Are You Or A Loved One Addicted To Prescription Drugs?

Over the last number of years, prescription drug abuse has boomed in the United States. In part because of unscrupulous doctors and pharmaceutical companies, many prescription drugs were marketed as safe and non-addictive to Americans, when in fact they were the opposite. Pharmacists could sometimes intervene, but had no way of knowing when abuse was occurring. Many people never knew that the Oxycontin or Vicodin was nearly chemically identical to heroin. 

This, in part, has caused a boom in addiction in the US. In some places where prescription was particularly unscrupulous, there were more pills prescribed than people by factors of dozens. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, nearly a million people have died from opioid overdoses alone since 1999.  

But opioids are not the only prescription drugs people abuse. People also abuse stimulants such as Adderall or anxiety medication such as Xanax. Simply because these drugs are prescribed by a doctor doesn’t mean that they are safe to use under all circumstances. While they can be safe— and are moral and effective when used properly to treat pain and other ailments— they come with risks. 

If you think you or someone you know may be addicted to prescription drugs, Riverwalk Recovery can help. We offer many treatments for people with addictions to prescription drugs, and we can help you or your loved ones get back on track to leading normal, healthy lives. 

Below, you’ll find some facts and information on prescription drugs which are commonly abused, signs of prescription drug abuse, and treatments that can help those with addiction. 

The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs come in three categories. 


Drugs such as Vicodin, and Oxycontin are all opiate derivatives, which means they are chemically similar to Opium and Heroin, and come from the Opium Poppy. Nowadays, these drugs are mostly synthesized rather than coming from poppies. These drugs can cause feelings of euphoria, calm, pain relief and relaxation, but are among the most addictive substances known to mankind. 


These are drugs used to Treat ADD and ADHD, such as Aderoll, Ritalin, and Dexedrine. Many of these drugs are chemically similar to what is called “speed” on the street. They cause feelings similar to other stimulants, such as euphoria, energy, reduced appetite, and alertness. These drugs can also be extremely addictive. 


These drugs are often prescribed as anti anxiety medications, and consist of drugs such as Valium, Xanax, and Ambien. They can cause feelings of drowsiness, calm, and relaxation. These are particularly dangerous when taken with alcohol or opioids and can be addictive when not used properly. 

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Because these three different categories of drugs have different effects, they have different signs and symptoms of use and abuse


Symptoms include nausea, constipation, drowsiness (including “nodding out” or falling asleep at inappropriate times), and confusion. Overdose is especially common with these drugs, and can be treated with NARCAN. Symptoms of overdose include purple lips, extremely constricted pupils, cold skin, gurgling sounds, slow or weak breathing, inability to wake up. If you suspect someone is having an overdose call for an ambulance immediately and administer NARCAN if available. 


Symptoms include fast or irregular heartbeat, alertness, dilated pupils, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, and paranoia. Symptoms of a stimulant overdose include racing pulse, sweating, non-responsiveness, chest pain, convulsions, nausea. If you suspect someone is having a stimulant overdose, call an ambulance immediately. 


Symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness, problems walking and with coordination, memory issues, slurring of speech, slow or weak breathing. Symptoms of a sedative overdose include impaired balance, slurred speech, and not being able to be woken up. Again, these drugs are particularly dangerous when paired with alcohol or opiates.

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment 

Prescription drug abuse treatment is similar to the treatment of other addiction disorders, with some differences for opiates in particular, as they can cause particularly severe addictions. 

Treatment includes detoxification, usually with a tapering method which entails taking lower and lower doses of the drug over time, supervised by a doctor. After the initial withdrawal period counseling can start, with many different methods available, including cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and other therapies. Many people also choose to go to support meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous. These two stages can be performed in an inpatient center, commonly known as “rehab”, or as outpatients. 

Once the addict has been sober for some time, aftercare is very common, and includes attending sobriety meetings, check-ins, sober buddies and mentors, lifestyle changes, etc. 

For opiates, some people take medication which can mimic the effects without the danger and the feelings of being “high”. This medication can be distributed as a pill taken daily and as a shot taken monthly, with some other arrangements available as well.   

We want to stress, these addictions are all treatable. Addiction is a disease, and these diseases can be treated. Help is available. 

Help For Prescription Drug Abuse

If you think you or a loved one may be addicted to prescription drugs, call us right away at (423) 264-2600 and we can help you or your loved one get the treatment they may need. While these diseases are treatable, they often require professional help, and we’re more than happy to provide it. 

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