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When Are Prescription Medications Abused, And How Do They Become Addictive?

Addiction to prescription medications is the chronic and repetitive use of prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed, which includes the use of medications not prescribed to the individual or medications prescribed to someone else. Prescription medication refers to pharmaceutical drugs that can only be legally obtained with a valid medical prescription.

Abusing prescription medications means taking a medication in a manner or dosage other than prescribed, taking medication prescribed for someone else, or taking medications to experience a sense of euphoria (i.e., to get high). Non-medical use of prescription medications also falls under these forms of abuse.

How can people become addicted to prescription medications? Research provides some answers:

  • Studies indicate that nearly one-third of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, leading to addiction.
  • Almost 80% of heroin users initially abused prescription medications, which poses a concerning risk of addiction.
  • In most cases, dependence on prescription medications starts during the college years, often to stay awake or relieve pressure.




Behavioural Symptoms:

Detecting prescription medication abuse can often be challenging. Just because someone exhibits side effects of medication does not necessarily mean they are abusing it. Someone who abuses prescription medications is at risk of a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), a clinical term for drug addiction.

This list of criteria is used by doctors to diagnose someone with an SUD. An individual must exhibit at least two of these criteria to be diagnosed:

  1. The individual takes the substance in larger amounts or for a longer period than prescribed.
  2. They want to quit using the substance but can’t.
  3. They spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the substance.
  4. The individual has a strong desire or craving for the substance.
  5. They can’t fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to substance use.
  6. They continue to use the substance despite social or interpersonal problems caused or worsened by its effects.
  7. The person gives up or reduces important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
  8. They repeatedly use the substance in situations where it’s physically hazardous.
  9. The person continues to use the substance despite knowing it’s causing or worsening a physical or psychological problem.
  10. They need more of the substance to get the desired effect, indicating tolerance.
  11. The individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when substance use is stopped, and they relieve those symptoms by using it again.

The last two criteria do not apply to individuals using prescription medications under medical supervision. While the above criteria are relevant for all substances, the text above focuses on prescription medication, which can lead to drug addiction.

The Expected Outcome Of Prescription Medication Addiction:

Abuse of prescription medications can have serious health consequences, including medication addiction, overdose, and even death.

  • Abuse can also impair judgment and lead individuals to take risks, such as engaging in unsafe sex, which can result in sexually transmitted diseases.
  • The use of tranquilizers or opioids can impair cognitive function, judgment, and reaction time, leading to traffic accidents.
  • Taking prescription medications in higher doses or using them in ways other than prescribed, such as crushing and snorting a pill instead of swallowing it, can lead to dangerous side effects.

Furthermore, abuse of prescription medication can lead to a Substance Use Disorder (SUD).


We’ll be honest: overcoming addiction isn’t a stroll through the park. However, our multifaceted programme assures you of optimal guidance and support throughout your recovery. We specialize in various forms of psychological treatment, namely Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Trust is what keeps our team and community together. We are ardently focused on helping you achieve a realistic reintegration into your original environment and community. For that, we need you to act. Only talking doesn’t cut it. Re-integration requires commitment, effort, and hard work. If you’re up for it, we promise to support you in every way we can.

“Action is key. Nobody talks themselves into addiction, and we cannot simply talk our way out of it.”