What Do I Do If I’m Addicted to a Medication I Need?

What Do I Do If I’m Addicted to a Medication I Need?

For individuals with legitimate medical needs there can be a difference between dependence and actual addiction

Prescription drug addiction is a growing problem in the US and around the world. Millions of people become dependent on the following types of medication every year:

  • Painkillers
  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiety medications
  • Sleeping aids
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Amphetamines (Ritalin and other ADHD medications)

Any of these substances can be abused recreationally. That type of obvious abuse leads to addiction very quickly. For many people, however, the medication they become dependent on is something they need – or at least believe that they need. Knowing how to respond to a chemical dependence on a medication that has been prescribed to you is very important.

Dependence Vs. Addiction

For individuals with legitimate medical needs there can be a difference between dependence and actual addiction. If you suffer from chronic long-term pain, for instance, you may require a certain amount of pain medication in order to function. If you stop taking the medication the pain will return. This means, simply put, that you depend on the medication for relief. While this may suggest that the underlying source of your pain is not being dealt with effectively, it does not necessarily mean that you are addicted. If your pain disappeared, would you still depend on that medication? It may be hard to know the answer to that question.

There are some conditions, such as various cancers, that cause pain that cannot be dealt with outside medication. In most cases, however, medical relief of pain, anxiety, depression or sleeplessness, should only take place long enough to effectively deal with the underlying disorder.

Some people experience a different level of dependence on their medication. In addition to its ability to block physical pain, for instance, opioid painkillers give users a euphoric high when first used. The same is true of most benzodiazepine anxiety, sleep or depression medications. Individuals suffering from underlying psychological challenges may become quickly addicted to these medications because of the emotional relief they provide. This happens in a part of the brain that directs behavior and shapes feelings.

The following are possible symptoms that you have become addicted to your medication:

  • You find yourself thinking about using the drug constantly, even longing for it
  • You feel panicky or irritable within a couple of hours of your most recent dose
  • You are using more of the drug than prescribed in order to feel the desired effects
  • You become emotional, angry or defensive when asked about your drug use
  • You have been dishonest with loved ones or medical professionals about your meds
  • You use alcohol or other drugs to intensify the effects of your medication

Ultimately it is only a specially trained medical or psychological doctor who can help you distinguish between manageable medication dependence and destructive medication addiction. Do not try to diagnose yourself. We can help.

Medically Supervised Detox

If you have become dependent or addicted to your medication it is absolutely critical that you do not attempt to detox on your own. Unsupervised detox can lead to seizures, coma, suicide or other dangerous results. The most effective prescription medication rehabilitation programs help wean you off your meds gradually and safely. They are often able to relieve the worst symptoms of withdrawal through the careful administration of other medications.

Another goal of medically supervised detox is to determine more effective ways of dealing with the underlying issue or issues that caused you to require strong medication in the first place. Many treatment facilities are able to find significant pain relief for their clients, for instance, through massage, acupuncture or other types of therapy. Some depression or anxiety patients are able to experience significant healing through different forms of counseling. The ultimate goal is not simply to get you off of your meds, but to comprehensively and holistically address the underlying pain or distress as well.

Lurking Co-Occurring Disorders

The importance of fully identifying and addressing underlying or co-occurring disorders cannot be overstated. You may have been given a pain medication for a slipped disc in your vertebrae, for instance, but it became a problem because of underlying symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress. You may be receiving benzodiazepine medications as a sleep aid, but also be suffering from an anxiety or personality disorder. The human mind and body is a complicated and fully interconnected system. Full healing requires an integrated approach to physical and psychological wellness. Not all treatment programs understand this, but the ones that do have become very effective at helping people end their dependence on medications and find relief on a deeper and sustained level.

24-Hour Medication Addiction Helpline

Again, when it comes to the difference between medication dependence and full-blown addiction, self-diagnosis is not wise or effective. Please call our toll-free helpline right now for answers to all of your questions and access to the most effective and proven medication abuse treatment resources in the world. Life is too short to spend it saddled with physical pain or the stress, anxiety and emotional pain of addiction. We can help. Call now.