Clay Cutts, L.C.S.W. | Is Prescription Drug Addiction Just A Question of Moderation?

Is Prescription Drug Addiction Just A Question of Moderation?

Prescription drug addiction means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed.

If a little of something makes you feel pretty good, wouldn’t a lot of something make you feel much better?

While that argument is logically sound, it has some obvious practical problems. I’m talking about prescription drug addiction, of course. Thank God we live in a time of science where strong pain killers are available to treat serious injuries.

Some of us have to be very careful with prescription drugs, though. Like I once told a doctor who wanted to prescribe some narcotic for back pain…

Me: “I don’t want you to give me anything that makes me ‘feel’ different.”
Doc: “This stuff will knock out your pain so you can work.”
Me: “I know, but I’ll probably like it so much I’ll get addicted.”
Doc: “I trust you!”
Me: “You can trust me to pay you back $20 I borrow and you can trust me to babysit your kids. But you CANNOT trust me with anything that makes me artificially feel good.”
Doc: “Are you sure?”
Me: “I am. When I feel that sensation, I lose all control.”
Doc: “How about some Tylenol?”

Some classes of drugs are more commonly abused and lead to prescription drug addiction…opioids (for pain), central nervous system depressants (for anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (for ADHD and narcolepsy).


Opioids include hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (OxyContin®), propoxyphene (Darvon®), hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), meperidine (Demerol®), and diphenoxylate (Lomotil®). Using opiods for a long time can definitely lead to physical dependence and addiction.

In the short term, opioids cause drowsiness, constipation, and sometimes depressed breathing.

Central nervous system depressants

Central nervous system depressants include barbiturates such as pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®), and benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium®) and alprazolam (Xanax®).

CNS depressants can also lead to addiction. These drugs slow down brain function. They are dangerous by themselves, but when combined with other similar medications or with alcohol they can be deadly.


Stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®), methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®), and amphetamines (Adderall®).

Stimulants can cause anxiety, paranoia, very high body temperatures, irregular hearbeat and seizures. Wow…as I read over this list it’s hard to imagine anyone opening up a little orange bottle, licking their lips and digging in. But, that’s what we do.

Whether you are an athlete who got hooked on Demerol after an injury, an over-worked mom using Ritalin to get by or just a curious guy who thought he would see if Xanax would improve your beer buzz, prescription drug addiction affects us all the same.

Like any addiction, prescription drug addiction can make life total hell on earth.

Please know that there is a solution. Not everyone is ready to quit. But when you are ready, all you have to do is ask for help and you too can find a new freedom better than any high.

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