Prescription Drug Rehab: Why it is needed, detox, treatment and aftercare

How do people get addicted to prescription drugs and so need rehab?

Availability of prescription drug medication

The internet has not helped people who have a tendency to abuse prescription drugs, although they may at first think that it really does help them. When a GP writes a prescription for short term use of a particular drug, for example for anxiety, and in accordance with due diligence will not renew a further prescription because the drug is for short term use only, some of us will decide to take matters into our own hands and order more of the medication via the internet, where a prescription is not required.  

pharmacist dispensing prescription drugs

After a while, our body will not only become tolerant to the drug, but we will have become dependent on the medication and will be taking more to achieve what we see as a beneficial effect. We will also undoubtedly have become addicted to the medication.

Self diagnosis of a health problem

People will also use the internet to try and understand their health issues as well as to go online and buy prescription medication. The vast majority of websites selling medicines are not registered as pharmacies so buying anything from them would be unsafe.  The medicines that they are selling could be out of date, diluted or just fake, which, by taking them, could be dangerous to your health. This has escalated due to the difficulty that there is in getting an appointment with a GP.

Since Covid, trying to get an appointment with a GP has, in parts of the country, become extremely difficult so people are starting to also self-diagnose their health problem and order medications from illegal websites, that they think they need for their self-diagnosed illness. 

At The Haynes Clinic we will admit people who have self-extended a doctor’s prescription by buying medication from an illegal website and we will also help people who have simply purchased medication off the internet and have then become addicted to its use.

Addiction to benzodiazepines including diazepam, alprazolam and lorazepam

One of the most common admissions to rehab for a prescription drug addiction is for extended use of a drug from the benzodiazepine family. In the past it was common for someone to be allowed continued repeat prescriptions for a drug such as Diazepam which is part of the Benzodiazepine family and can be prescribed for anxiety. However, now with “GP due diligence” this does not normally happen, and people will therefore extend their Diazepam use by buying directly off the internet as they don’t want to stop taking the drug as they like – or think they need – the effect it has on them.

The central nervous system continuously transmits electrical signals through the brain and nerves.  These electrical signals can become overactive and psychologically this abnormal activity can make individuals feel anxious or restless and even prevent them from sleeping. Short term use of Diazepam (also known as Valium) can rectify this issue.  However, long term use can actually reverse the effectiveness of the drug and can interfere with the normal functioning of the nervous system and actually produce effects that the drug was originally prescribed for but on a higher scale. One of the withdrawal effects of suddenly stopping taking Diazepam or Valium is the high risk of seizures which is a very dangerous withdrawal symptom.

The importance of a medically supervised detox

If you have an addiction to a prescription medication such as diazepam, you will need a medically supervised detox

The safest way to stop taking any medication, that was originally prescribed and that now we have become addicted to, is to be admitted to a residential rehab.

A prescription medication detox is the longest of any clinically overseen detoxification. An alcohol detox and heroin detox take about 10 days and a Benzodiazepine detox  can take 6 weeks or longer. It can take 10 – 14 days if the level of use is low and not long term but, for most people, the use has built up over a period of months, if not years, and the amounts taken can be extremely high (enough to kill anyone who has not built up a tolerance).

The key to any successful prescription drug detox is being admitted into a safe clinical environment such as an addiction clinic or drug rehab where we can be administered the drug we are being detoxed from, on a reducing scale over a period of time, and with our care being overseen by the clinical team. 

Prescription drug rehab involves therapy as well as a detox

As with any addiction, the therapy for prescription medication addiction will likely be based on the principles of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The only word being changed will be from Step 1 “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  The step one wording will simply involve changing the word alcohol to, for example, Diazepam.   

Prescription drug rehab will require the individual to engage with the daily structured therapy programme.  There will be work around the 12 Steps but also written work on our understanding of the steps. There will be group therapy and a degree of 1/1 with a therapist to help us move on with any issues that we may be experiencing or that may have led to our addiction in the first place.

A prescription drug addiction will affect the individual in similar ways to any other addiction in that it will ultimately affect our main life areas of work, physical health, mental health, finances, family and relationships.

In prescription drug rehab, part of the programme will be to break down any denial we may have in terms of damage and harm that our prescription drug addiction has caused us and others around us.  Looking at our denial can be achieved within the safe environment of a rehab or clinic where professionally qualified therapists can help us on our journey to Recovery. It is important to see that there is a need to change our thinking and behaviour in order to get well and that we are able to manage without a medication that may in the past have been prescribed to benefit us, but that that ended up having a completely detrimental effect on our lives and those around us.

The importance of Aftercare for people with prescription medication addiction

By being in residential treatment for say approximately 6 weeks at The Haynes Clinic, there is the added benefit of being offered, free of charge, 12 months of Aftercare. This is basically ongoing support which is one day at week extended care by attending the clinic or for those that live further afield a session of Zoom meetings. This weekly engagement with people that we have come to know and trust can be critical for our ongoing wellbeing and support and in making ongoing necessary life changes.

Now we have a place and people that are willing to listen and help us that we did not have before and that ongoing support can make all the difference.