Prescription Drug Addiction Causes

Learn about the common types, side effects, treatments, and causes of prescription drug addiction.

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction is when a person becomes physically or psychologically dependent on prescription drugs. Whether a person was prescribed these drugs or not, there is always a risk of becoming addicted when consuming prescription medication. Medication addiction is likely to occur if a person is misusing or abusing prescription pills.


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How Prescription Drugs are Misused

Prescription drugs can be misused by taking them in ways not prescribed by a doctor. Taking more than the prescribed amount or taking prescription medications that are not prescribed to you are common ways that these drugs are misused. For example, a person taking prescription medications for recreational purposes or getting high is a misuse of the drug and can lead to addiction.

What Are the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?

causes of prescription drug addiction

The three most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants.1 In addition to being the most commonly abused substances, these are also the most commonly prescribed medications by doctors. Misuse and abuse of these drugs frequently lead to addiction and health complications, so it is always essential to take medications precisely as prescribed by medical professionals. Here are some prescription drugs that are known to cause addiction: 

Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioids are prescribed to alleviate pain.2 These drugs work by blocking pain signals between the body and the brain. Consuming prescription opioids can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and happiness, which is why misuse and abuse are common. Abusing prescription opioids can be very dangerous and, in severe cases, deadly. 

Prescription Benzodiazepines

Prescription benzodiazepines are a form of sedative medication that is used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia, and epilepsy.3 Consuming prescription benzodiazepines can have a calming effect on the body and mind while creating a feeling of well-being. Long-term use of benzodiazepines is not recommended due to the risk of addiction. 

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants are used to treat narcolepsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).4 Consuming prescription stimulants can cause increased energy, euphoria, overconfidence, and enhanced alertness. The pleasant and stimulating properties of this type of substance are what make it common to misuse and abuse. Misuse of prescription stimulants can lead to addiction and health complications. 

Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction

There are several factors that are involved with a person’s risk of suffering from prescription pill addiction. Genetics, environmental factors, and the presence of mental or physical illness can all play a role in a person’s susceptibility to prescription drug addiction.


Genetics play a significant role in how susceptible a person is to addiction.5  If a person has several family members who experience addiction, this person likely has a higher risk of developing a drug addiction. Nonetheless, even if a person does have a genetic tendency towards addiction, they can combat this tendency by making conscious efforts to live a sober life.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can have a heavy influence on a person’s risk of prescription drug addiction. If someone is in an environment that involves either friends or family who abuse prescription drugs, the risk of addiction increases. Thus, a person’s peer group and family members can heavily influence their relationship to drugs and substances.

Mental or Physical Illness

Mental or physical illness can increase the risk of becoming addicted to prescription pills. A person with an illness may be prescribed drugs that can increase their risk of addiction. If not taken as prescribed, it is likely to become dependent on prescription drugs. In addition, someone experiencing an undiagnosed mental illness may be at an increased risk for addiction to prescription medication if they begin to self-medicate for issues such as anxiety or depression.

Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

There are several symptoms to look out for when identifying prescription drug abuse. If you or someone you care about is showing signs of prescription drug abuse, it’s essential to seek treatment immediately. Here are some common symptoms of prescription drug abuse:

Taking a Medication Prescribed to Someone Else

If a person is taking a medication that is prescribed to someone else, this is considered prescription drug abuse. Taking another person’s medication is extremely dangerous and can lead to adverse reactions and addiction. Therefore, prescription medication should only be consumed by someone if it is prescribed to them by a doctor.

Taking a Higher Dose of a Medication

Another symptom of prescription pill abuse is taking a higher dose of medication than the doctor had prescribed. Taking medication in amounts more than what was prescribed can be very dangerous and lead to dependence.

Taking Medication in a Different Way

Taking medication in a different way than the doctor had prescribed is a symptom of prescription drug abuse. A person should always take a prescription drug exactly as instructed by the doctor, or they will increase their risk of addiction.

Taking a Prescription Medication to Get High

If a person is taking prescription medication to get high, this is a clear symptom of prescription drug abuse. Prescription medications are not intended for a recreational high and should only be taken as prescribed by a medical professional.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment and Therapy

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment and Therapy

Prescription drug addiction treatment and therapy can help people overcome their issues with medication abuse. There are several approaches a person can take when seeking treatment for pharmaceutical drug abuse.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an approach that helps people build the cognitive skills they need to overcome prescription pill addiction.6  This type of therapy can effectively lower a person’s risk of relapse. CBT can also effectively help a person reevaluate their relationship with addictive substances.

Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapies can be used to help a person identify the causes and triggers behind their addiction.7  By addressing these triggers, a person can learn techniques to prevent rehab and build a support system in their life that facilitates sobriety. Holistic therapies often include support groups, therapy, nature therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. Many holistic therapies will involve taking a spiritual approach to healing and sobriety.