Prescription Drug Addiction: What Are the Causes?

prescription drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, prescription drug addiction

The Facts About Prescription Drug Addiction

When thinking of people addicted to drugs, most assume that they are addicted to illegal street drugs. However, this is increasingly becoming untrue. Instead, large numbers of people fighting addiction are actually struggling with prescription drug addiction.

The statistics related to prescription drug addiction are staggering. In research released by PDFW, over 50 million people have abused prescription drugs in their lifetime. This issue is especially prevalent in America, as the country is responsible for three-quarters of the world’s prescription drug use. These statistics speak to the addictive qualities of prescription drugs.

With prescription drug abuse running rampant, the question of “why” arises. How and why are so many people grappling with prescription drug addiction?

Unfortunately, there is not one clear answer, but a combination of many factors. In order to better understand prescription drug addiction and why it occurs, these factors must be looked at in depth.

Accidental Prescription Drug Addiction

A large number of users addicted to prescription drugs become addicted accidentally. This is due to the reliance on prescription drugs by the medical industry. Doctors are quick to treat pain and mental illnesses with prescription drugs.

Often, the amount of drugs prescribed by doctors is the amount patients begin taking. With time, the drugs have less of an effect as tolerance is built. When the tolerance is built, patients tell their doctors that the medicine is losing effect. Unfortunately, doctors are sometimes willing to increase the dosage. This increase in dosage leads to dependency, which then leads to addiction.

Another reason patients become addicted to prescription drugs is to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Some patients take medications regularly until their initial symptoms go away.

However, if they attempt to stop taking the prescription drugs they were using, they often experience withdrawal symptoms. To avoid these withdraws, patients will continue the medication, eventually becoming addicted.


Another factor that leads to people becoming addicted to prescription drugs is self-medication. Self-medication occurs when a user is given a prescription drug by a friend or family member. This is especially prevalent among teens with the use of prescription amphetamines. With high education demands, students are always looking for an edge. Many of their peers are prescribed amphetamines to treat ADD and ADHD. Students begin using these prescription drugs for tests and eventually become addicted.

Another way users self-medicate is by stealing prescription drugs from medicine cabinets. For example, a relative may have recovered from an injury without consuming all of their prescribed drug. Teens or illegal drug users will then steal their relative’s prescription drugs and develop an addiction.

Mental Health

Mental health issues are associated with becoming addicted to prescription drugs. People who suffer from anxiety, for example, have a high likelihood of being prescribed a prescription narcotic like Xanax. While this does treat anxiety issues, users may become dependent and addicted to the drug. Once addiction occurs, a plethora of negative effects like illegal drug use and chemical dependency may occur.

People who struggle with mental health face enough issues and addiction to a prescription drug can become yet another setback in their lives—a setback that could have been avoided if they were not prescribed narcotics or addictive medications such as benzodiazepines.

Chemical Dependency

Chemical dependency is one of the biggest factors in prescription drug addiction. Chemical dependency occurs when your brain’s limbic system is altered by continued prescription drug use and abuse. Chemical dependency might not be apparent until users attempt to stop taking their prescription drugs. They then may begin feeling symptoms of withdrawal.

Symptoms of prescription drug withdraw are varied. They include feelings of anxiousness and depression. Insomnia or trouble sleeping is another sign of prescription drug withdrawal. Some users have reported muscle pains and spasms. In more severe cases, diarrhea and vomiting can occur.

Once chemical dependency occurs, it can be extremely difficult to break the cycle of addiction. Unfortunately, users who had no intention of using addictive drugs before being prescribed, become chemically dependent on deadly drugs.


Prescription drug addiction is a serious issue with many contributing factors. People become addicted to prescription drugs accidentally after being prescribed the drug. Others become addicted by self-medicating or stealing loved-ones prescriptions. Individuals with mental health issues are often prescribed benzodiazepines that lead to addiction. Finally, some become chemically dependent on the prescription drug.

With so many factors leading to prescription drug addiction, it is important to be aware of how and why people become addicted. Knowing this information can be the difference in going down a path of addiction.

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