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Breaking an Addiction to Prescription Drugs

separator You got a prescription from a doctor for back pain a while ago, and you took it as prescribed. But then you wanted a little more of the drug, because the amounts you were taking weren’t helping much anymore. So you learned how to lie at the pharmacy, how to move around to different pharmacies to get extra medications, how to fake the prescription so that it looked like it was from your doctor…and suddenly you reached the point where you’re taking 20 pills a day—and you don’t even have a back problem anymore.

If you stop and allow yourself to think about it for even a moment, you know you should stop taking these pills. But you don’t know how to make yourself stop. And maybe there are even times when you think it’s not really that important to stop. You can talk yourself into believing you’re handling everything just fine. But that’s the addiction talking.

What should you do now?
Get professional treatment

Making the decision to stop is hard enough. Don’t try to do it on your own, because it can be dangerous. Why? When you stop taking a drug your body has become addicted to, you could experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Panic
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramping

In some cases, you could even lose your life in an attempt to stop taking drugs suddenly.

When you get professional treatment, you often need to start out on a detoxification program, or “detox,” as it’s often called. During the detox phase, you need close medical supervision. You may need medication to help you deal with your withdrawal symptoms. The detox process may take several days or more.

You’ll also need solid information about changing your behavior—learning how to replace the drug-taking, drug-seeking mindset with more positive, constructive, meaningful behavior. This is often one of the hardest aspects of treatment.

It’s a gradual process that takes a lot of work. We can’t stress enough how important it is to get professional treatment and not to do it on your own. 

As soon as you’ve decided to get treatment…

Talk to a healthcare professional you trust. Your doctor, a mental health professional, or a social worker are good places to start. Or you can call the National Institute on Drug Abuse National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Routing Service at 1-800-663-4357.

Professional addictions counselors can help you determine what kind of treatment you’ll need to conquer the addiction and learn to live a productive, addiction-free life. There are lots of options—inpatient treatment, outpatient, partial day treatment. And a big part of any treatment program is follow-up care.

Addiction to prescription medication is a growing problem. While you yourself may feel ashamed or embarrassed about it, the professionals who treat you see it as a medical problem that’s treatable. Don’t let yourself get in the way of getting better.

American Society of Addiction Medicine; National Institute on Drug Abuse;
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