What Happens When Medicine Becomes A “Drug?”

Addiction To Medications

Traditionally, drug addicts have been blamed for their addiction. Such accusations may have arisen because drug addictions were relegated to illicit drug use. Regardless of the validity or victim shaming approach of former years, today’s rising addiction rates entail a different story. When prescription drugs as advised by a doctor leads to the need for prescription drug addiction treatment centers, it seems there is a crisis concerning addiction rather than abuse.

How Prescription Medications Form Addictions

The problem with prescription medications is that people trust their doctors, nobody questions how a prescribed medicine is also a drug. Nobody expects to need prescription drug addiction recovery after taking a prescribed pill to relieve their pain.

Traditionally, morphine was used and anecdotally people described how well it relieved immediate pain while knowing it was addictive and as such could only be used temporarily during the healing process. Later developments of synthetic opiates became far more addictive and were prescribed for long term pain.

Whether an opiate or another form of medication, the unfortunate truth is that modern medicines are prescribed far too lightly. With this comes addiction and the need for prescription drug abuse treatment centers.

There is little debate about the legitimate need for such medications or how they help the recipient. Such an addiction both is and is not the same as an addiction to illegal street drugs. Although the route to addiction was different and the motivations may vary, the addiction itself is similar with slight individual nuances which help determine how prescription drug abuse treatment might be similar to treatment for recreational drug abuse.

Balancing Medical Problems with Drug Use

The paradox prescription drug abuse treatment centers face is how to balance the need for a patient’s pain management while also treating their addiction. There isn’t a simple solution, as no doctor is going to allow their patient to suffer whether because of pain from a previous injury or disease or through the suffering that comes with addiction. As far as such a concept goes, prescription drugs for mental illness, for example, or insomnia can follow the same guidelines as painkillers.

The bottom line is that prescription drug abuse recovery relies on a balance between relieving the patient’s suffering with a lower dose of less intrusive medicine as needed, therapy and counseling, and an open mind toward finding an appropriate balance between necessary medications and overuse of drugs.

Common Prescription Drug Addictions

There are prescription drugs such as Seroquel, which although quite addictive, is needed for schizophrenic and bipolar disorders. More common are benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Klonopin, or painkillers such as OxyContin or Vicodin.

The solution is determined by the issues at hand. There might not be a solution for someone with a mental illness which is a potential danger to themselves or others without proper medication. Likewise, someone with severe injuries and ongoing daily pain might have an actual need for medication in spite of the ill side effects of the prescription. The good news is those cases are rare, more often a crutch or excuse used by addicts who are unwilling to part with the drugs they have come to rely on. 

Prescription drug addiction treatment centers have the facilities and trained professionals to find alternate solutions for nearly all of such cases through a mixed remedy of counseling and physical therapy as appropriate.

Dangers of Withdrawal

Prescription drugs are arguably the most dangerous of addictions to withdraw from without the help of formal prescription drug abuse treatment. They don’t only cause a psychological addiction but cause the physical body to rely on them to function. Withdrawal without supervision can result in an extremely difficult experience.

Each case is different, but prescription drug abuse treatment centers will monitor each patient and either give proceeding smaller doses to wean the addict off the drug, or provide a different type of medication to relieve the effects of withdrawal while the patient’s body adapts to the chemical changes it has to endure to stop using the drug.


The bottom line is that medicine can and does become a drug for some people with all the same problems as traditional illicit drug addiction. The reasons for addiction are different and the treatment requires more creative solutions than what might apply to someone who overused recreational drugs and became addicted, but the problems the condition causes are no less severe.

There is hope, a professional treatment specialist can and will find a lasting solution to such conditions someone may find themselves in.

This page does not provide medical advice

Written by Elevate Addiction Services | ©2020 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved

Medically Reviewed by

Alok Krishna, MD

December 1, 2020

Overcome Addiction at Elevate Addiction Services
Elevate is currently offering immediate enrollment in inpatient, outpatient, or telehealth programs. Reach out today to learn more.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Table of Contents

Jump to a Section

Article Contents

Treatment Resources

Related Links