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Which Prescription Drugs Are Addictive?

You’re in excruciating pain and your doctor prescribes painkillers, allowing you to find much-needed relief. Or, perhaps you’re suffering from debilitating anxiety, and a small pill can help you find some calm. While these medications are extremely effective at what they’re intended to do, they come with a dark side — potential addiction.

Our experienced team of addiction specialists at Northshore Family Practice understands the dangers of certain prescription medications, and we’re here to help with recovery support should an addiction develop. 

One of the best ways to avoid this outcome is to educate yourself on any medications you may be prescribed. In the following, we take a look at some of more common prescription medications that can lead to addiction.

Prescription misuse by the numbers

To give you an idea of the problems that surround addictive prescription medications, here are a few statistics to consider.

In 2017, 18 million Americans over the age of 12 misused prescription medications at least once. Digging deeper, two million Americans misused pain medications for the first time during that same year, and one million misused stimulants.

Of patients who are prescribed opioids to control chronic pain, 21-29% misuse these medications, and 8-12% go on to develop an opioids use disorder.

What these numbers show us is that misusing prescription medications is rampant, and addiction is a clear and present danger.

The opioid dilemma

Some of the more highly addictive prescription medications are those that contain opioids, which are used to suppress pain. 

Opiate-based prescription medications include:

These medications are all very good at what they do, but their success can come at a cost as neural pathways in your brain slowly adjust themselves to these narcotics and demand ever-increasing amounts.

The dangers of depressants

When it comes to addressing issues such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and sleep problems, depressants are often the go-to solution, as they target your central nervous system.

For example, a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, including Xanax®, Ativan®, and Valium®, are often used to combat anxiety disorders, but these drugs can be highly addictive. 

For a sedative effect, doctors prescribe barbiturates like Nembutal® and Seconal®, as well as sleep medications like Ambien®, Sonata®, and Lunesta®.

Since all of these medications affect your central nervous system, they can lead to the rewiring in your brain we mentioned above, which puts you on the road to addiction.

Little safety in stimulants

Stimulants are typically prescribed for conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and these include amphetamines, such as Adderall® and Dexedrine® or methylphenidate, with brand names Ritalin® or Concerta®.

These medications can create a “high” when you use them, which can alter your brain to accommodate more use.

Should I stop taking these prescription medications?

This is a question only you can answer. These medications do have their place, but only when you use them as prescribed. If you find that you’re taking more than you should and that you’re beginning to experience cravings, it’s time to check in with us.

To learn more about taking potentially addictive prescription medications, contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up a consultation.

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