Why do people who have been prescribed medication need prescription drug rehabilitation?

Fear of coming off medication

One of the main reasons people with a prescription drug addiction delay in getting help is because they have been specifically prescribed the medication by their GP in the first place and they are mentally struggling with how they are going to manage if they come off it. This is also one of the reasons why they stayed on the medication longer than was prescribed in the first place.

Side effects of prescription medication addiction

Staying on a prescription of certain medications for longer than medical guidelines then puts the individual at risk of experiencing unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects such as:

Tolerance. Higher dosages of the prescription drug are needed in order to continue benefitting from or experiencing the pharmacological effects.

Dependence. The brain’s structure alters over time and will develop a dependence on the medication in order to keep functioning. In addition we will experience withdrawal effects from a lowering of the level of the drug within our system.

Drug resistance. Eventually the prescription drugs will have little or no effect, except to hold off withdrawal from the drug. This will lead to a return of the symptoms that the medication was prescribed for in the first place and quite often of a more severe nature. 


Reluctance to ask a GP for help for addiction to prescription medication

GPs are far more aware, due to current medical legislation, of the dangers of continuing prescribing certain medication and therefore if we have extended the taking of a medication beyond the end date then we have clearly sourced the drugs from the internet or an illegal source. Alternatively, there is also the risk that when a prescription has stopped then we could then resort to increasing the amount of alcohol we are drinking and then the alcohol becomes the problem.   It is because of this that we are reluctant to go back to our GP and ask for help and we often do not want to have our actions documented on our medical report.  It is generally at this final stage that we at The Haynes Clinic can be asked for direction, help and advice.

Difficulty detoxing from prescription medication

The fact is that it is extremely difficult to cut back or introduce a reducing regime within the home environment and this will usually mean many unsuccessful attempts which lead to depressive moods and episodes and a feeling of failure. Generally, the only way to stop taking addictive medication or for a detox from prescription medication to successfully work is within the safety of a supportive residential drug rehab or detox clinic. 

The benefits of addiction rehab for prescription medication detox

Within the safe environment of a detox clinic people will be mixing with others who will be in a similar situation: their thinking and actions have led to a detrimental effect on their health, ability to work, finances, and relationships with family and friends. 

The key component of any residential drug  rehab or addictions clinic is a daily structured plan of therapy with groups being overseen and facilitated by therapists. Some clinics such as The Haynes Clinic also introduce yoga, meditation, going to the gym and swimming into a varied daily timetable. The overall purpose of addiction treatment is to change our addictive thinking. This can be emotionally stressful and draining so yoga and exercise help relieve tension. In the future they also can become part of a healthy lifestyle.

Whilst the therapy is predominately CBT based, the programme is orientated around the 12 Step programme of Alcoholic Anonymous which has been adopted by other areas of addiction as a role model for Recovery.   Out of the whole of the 12 Steps there is only word that would need to change for prescription medication addiction and that would be in the first Step.  The first Step reads “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” We only need to change the word alcohol to prescription medication or medication purchased over the internet and thus the 12 Steps become applicable to our own addiction.

The question is often asked “why do I need to be in a residential addiction rehab or detox clinic for continuing taking medication when the prescription has stopped.”  The simple answer to that is that our behaviour and thinking has changed to that of an addict in which we need to continue with the drug/ medication at all costs.

One of the problems with any medication is that it has usually been prescribed by a GP for a particular condition. If we have done nothing to address the cause of that condition, then we are going to worry about how we are going to manage without the medication when the prescription ends. This is why it is so important that with an original diagnosis of, for example, anxiety for which we get prescribed a potentially addictive medication such as Diazepam that apart from taking the medication we should also try and access therapy.  This should go alongside the prescription medication to try and help with the root cause of what is causing the anxiety in our life in the first place. 

Certainly within the safe environment of a residential detox unit we will be able, through written work or participating in group discussion, to address our issues. We will be given an opportunity to trust the process and discuss situations or episodes in our life that we have not been able to openly discuss before.  It is within this environment that we will not feel judged or criticised.

The point for anyone with a prescription drug addiction is that, in going to inpatient rehabilitation, they are able to communicate their worries and fears and their life experiences to get advice, help and direction from others. For the first time in their lives, apart from the feeling of being understood, they also feel that there is now a way forward without relying on medication which has gone from being of assistance to becoming their main problem in life.