do You Need Help?

Addiction is a serious disease, and the best treatment centers will offer a combination of evidence-based therapies as well as, other cutting-edge options. Call New Perspectives at 855-463-0793 today or contact us online to get in touch with an addiction specialist who can help you. Addiction can be scary, but treatment doesn’t have to be. We can help provide the right evidence-based treatment method for you.

Do You Really Need Therapy in Suboxone Treatment?

Suboxone is a heroin addict’s savior, or enemy, depending on how it is used and administered. The purpose of suboxone or buprenorphine is to combat withdrawals. Also, recovering addicts can be put in a suboxone maintenance program to help root themselves in the early stages of recovery. Suboxone treatment has proven, on countless occasions, to be beneficial.

Despite the controversy regarding abstinence methods and how they are working to keep addicts clean, suboxone treatment is a constant in the variables of treating addiction. Cognitive therapy in conjunction with suboxone treatment will most likely improve an addict’s chance at maintaining sobriety in the long-run.

Benefits of Suboxone Treatment

Suboxone is typically used when treating withdrawal from opioids such as heroin or oxycodone. It is a partial opioid agonist. It attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain but doesn’t produce effects as euphoric as opioids. The effects of suboxone are designed to help the individual combat the mental obsession and physical symptoms of withdrawal. Suboxone can also act as a long-term deterrent from opioids, which is called suboxone maintenance.

Suboxone helps those addicted to opioids feel normal again. Withdrawal symptoms slowly fade away once the drug dissolves under the tongue. But, despite its beneficial properties, suboxone treatment has shown to be less effective in individuals that are not serious about staying clean.

Whether suboxone treatment is long-term or just used in the withdrawal period, it is effective.

However, using it alone is not enough to maintain recovery.

Why Is Therapy Conducive to Recovery?

Therapy, in a group or individual setting, in my opinion, is the most effective aspect of recovery. Other than abstinence, of course. Active addiction is unpredictable and if you are anything like me, you’ve probably been in some wild situations. Maybe they were “fun” at the time but looking back at it, they were traumatic experiences that severely impacted me both mentally and emotionally.

Without therapy, I would have never been able to overcome the feelings associated with my actions in active addiction. An addict must be willing, open, and honest with a therapist in order for the process to work.

Combining the Two

When a heroin addict finally gives in to the idea of recovery, it is extremely difficult mostly due to withdrawal. Withdrawal is the most undesirable effect of heroin use. For me, I would do anything to escape the beginning stages of withdrawal. Mostly because, at the time, I didn’t want to get clean. However, when I did want to get clean, either on my own or with the help of adetox treatment facility, it always included suboxone treatment. Temporary use of suboxone in conjunction with professional therapy sessions made it easy for me to find the inner-strength I needed to prosper.

Suboxone treatment can also be used for longer durations, which also proves to be effective with cognitive therapy.

Active addiction for me lasted upward of five years. So one can imagine the trials and tribulations I faced during the “using and quitting” cycle so many addicts face before they finally get clean. If they get clean.

What Didn’t Work for Me?

Suboxone treatment and its components worked for me, only in professional settings for a short duration. However, every single time I tried to do it on my own (more times than I can count on both hands) it was unsuccessful.

I always thought to myself, why?

It didn’t occur to me at the time that my lack of success was my own fault. Attempting to administer suboxone on my own, in the company of other narcotic drugs, without professional help was not beneficial to me in the long-run. My thoughts and emotions eventually consumed me and I was back out doing the same things that brought me to rock bottom in the first place.

Suboxone Treatment and Therapy Works If You Work It

The heroin epidemic is sweeping the nation and killing thousands of people each year from an accidental overdose, don’t become another statistic.

As the saying goes, “it works if you work it.” Addicts can be quite stubborn, in or out of recovery but it is possible to recover from addiction. Outpatient therapy in conjunction with suboxone treatment, short or long-term, is highly beneficial.

Keep in mind, suboxone shouldn’t be used in place of heroin or other opioids. This is more common than you might think but with the guidance of professionals, addicts in early recovery can find comfort in the withdrawal process and learn to cope with their feelings and emotions. 

If you are suffering from an opioid addiction that you just can’t seem to kick, it might be time to try a medication-assisted treatment program that uses suboxone. By eliminating the cravings and negative symptoms of withdrawal, you can focus on your recovery and help yourself prevent relapse in the future. The path to lasting sobriety is at your fingertips, we can help you reach it. For a free consultation and assessment, you can call us at 855-627-3437 or contact us online.