Prescription Drug Addiction Causes

Prescription drug abuse can lead to deadly overdose and a number of other problems

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When most people think of addiction, they think of drugs like cocaine and heroin. But did you know that prescription drugs can also be addictive? Unfortunately, some people abuse drugs that are meant to treat certain diseases and conditions.

When used in the way that your doctor orders, most medications are not addictive or dangerous. But, some can be abused and may even lead to biological dependence and psychological dependence. When this happens, addiction to these drugs must be treated very seriously.

Just because a drug can be safely used to treat a medical concern doesn’t mean it is okay to abuse. Keep reading to learn more about prescription drug addiction, its causes, and how these drugs affect those who abuse them.

What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

To understand the causes of prescription drug abuse, you first need to understand what this condition actually entails. Prescription drug addiction covers a wide range of problems, because there are several medications that can be addictive.

Of the several medications that can be abused and lead to addiction, most fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Opioids: Opioids are powerful pain-relieving drugs. Common opioids include oxycontin, morphine, Percocet, Vicodin, and codeine. But although opioids can be helpful in treating acute, severe pain, they are also very addictive. In the past decade, our nation has seen the devastating effects of opioid abuse and addiction. The ‘opioid crisis’ is far from over.
  • CNS stimulants: Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are another commonly abused class of prescription drugs. Common stimulant drugs include Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta. All of these drugs are mainly used to treat attention deficit disorder, also called ADHD. When abused, they can lead to increased levels of energy and alertness. They can also be very addictive.
  • CNS depressants: CNS depressants are mainly used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and seizures. These drugs include benzodiazepine drugs (benzos). Drugs like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin are CNS Depressants. People may abuse these drugs and get addicted to them.

Because prescription drug addictions can vary from person to person and from drug to drug, the details of the condition can vary greatly as well. The effects of opioid abuse, for example, are far different from the effects of stimulant abuse. Similarly, the causes of each of these conditions can vary depending on a person’s history and the drugs they abuse.

Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

The effects of prescription drugs on the brain and body will vary depending on which drugs are being abused. All of these drugs can lead to feelings of euphoria and pleasure when abused. People who abuse the drugs can get hooked on the physical and psychological effects of prescription drugs, which leads to addiction.

Aside from the feeling of being ‘high’, prescription drugs can cause a number of very serious issues in those who take them. The adverse effects of these drugs vary depending on what is being abused. Let’s go over the three main types of medications that are abused, and discuss their effects:

Opioid Addiction Effects

Opioid drugs can be very harmful when abused.

The following effects of prescription opioid addiction are common, especially in those who abuse the drugs for a long time:

  • Infection of the heart
  • Pneumonia
  • Dehydration
  • Lung infections
  • Anxiety
  • Skin problems
  • Liver disease
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Overdose

As you can see, abusing opioids can turn out to be deadly in a number of acute or long-term ways.

CNS Stimulant Addiction Effects

People usually abuse stimulants because they can increase alertness and may induce feelings of euphoria at high doses. These drugs are popular among college students, who use them to stay up while studying or partying.

But when abused, stimulants can lead to addiction which has a number of potential major effects:

  • Sleep problems
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Constipation
  • Heart disease
  • Overdose

CNS Depressant Addiction Effects

People can get addicted to depressants. At the prescribed dose, these drugs should not lead to addiction. But if taken at a high dose or too frequently, these drugs can cause feelings of euphoria and intense pleasure, which leads to dependence and addiction.

Common effects of long-term depressant abuse:

  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Increased reaction time
  • Loss of coordination
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Overdose

The effects above do not even begin to touch on the social effects of prescription drug addiction, which can be devastating. All forms of medication addiction can lead to fatal overdose.

Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction

Addiction is a mental health disorder, no matter the specific drug that is involved. It is important to understand that, like other mental health issues like anxiety and depression, addiction to prescription drugs is not a choice.

This understanding helps us to gain a clearer insight into the causes of drug addiction. Although certain drugs can have causes that are unique to them, most causes of addiction apply to all types of prescription drugs.

Following are some of the main known causes of prescription drug addiction:


People often wonder ‘is drug addiction genetic?’ The answer is yes, but the way this works is not how you may think. If your parent or relative has suffered from addiction, it is not guaranteed that you will as well. Furthermore, genetics do not seem to impact the specific drugs that are used.

There may be a gene that is linked to a higher risk of addictive behavior. So, if your mother was addicted to cocaine, you may suffer from opioid addiction.

Of course, it is also hard for scientists to tell how much genetics play a role as opposed to the environment. Growing up with relatives or parents that suffer from addiction can make it more likely for you to become addicted to drugs simply because you were exposed to the behavior as a child.

Environmental Factors

People who suffer trauma or abuse are more likely to get addicted to drugs. Problematic childhood environments can lead to major psychological issues, which in turn lead to drug abuse.

As mentioned above, having parents with addictions can be a risk factor for drug abuse later in life. This can happen in two main ways: First, seeing parents abuse drugs normalizes the behavior. You learn that this is a normal way to deal with problems. Second, parents with addictions are more likely to be neglectful and abusive, which can cause trauma.

Mental or Physical Illness

When thinking about drug abuse and addiction, it is helpful to understand why people harm themselves in this way. People abuse drugs mostly because they ease mental and physical pain. They get addicted to the way that drugs temporarily help them feel better.

For this reason, both mental and physical health issues are common risk factors for addiction. In the case of prescription drug abuse, this pattern is even more common. People who become addicted to prescription drugs often start using them to treat a serious health concern. But when these drugs are used in any way other than as prescribed by your doctor, they can be dangerous and addictive.

It’s easy to see how this pattern could play out with opioid addicts, for example. People who are prescribed opioids are usually suffering from severe pain. The relief from this pain, coupled with the mental effects of the drugs, can lead people to become dependent upon opioids. They may begin taking larger doses to increase these effects. This can lead to addiction.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug abuse should never be taken lightly. Just because these drugs have legitimate medical uses does not mean that it is ever safe or acceptable to abuse them.

Addiction can take over your life in the blink of an eye. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug addiction, you need to seek help before it is too late.

Fortunately, Bedrock Recovery Center is here for you. We are experienced in treating a wide variety of prescription drug abuse problems. Our compassionate and dedicated staff coupled with our world-class treatment center creates the optimal environment for recovery.

Call Bedrock Treatment Center today to see how we can help you in your recovery journey.

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: June 21, 2020

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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