How People Become Addicted to Prescription Medications

How people become addicted to prescription medications

Most people are familiar with prescription medications; almost all of us have taken them at one point or another. Not all prescription medications are addicting, but a large number of them are. The medications that are considered addictive are almost always painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives, and amphetamines.

Examples of Addictive Medications:

  • Painkillers: Percodan or Vicodin
  • Tranquilizers: Xanax or Valium
  • Sedatives: Nembutal or Halicion
  • Amphetamines: Ritalin or Adderall

It is likely that individuals given a prescription medication do not intend to become addicted. They simply want to ease their pain, become less anxious, or sleep better. However, many of these people do not understand how addictive these drugs are; therefore, when they do find out that they are harmful, they have already developed an addiction. Research shows that at least 10% of people prescribed an addictive medication will become dependent upon the drug. It is important to understand why this happens, as well as, to become aware of preventative measures that one can take to avoid dependency or addiction.

Below are various factors that may cause a person to become addicted to prescription medications.

Prescription Medications are Encouraged

Unfortunately, many doctors have busy schedules and do not take enough time to do a thorough history on each patient. Instead, they will write out a prescription and tell their patient that the medication is all they need. Most people do not know any better and are so desperate to help their pain, depression, etc. that they do as the doctor says, unaware of the side effects. Oftentimes, many problems that an individual is experiencing can be treated and healed through other methods that do not include any kind of drug. In fact, simple things like improving the diet and increasing daily exercise can be a cure all on its own.

Very Effective

Most addictive prescription medications work very quickly and effectively, especially painkillers. The occurring problem is substantially reduced or eliminated not long after the pill is taken. As a result, the drug becomes the first choice for managing the problem whether it is pain, stress, or anxiety. This effectiveness causes people to become very dependent on the medication and may cause individuals to reach for the medicine bottle more often than necessary; thus causing abuse and addiction.

Blocking of Emotional Pain

Many individuals have some sort of emotional pain, even if it is subconscious. It is very common for prescription medications to block emotional pain, one way or another. Even if this blocking is not the intent of the drug, it happens anyway. This can be a very addictive feeling on its own and may cause the user to become dependent upon the medication to manage their unwanted emotions and feelings. One should understand that going to therapy or opening up to counselors can be very useful to help overcome these emotions; thus possibly preventing an addiction to medications.

Pleasurable and Relaxing

Many prescription medications cause the user to have a euphoric like feeling and/or to become in an intense relaxed state. As there is very little effort that must be put into having these feelings and they can be so delightful to some users, it is easy to understand how and why individuals can develop an addiction. Yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, and exercise are all healthier ways to become more relaxed and can be very enjoyable at the same time.


It is common for users on addictive prescription medications to develop a tolerance to the drug quite quickly when used on a regular basis. Individuals may find that they must take more of the drug to feel the same desired effect.

This is a big warning sign that the body is slowly becoming dependent upon the medication. When this happens, the individual can speak to the doctor about finding healthier options. If a tolerance has built up, it will not go down unless the user discontinues use; thus meaning that the tolerance will only increase over time, allowing an addiction to grow.

Individuals should never quit a prescription medication addiction on their own, as it can be very dangerous. A treatment center or rehab should always be involved when helping an individual come off of these drugs.