Prescription medication addiction

Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; "GP shopping" in order to access multiple prescriptions, taking more than is prescribed or taking someone else’s prescription.

Your relationship with the medication becomes characterised by obsession and compulsion. The time you spend thinking about your next dose of the medication, and planning how you will get it.


Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; “GP shopping” in order to access multiple prescriptions, taking more than is prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e. to get high).

In Australia, two categories of prescription drugs are most commonly abused: Benzodiazepines and Analgesics. Benzodiazepines are minor tranquilisers and are most often prescribed by doctors to relieve anxiety or help people sleep. Benzodiazepines include drugs under the popular brand names Valium, Xanax, and Serepax. Analgesics are medications used to relieve pain. Opioid analgesics such as Codeine and Oxycodone are the most commonly abused analgesics due to their ability to create sensations of euphoria.

Many people assume that because a doctor prescribes a drug, it is safe to take, even in doses and ways other than how it was originally intended. However, prescription drugs act directly or indirectly on the same brain systems affected by illicit drugs so they carry the same risk of addiction, and can lead to a variety of other adverse health effects if misused.

People misuse prescription medications for a variety of reasons: to manage anxiety, pain (emotional or physical), or sleep problems; to counter the side effects of illicit drugs (used as uppers or downers), to enhance performance, or to get ‘high.’


Your relationship with the medication becomes characterised by obsession and compulsion. The obsession refers to the way you think about the medication – the time you spend thinking about your next dose of the medication, and planning how you will get the next prescription. The compulsion refers to loss of control over your impulse to take the medication, resulting in your continuing to take the medication even when you have good reasons for stopping.

There are two main ways that a prescription drug addiction presents:

  1. Regular or habitual use: Characterised by using your medication on a daily or near daily basis accompanied by the signs and symptoms below.
  2. Binge or ‘bender,’ or ‘heavy episodic medication use’: Episodic patterns of heavy use of the medication, often with periods of medication free days or weeks between.

Prescription drug addiction is far more complex than just the behaviour of taking too much medication for too long. That is the ‘drug problem.’ The reason that it is so difficult to just stop using the medications inappropriately is because there is also a ‘thinking problem’ which accompanies and drives the excessive medication taking behaviour. Both these aspects need to be addressed at the same time to support long-term recovery from the disease of addiction.

If you are worrying about when you’ll be able to access more of the prescription drug, needing to take more to get the same effect, hiding your prescription or lying about what you are taking, or stealing prescriptions intended for others – then it’s likely you have a problem.

Please reach out for support and discuss how you can get help in this situation.

Do I have a problem with prescription drugs? If any of these signs resonate – you can do this quick prescription drug addiction test to raise your awareness.


Most people struggling with prescription drug addiction will need professional treatment in order to overcome their addiction.

Prescription drug addiction affects the brain in the same way as other addictions such as alcoholism or addiction to illegal drugs and may require detox in addition to intensive psycho-therapeutic treatment.

If you’re ready to admit you have a problem, you’ve already taken the first step. It takes tremendous courage to face addiction head on. The next step is for you to reach out for support. Support is essential and you do not need to struggle alone with this disease.

Withdrawing from prescription drugs can be challenging, uncomfortable and even dangerous and for this reason a professionally supervised detox is strongly recommended.
In order to stay drug-free for the long term, you’ll also have to face the underlying problems that may have led to your behaviour in the first place.

Treatment at South Pacific Private involves group therapy as well as input from an experienced multidisciplinary team (such as GPs and Psychiatrists). The team will support you but also guide you through a process of awareness to face those problems. Those problems could include depression, unresolved trauma, or any number of mental health concerns.

Treatment at South Pacific Private for addiction is complex and thorough and may involve the following components:

  • Group therapy (seeing a Psychotherapist daily as part of a group)
  • Peer/support group attendance (support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Medication management (particular medicines that can help with withdrawal symptoms)

Take the first step towards changing your life today. Contact the Client Care Team today on 1800 063 332 or email info@southpacificprivate.com.au

South Pacific Private is here to help when you or someone you love experiences difficulties with addictions, trauma or with mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.

PETER: I was medicating my pain and using chemicals to ensure that would happen… I reached the stage where the drugs weren’t working anymore and I arrived at South Pacific Private in a state of complete despair.


Find out if you have a problem

The goal of our self-tests is not to provide you with a diagnosis for yourself or for someone you care about. Instead, they are an opportunity for you to better understand how a behaviour might be impacting upon your life or the life of your family. Use these tests to enhance your awareness of what the problem might be. These tests should be answered honestly in order to provide accurate insight and are a chance for you to reflect upon the current situation.


Find out if you have a problem.
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