Can Medicines Be Addictive? What You Need To Know…

At some stage in our lives, most of us are placed on subscription drugs to treat an ailment or injury, and while they are typically safe to use when consuming the prescribed amount, the rates of misuse with prescription drugs is ever-rising.

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For many people, think of addiction and you’ll think of the likes of alcohol or illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin, not your paracetamol or codeine – they’re designed to help you right?

Well, just because they have been prescribed to a person through a doctor, it doesn’t mean they are entirely safe. Should a person begin to take prescription drugs outside their advised prescription, then it can carry some serious health consequences that can be just as damaging as the likes of alcohol and more illicit drugs.

Are medicines addictive?

No matter what drug you have been prescribed with, medicines can lead to addiction if misused, with a number more addictive than others.

An addiction has typically formed with these drugs if:

  • You’re using them to cope with everyday life
  • Getting hold of the drugs becomes a heightened importance, ahead of other day-to-day activities and relationships
  • You start to need more of the medicine to gain the same effect, essentially building a tolerance

It’s at this point that it is time to start to think about help, particularly if you are seeing that your relationship with these prescription medications is having a negative impact on your social and family relationships.

Which prescription medicines are particularly addictive?

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While many types of medicines and prescription drugs can lead to addiction, there are a number of categories that are among the most common.

Pain relief medicines often contain drugs known as opioids, in which heroin is a member of the family. These drugs can be highly addictive, especially for those that have suffered from addiction in other areas like alcohol or drugs.

Fentanyl is proving particularly damaging in the USA with overdose deaths topping 100,000 for the first time over the last 12 months, largely down to the 70,000-plus deaths due to fentanyl.

Other drugs such as morphine and codeine are also dangers when it comes to addiction. In the case of the latter there is also a rising concern about the levels of addiction, with more people coming through treatment centres looking to overcome codeine addiction.

That starts with codeine detox and withdrawal, which can contain a high level of side effects during the process, including a drop in blood pressure, extreme drowsiness, physical effects such as blue lips and clammy skin, and even breathing problems.

However, it isn’t just pain killing treatment that can lead to addiction. Stimulants are also particularly bad for this, with methylphenidate and dexamphetamine the main culprits, most commonly used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

When used as prescribed and for the purpose intended they aren’t necessarily going to cause addiction. However, people look to misuse this drug to stay alert or awake, and in these cases it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with the drugs. This is also the case with sleeping pills such as diazepam and temazepam.

Before you take prescription drugs, it’s always worth discussing with your doctor the risk of developing an addiction, particularly if you have suffered through it before and you’re now in recovery. Make sure you ask questions on this, including how long to take the medicine for and whether there are any tips for avoiding addiction to ensure you stay on the right side of prescription drugs.


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