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It is possible to develop a dependency on some medications chosen for you by your doctor to treat pain, anxiety, sleep disorders or other conditions. Know what to expect when you are prescribed an addictive drug and how to avoid potential problems with addiction.

Prescription Drugs and Abuse

Physicians who have prescribed an addictive drug have usually done so because the medication is needed to enhance your quality of life. These drugs may include opioids, central nervous system depressants or stimulants.

Opioids are prescribed to reduce pain. When used in the short term under a doctor’s care, they most often do not lead to addiction. But when long-term use occurs or the patient does not closely follow dosing instructions, the risk of addiction increases. Ninety-one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. 1

CNS depressants for anxiety and sleep disorders, when taken for an extended period of time, can lead to increased dosages in order to achieve the same effect as tolerance develops, marking a path toward addiction.

Stimulants for treating ADD, ADHD, depression and other issues can increase heart rate, disturb sleep rhythms and heighten body temperatures. When prescribed an addictive drug like this, potential exists for misuse and addiction.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

At first, you may not be aware that you’re heading toward a dependence upon the medication you’ve been prescribed. Indications of abuse and addiction include:

  • If you begin taking more pills than the amount prescribed by your doctor
  • If you take these medications for reasons other than what they were prescribed for—such as to achieve feelings of euphoria or just out of boredom
  • If you ask your medical professional for more frequent refills
  • If you request an increase in dosage
  • If you try to obtain prescriptions from more than one physician and use different pharmacies to fill them

How to Stay Safe When Prescribed an Addictive Drug

There are a few things you can do to decrease the risk of dependency and addiction when you are prescribed an addictive drug. The Food and Drug Administration has issued guidelines for consumers to help prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.2 Some of these safety measures include:

  • Adhere to the instructions on your medication’s label regarding dosage amounts and frequencies. Do not adjust dosages without first speaking with your physician.
  • Do not suddenly discontinue medications on your own. Depending on dosage and frequency, you may experience severe complications, such as seizures.
  • Never crush or divide pills, especially if they are time-released capsules.
  • Be aware of potentially dangerous interactions with other drugs and alcohol.
  • Understand the effects these drugs have on your ability to drive and perform other tasks and then act accordingly.
  • Speak frankly with your doctor about any history you may have with drug use or abuse.

A devastating prescription drug addiction can be avoided when you maintain a frank and honest relationship with your clinician and with yourself.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
  2. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm095673.htm
What You Need to Know When You’re Prescribed an Addictive Drug
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