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Prescription Drug Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment

Some people believe that all prescription drugs are always safe, but many have the potential for abuse and addiction. Among people ages 12 and older in 2021, at least 14.3 million abused some type of prescription drug.[1] Comprehensive treatment can help people overcome prescription drug abuse and provide the skills and support to live a healthier, sober lifestyle.

Understanding prescription drug abuse and how it is treated can help prepare you to seek the treatment you need. If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription drug addiction, please contact Mandala Healing Center today to learn about your treatment options.

Understanding Prescription Drug Abuse

Many people take prescription medications to manage medical conditions. Prescription drug abuse occurs when a person takes medication in a way that differs from how a doctor prescribed it or without a prescription.

Commonly-abused prescription medications include:

  • Opioids: Medications used to treat pain after injury or during/after surgery including codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin). In 2021 more than 5 million people had a prescription opioid use disorder and more than 16,000 died as a result of a prescription opioid-related overdose.
  • Benzodiazepines: Medications used to treat anxiety and panic disorders including Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam). About 3.9 million people abused benzodiazepines in 2021 and more than 12,000 died as a result of a related overdose.
  • Barbiturates: Medications used as sedatives and tranquilizers including amobarbital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal). In 2021, about 2.2 million people were addicted to a prescription tranquilizer or sedative.
  • Stimulants: Medications used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy including dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat, ProCentra), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), methylphenidate (Cocerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin), and a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall). In 2021 about 1.5 million people had a prescription stimulant use disorder.

People may take prescription medication and develop tolerance–meaning they need to take more to get the desired effects–which prompts them to take higher or more frequent doses. Some people may take the prescription drug longer than their doctor told them to or ingest it in different ways to intensify its effects, such as crushing and snorting pills. Misusing a prescription drug is drug abuse.

Prescription drug abuse can cause lasting changes in how your brain and body function. Over time, a person may develop a physical or psychological dependence on the drug, making it nearly impossible to stop using it without professional prescription drug rehab.

How Can I Reduce the Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse?

Some factors may increase your likelihood of prescription drug abuse.[2] These include:

  • Having friends or other people in your life who abuse prescription drugs
  • Age
  • Biology and genetics
  • Mental health
  • Attitudes and beliefs about prescription drugs

Regardless of risk factors, anyone may develop prescription drug abuse or addiction. The FDA offers advice on limiting your risk of prescription drug abuse, including:

  • Always take prescription medications as prescribed
  • Don’t change the way you take the medication (dose, method, or frequency) without consulting your doctor first
  • Do not stop taking medications on your own
  • Don’t crush or break pills before taking them, especially time-released drugs
  • Learn the risks of mixing the prescription drug with other medications or alcohol
  • Tell your doctor about personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Don’t take other people’s prescriptions or allow anyone else to take yours

Always follow your doctor’s advice when taking prescription medications and alert them to any changes or side effects you experience.

Is Prescription Drug Abuse Common?

Current research suggests that about 16 million people misuse prescription drugs in the United States–and a disproportionate percentage of them misuse prescription opioids.

Health and addiction experts believe that rates of prescription drug abuse have risen because there are simply more prescription drugs available. According to research from the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 45.8% of adults in the United States reported using prescription drugs–illegally or legally–during the previous 30 days.[3]

Approximately 82% of all pharmacy-filled prescriptions are opioids, which are often the first prescription drug people misuse.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse may present differently depending on what drug the person is abusing.

Opioid abuse

Symptoms of opioid abuse include:

  • Dizziness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Constricuted pupils
  • Difficulty staying awake

Central nervous system depressant abuse

Abusing barbiturates and benzodiazepines may cause symptoms that include:

  • Mood changes
  • Problems with concentration, memory, and judgment
  • Slow reflexes
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow breathing
  • Difficulty staying awake

Stimulant abuse

Signs of stimulant abuse include:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation or nervousness
  • Increased energy levels
  • Changes in sleep patterns

Taking the First Step: Prescription Drug Detox

People who require prescription drug abuse treatment often begin in a prescription drug detox program. When someone who has been abusing a drug suddenly stops, they may experience uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms. In many cases, withdrawal is so uncomfortable that people relapse–meaning they use drugs after a period of abstinence–to get relief.

During prescription drug detox, medical and support staff monitor patients and offer treatments to help them manage their withdrawal symptoms, including emotional support, comfort care, and medications. Depending on the type of prescription drug people are detoxing from, doctors may slowly taper them off of the medication to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. Other medications may be used in prescription drug detox to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications like seizures, including:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Vivitrol
  • Campral
  • Librium

These medications can reduce cravings and relieve uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, cramping, muscle aches, sweating, and depression. Staying more comfortable during detox increases a person’s chances of completing detox and avoiding relapse.

What Happens in Prescription Drug Rehab?

Prescription drug abuse is a complex condition with roots in a person’s genetics, mental and physical health, environment, and behaviors. Comprehensive prescription drug rehab programs use a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies to help people overcome addiction and move forward into a healthier future.

People may attend inpatient or outpatient rehab for prescription drug addiction. Outpatient prescription drug rehab is a type of addiction treatment program that allows individuals to receive care and support while living at home and continuing with their daily activities. In this program, individuals attend counseling and therapy sessions at a treatment center on a scheduled basis, typically several times a week.

Prescription drug rehab plans are tailored to meet each person’s unique needs and typically include:

  • Individual, group, and family counseling
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Medications
  • Mental health treatment
  • Holistic therapies like nutrition support, exercise, massage, mindfulness, and more

After completing a prescription drug abuse treatment plan, people must create an aftercare plan that keeps them active and engaged in recovery. This may include seeking other types of addiction treatment, continuing individual therapy, and attending 12-step or support group meetings.

Start Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment in West Palm Beach, FL Today

At Mandala Healing Center, we inspire healing in our patients through compassionate care. Going beyond the conventional approach of detoxification, patients at our facility are inspired to fully heal in an environment designed to nourish their entire being.

Clients are taken on a journey of healing through complete immersion into evidence-based clinical modalities, multifaceted alternative therapies, and expert medical management, allowing them to fully detox and recover from drug and alcohol addictions. Through a program of care designed to encourage change, a foundation is created that allows clients to find their higher purpose and reclaim their lives.

If you or a loved one are suffering from prescription drug addiction or would like to learn more about your treatment options, please reach out to our dedicated admissions counselors today.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of prescription drug misuse in the United States?, Retrieved April 2023 from
  2. National Library of Medicine: Risk Factors Associated With Problem Use of Prescription Drugs, Retrieved April 2023 from
  3. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics: Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics, Retrieved April 2023 from