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Prescription Pill Addictions Explained

When the topic of prescription pill addiction is raised, the first drugs that often come to mind are pain killers and some anti-anxiety medications. Although some of the most common, these are not the only prescription medications people abuse. Other drugs, including opioids, benzodiazepines, sedatives, and stimulant drugs, also add to the number of annual prescription drug addiction cases. 

In 2017, data showed more than 18 million people over the age of 12 had misused prescription medications in the last year. That equates to approximately 6% of the United States population. Of those, only a small percentage will seek or complete addiction treatment, further adding to the number of people struggling with pill addictions nationwide. Although current data is not available, it is likely safe to assume, based on historical information, these numbers have only continued to rise over the last few years.

Are Prescription Pills Addictive?

If misused, prescription drugs can be dangerous, even lethal, depending on the drug and the dose taken. It is for this reason that they are only available by prescription and after a comprehensive medical evaluation. Unfortunately, over the past decade, the volume of prescriptions written for opioids and other prescription drugs skyrocketed, resulting in a significant increase in “available” drugs outside of legal prescriptions. 

Prescription medications are designed to target specific conditions; however, they also impact the body and mind in other ways. Opioids are generally considered the most addictive prescription drugs. When taken (even correctly), many of these drugs have mind-altering effects similar to those of street drugs. The effects on your brain are achieved through impacts on the neurotransmitters in the brain. Instead of sending pain or displeasure messages, the drugs block those signals resulting in feelings of euphoria and happiness over pain and displeasure. 

They also cause the build-up of other chemicals in the brain, helping you feel energetic and “up.” When abused, these drugs lead to an increase in the chemicals that cause pleasure. It is easy to become addicted to the feelings these drugs provide, and without addiction treatment, it can be challenging to achieve the same feelings of pleasure and energy without the use of substances.

Commonly Abused Prescription Pills

Unfortunately, many who develop an addiction to prescription pills do so after being prescribed the medication for a legitimate reason. Also, many teens and young adults believe prescription drugs to be “safer” than other drugs because a medical professional prescribes them; therefore, they are more likely to look to those substances for use and misuse. Prescription pill abuse often occurs in four categories of drugs.


Opioids or prescription painkillers are prescribed for the treatment of severe or chronic pain conditions. They are also among the most over prescribed medication classes. Common opioids include OxyContin, Lortab, Morphine, and Percocet.


Ritalin, a commonly prescribed stimulant, is typically prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy; however, it is also frequently abused due to the energizing effects it produces. Other medications similar to Ritalin include Concerta and Adderall.

Sedatives and Tranquilizers

Sedatives and tranquilizers are quite similar and generally produce the same intoxicating effects. This category includes sleeping pills, classified as sedative-hypnotics, and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are a form of prescription sedative commonly prescribed to treat anxiety symptoms or to help with insomnia. The most frequently prescribed benzodiazepines are Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin.

Reach Out to Relevance Recovery Today! 

Relevance Recovery in Freehold, NJ, can help you defeat your prescription drug addiction. Our unique, evidence-based, comprehensive approach treats the whole person rather than just one specific issue. Through this treatment model, we can ensure treatment addresses your physical and your mental health. You can contact us anytime with any questions you may have about prescription drug addiction, substance abuse, and how to begin treatment in any of our addiction treatment programs. 

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