For years it took many people by surprise, but more and more people are becoming aware that dozens of the medications that doctors prescribe can be addictive. Whether through misuse or prolonged use of a drug, a physical and psychological dependence can develop.
Close to 150,000 people were admitted into a substance abuse treatment program in the U.S. in 2015 for abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. That’s right: Many people go to rehab that don’t even have a problem with alcohol or illegal drug use.
Before you go to rehab, your program may require you, or a medical expert may suggest, to undergo professional detox treatment first. This will help keep you stable and relatively comfortable as your body goes through acute withdrawal. Continue reading to find out which prescription drugs require detox treatment at the start of recovery.
Prescription Medications that Require Medical Detox
There are three main categories of prescription drugs that typically require detox treatment once somebody is addicted. This is because strong withdrawal symptoms will ensue once an addicted individual runs out of their supply or purposely tries to abstain from the prescribed drug.
Without further ado, here are the three classes of prescription drugs we’re alluding to:
Prescription Opioid Detox
Prescription opioid medications come from the same family of drugs as heroin. Some are natural, and some are synthetic or semi-synthetic. They all possess painkilling properties, and they tend to elicit varying degrees of euphoria.
Opioids are the most culpable when it comes to people entering a rehabilitation program for prescription drug addiction. In fact, prescription opioids were responsible for more than 121,000 of the nearly 150,000 treatment program admissions in 2015 that we mentioned earlier.
Now, that doesn’t mean that all of those individuals were taking them exactly as prescribed. Some misused them or took larger doses than recommended. Others borrowed or stole from a friend or family member who had been prescribed these drugs for a legitimate purpose. Some found other means to obtain more pills once their prescription ran out, such as through the black market or by “doctor shopping.”
The most common prescription opioids to be familiar with (and their brand names) include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic, Subsys, Abstral)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet Norco)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo, Palladone)
- Morphine (MS Contin, Kadian, Avinza, Roxanol)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Tramadol (Ultram, Ryzolt)
Prescription opioids can be addictive because the brain actually has opioid receptors, which respond to these drugs with pain-relieving or pain-blocking effects, as well as a rush of dopamine. Prolonged opioid use tends to rewire the brain to the point where you’re used to a certain sensation and can’t deal with pain well without these drugs.
Opioid withdrawal doesn’t have a high mortality rate, but we still recommend medical detox, as the process is highly uncomfortable. Potential withdrawal symptoms include muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, agitation and intense cravings.
Prescription Sedative Detox
Prescription sedatives actually describe a handful of different prominent groups of drugs. Medical experts also refer to these as tranquilizers – or central nervous system (CNS) depressants, to be more specific.
Prescription sedatives include the following types of drugs:
- Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety meds such as Xanax, Valium and Klonopin)
- Sleeping pills (such as Ambien, Halcion and Lunesta; also known as sleep aids)
- Barbiturates (drugs such as Seconal, Nembutal and Amytal that treat headaches, insomnia and seizures)
CNS depressants are highly addictive and usually only prescribed for a short period of time, such as a few weeks. Exactly 14,000 Americans entered a rehab program for benzodiazepine addiction in 2015, and an additional 1,100-plus people went to rehab for barbiturate abuse.
Benzodiazepines and other CNS depressants make for one of the sneakiest forms of addiction. Many users are unaware that they have developed an addiction at all. These drugs typically don’t have the same outwardly effects of addiction as substances like heroin, alcohol and cocaine do; however, the user has just as hard of a time trying to stop.
Withdrawal from a CNS depressant drug poses a significant risk for death, so do not try to detox without medical supervision. When addicted, the brain is so used to having benzos or a CNS depressant that suddenly removing them will cause a major shock to the system.
Potential acute withdrawal symptoms include headaches, muscle pain, nausea, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, insomnia, seizures, coma and death. Professional detox treatment can help keep you stable and avoid the risk of death during this time.
Prescription Stimulant Detox
The last major group of prescription medications that typically warrant detox treatment is stimulants. These prescription drugs speed up the central nervous system and treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy.
The most prominent types of prescription stimulants include:
- Amphetamines (such as Adderall)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
- Desoxyn (a legal prescription version of methamphetamine that can treat ADHD and obesity)
Patients rely on stimulants for alertness, focus and energy. After prolonged use of one of these drugs, the brain becomes unable to produce normal levels of dopamine on its own. More than 8,000 people entered a rehab program in the U.S. in 2015 for abuse of amphetamines or other prescription stimulants.
When trying to suddenly quit stimulant use, many people will feel withdrawal symptoms that are on the opposite spectrum of the effects the drug usually provides. Potential prescription stimulant withdrawal symptoms include trouble concentrating, fatigue, sleeplessness, muscle pain, tremors, anxiety, intense mood swings and extreme cravings.
Acute stimulant withdrawal is not as being as deadly as that of prescription sedatives, according to addiction experts, but it’s still a highly uncomfortable and disorienting time. Relapse is a major risk due to the strong cravings. Thus, we recommend professional detox treatment in all cases of prescription stimulant addiction.
Seek Professional Drug Detox Treatment
If you’re legitimately addicted to any substance, professional detox is recommended in almost every case, even for drugs that aren’t known for strong withdrawal symptoms, such as antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin, etc.).
At the very least, medical detox will help flush the toxins out of your system that have accumulated throughout your months or years of using a prescription drug, and a medical professional will be there to make sure the withdrawal process goes as smoothly as possible.
Maryland Recovery is big believer in putting new clients through medical detox before they embark on our long-term rehab program. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one begin walking toward a full recovery from prescription drug addiction.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.