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What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

A prescription drug addict uses medications in a way other than for which they were originally prescribed or to a much greater extent. They come to depend on the drugs to feel better in some way, and experience cravings for them in between doses.

The prescription drug use continues in spite of negative consequences for the user, including relationship difficulties, problems on the job, or the risk of physical harm from inappropriate use.

Signs of Prescription Abuse and Dependence

The signs of addiction to prescription drugs include the following:

  • Complaining of vague symptoms to get more medication
  • Lack of interest in treatment options other than medications
  • Mood swings
  • Seeing several doctors and/or pharmacies to get more pills
  • Past history of drug addiction
  • On and off relief from anxiety
  • Using more than the recommended dose or dosage frequency of the medication
  • Using prescription pills prescribed for others

Causes of Dependency

Prescription medications are drugs and they work on the user’s brain in the same way their illegal counterparts do. When a person who is addicted to prescription drugs uses them, the medication changes the brain’s chemistry, making it less effective at producing chemicals like dopamine or endorphins. Since the brain has stopped producing these chemicals itself, they must be introduced through another source. At this point, the prescription drug addict has become physically dependent on the medication.

Seniors are especially at risk for prescription drug addictions, simply because they are prescribed drugs more often that other groups. For example, a doctor may prescribe a tranquilizer after they have experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of their spouse. The person feels calmer and is able to sleep better with the medication, so they take it more often than the doctor directs. When they run out, they go back to the doctor for another prescription, and this is how the addiction starts.