Accidental Addiction: Which Prescription Pills Can Cause Problems?


Every year, billions of Americans are given prescriptions to deal with a variety of medical problems. Since these are legal medicines, many people don’t worry about the risks of taking prescribed pills. But a number of these people end up accidentally addicted, particularly if they have been given a long-term prescription and haven’t been warned of the risks.

Here is an informational list of common classes of medications and their risks. Those who have experienced some type of prior addiction should be especially cautious before taking certain medications, as some of these drugs may be analogous to those you have previously used.


Benzodiazepines, or “Benzos,” have been routinely prescribed for anxiety, stress, depression and a host of other problems. For years, Diazepam (Valium) was hailed as a wonder drug. Clonazepam (Klonopin, Rivotril) and Alprazolam (Xanax, Xanor, Tafil) are also commonly prescribed to combat anxiety and panic attacks.

The problem is that benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous. If you use the drug long-term, withdrawal can bring about extreme pain, insomnia, disturbing nightmares, increased anxiety and even a worsening of the condition the medicine was originally prescribed to treat. Seeking professional medical help with benzo withdrawal is strongly advised.


Opioids can be used for a number of ailments, although the most common prescribed use is for pain. Opioids have a pain-calming morphine-like effect, which means they are easy to get hooked on. If you’ve ever had a heroin addiction, it’s wise not to touch this.

Partiality synthetic opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, have been increasingly problematic for users to leave behind. A fully synthetic opioid, Fentnanyl is much stronger than its non-synthetic counterparts and is highly addictive. It received headlines recently for its involvement in the death of the pop star Prince.


Despite the similarity of name, Opiates are actually derived from the Poppy plant. But that doesn’t mean these drugs are less dangerous than opioids.

Oxycodone, sold as OxyContin or as Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen), changes how the nervous system responds to pain, meaning it can take a long time for users to get their natural pain-killing abilities back.

Demerol is one example of a commonly abused painkiller. Many users develop a tolerance to the drug and increase their dose, which can lead to painful withdrawal symptoms. Another opiate, codeine, has genuine uses to reduce coughing and pain, but at a high dose has a sedative effect and can cause dangerously sedated levels of consciousness.


Adderall used to be predominately prescribed for conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Today, however, the medication is more likely to be misused as a study drug or by exhausted shift workers.

Ritalin increases levels of dopamine, therefore heightening attention. Students sometimes get a hold it, without being aware of its habit-forming nature. Again, students may not understand the severity of this drug. Since in 2005, doctors prescribed Ritalin and similar drugs more than 29 million times, making it appear fairly innocuous.

How to Cut Your Risk of Addiction

Quiz Your Doctor

Certain drugs are prescribed by your family MD more than most. There is currently a drive to educate doctors on how to manage pain without opioid use and to recommend adjunctive methods to help pain sufferers.

If you have been prescribed a medication on this list, no question is off-limits. Find out your risks of addiction, how long you should take the medication for, and if your doctor may be able to give you a shorter, lower dose or a different treatment.

If you have been prescribed a medication on this list, no question is off-limits. Find out your risks of addiction, how long you should take the medication for, and if your doctor may be able to give you a shorter, lower dose or a different treatment.

Notice Your Dosage

If you need an increasing amount of a medication to feel the same relief, be very careful with your dosage. You may be developing a tolerance, which typically leads people to increase their dosage. If left unchecked, this can happen until an addiction takes hold. If you’re already at that stage, please seek addiction treatment.

Get More Actively Monitored

Some people do need medication for pain and other diagnosed conditions. In addiction treatment centers, professionals can monitor your usage of medications and help you manage them in a way that avoids harmful effects.

Try a New Treatment

Rehab centers can offer a whole host of treatment methods that don’t involve prolonged use of medications for managing everything from physical pain to anxiety to depression. There holistic treatment measures may include equine therapy, adventure therapy, meditation, staff support and art therapy. No one needs to be a slave to addiction. A comprehensive rehab plan can help you find lasting recovery with the right combination of treatment methods for you.

Written by Beth Burgess