Psychiatric Medication Addiction

By The Fix staff 09/30/14

Psychiatric medication addiction occurs when drugs that have been prescribed by a medical professional are used in a manner other than prescribed, or for non-medical reasons. While prescription drugs can be powerful allies, they also pose serious health risks related to their abuse. This class of drugs is broadly described as those targeting the central nervous system, including drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders. The medications most commonly abused are pain relievers, depressants, opioids, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. Even when carefully modulated by prescribing psychiatrists and physicians, psychological and physical dependents (in terms of withdrawal symptoms) can develop.  When abused, the dangers to health and life are magnified.   

Symptoms and Signs of Psychiatric Medication Addiction

The signs of abuse of psychiatric medication will vary by the type of medication being abused. Below is a breakdown of psychiatric medications and their known addictive qualities: 

▶ Prescription Opiates- These medications include: morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, methadone, oxycodone, and codeine. Prescription opioids act on the same receptors as heroin and can be highly addictive. People who abuse them sometimes alter the route of administration (e.g., snorting or injecting) to intensify the effect; some even report moving from prescription opioids to heroin.

▶ Antidepressants- These include: Wellbutrin (SR,XL)
, Celexa,
 Prozac, Paxil,
Desyrel, and 
Effexor. Antidepressant abuse symptoms mimic some depression symptoms. Antidepressant medication abuse can cause: crying spells, insomnia, dizziness, headaches, and tremors.

▶ Anti-Anxiety- These medications, also known as tranquilizers, include: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and Buspar.  Designed for short-term use, they are highly addictive. Anti-anxiety medication abuse can cause extreme depression, insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and anxiety attacks.

▶ Anti-Psychotic- These include: Olanzapine, Risperidone, Abilify, Thorazine, Zyprex, Ziprasidone, Haldol, and Clozaril. Some signs and symptoms of antipsychotic medication misuse are: Epileptic seizures, weight loss, insomnia, and perceptual disturbances.

▶ Stimulants or Analeptics- These include: Adderall and Adderall XR, Dexedrine, Concerta, Focalin and Focalin XR, Meadate CD, Metadate ER, Methylin, Ritalin, Ritalin LA, Vyvanse, and Desoxyn. Some signs and symptoms of stimulant medication misuse are: manic behavior, poor appetite, aggressive, anxiety, hostility, paranoia, and psychosis.

▶ Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants- These fall into three categories: Benzodiazepines, Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, and Barbiturates. Benzodiazeprine medications include: Xanax, Lexotan, Valium, Halcion, and ProSom. Signs and symptoms of abuse include: depersonalization, anxiety, sleep disturbance, self-harm, and hypersensitivity to touch and pain.  Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications include: Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien. Signs and symptoms of abuse include: nausea and vomiting, delusions or hallucinations, euphoria, amnesia or short-term memory loss, coordination problems, and fatigue.  Barbiturate medications include: Seconal, Amytal, Pentothal, and Prominal. Signs and symptoms of abuse include: respiratory depression, low blood pressure, fever, confusion, impaired judgment, sedation and fatigue.                     

Risks and Effects of Psychiatric Medication Addiction

Psychiatric medication addiction is often rooted in larger emotional and psychological issues and life stresses that the addict has not addressed. Addicts often ignore their health in favor of feeding their obsession and this alone can lead to mental breakdowns, heart attacks, weight loss, high blood pressure, severe depression and increased risk of anxiety attacks. Children, spouses, friends, teachers, and family of a psychiatric medication addict often suffer due to little to no support from the addict. 

Getting Help with Psychiatric Medication Addiction

There are many forms of help available for the psychiatric medication addict including behavioral therapy, rehabilitation, and hotlines.

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