Medication addiction: The Facts


One often hears of people being addicted to medication. Is it just a women-thing? What does this mean? What medication do people become addicted to? How do they get it? Who prescribes it? Why can’t they just stop?

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Medication addiction is most commonly found amongst women, but men are most certainly not excluded from this form of addiction. In fact, slowly but surely the amount of men that report for treatment of medication addiction becomes more and more. Different age groups tend to abuse different kinds of substances. With the younger group one is more likely to find abuse or addiction to slimming medication (usually it contains ephedrine and is a stimulant) and amongst the older group one often finds abuse off calming tablets (containing Benzodiazepines that creates the calming effect). Other popular medications to be abused include pain medication (containing Codeine) and cough mixtures (containing alcohol or Codeine).

It is quite difficult to treat addiction to medication due to the fact that it is so easily obtainable and that reasons for “taking” medication can be justified by illness-symptoms. A person can continue abusing medication for a very long period before other people might recognise it as a problem. A woman in her menopausal years may be going to the same doctor for months, even years, complaining of anxiety, depression and insomnia, or a person complaining of having back-ache after an operation, may be prescribed habit-forming medication for legitimate medical conditions.

Without the doctor intending to, or the patient and family realising, the patient slowly becomes addicted to the prescribed medication. It is only realised after a prolonged period, usually when it is too late, that addiction formed, both on an emotional and physical level. Some people believe that they can just leave the medication as easily as they started it. Withdrawal symptoms become so severe, that they believe the only option (other than treatment) left, is to start taking the medication again to relieve the physical and emotional symptoms. Following this is usually a sense of fear, guilt and even shame that they cannot go without the medication. Consequently the patient fear telling their support system or services providers that they might have developed an addiction and just continue to use the medication and trying to cope with life as an addict. It is only much later that their addiction has severely hampered the patient is his day-to-day functioning that the truth is revealed. By then the addiction and related behaviour has set in so strongly, that there is no other option than going for in-patient treatment.

The opposite side of the coin is also true. Addiction does not always happen “accidently” or without realising. Sometimes a person might go in search for specific medication to obtain a specific effect, e.g. Slimming medication.

Ephedrine is usually the main ingredient and it not only has the effect of suppressing the appetite, but also of increasing energy levels. Ideal if one wants to “party” all night, have to study all night or drive very long distances. If one takes too much, it can always be “balanced” with a depressant such as a sleeping or calming tablet. Most of the mentioned medication is prescribed by a doctor. Sometimes patients have more than one doctor prescribing medication (the one not knowing of the other), they have more than one pharmacy where medication is obtained from and they even forge prescriptions, steal prescription pads or “make” their own on the computer. It is never wise to withdraw at home as it is a medical risk. A patient might suffer seizures, high blood pressure or similar high risk medical conditions. Withdrawal should always be done under medical supervision, preferably by someone with some experience with substance abuse and with emotional support.

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