The first step in overcoming an addiction to prescription medication is detoxification. Detox is a process of withdrawal that removes the drug’s toxins from the body. However, detox alone is not enough for sustained abstinence. For a long-term recovery, detox should be supported by treatment which addresses the psychological issues behind the addiction to prescribed drugs, and teaches addicts to live a healthy life.

What are the effects of withdrawal from prescription drugs?

Prescription medication tends to fall in two categories. Opiods (analgesics with codeine) and benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), temazepam and Xanax. When you withdraw from benzodiazepines, you’re likely to experience a number of physical and psychological symptoms, in varying degrees.
Physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal include: sweating, chills, tremors, cramps, restless leg syndrome, rhinitis, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, seizures.
Psychological symptoms of opioid withdrawal include: depression, anxiety, uncomfortable moods, insomnia, cravings.
Physical symptoms of benzodiazepines include: pounding headaches, nausea, vomiting, increased blood pressure, muscle spasms, blurred vision, dizziness, dry mouth, life-threatening seizures.
Psychological symptoms of benzodiazepines include: anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, nightmares, increased sensitivity to touch and sound, photophobia.

Can I detox from prescription drugs without specialist help?

Sudden withdrawal from opioids isn’t life-threatening but does pose physical risk. However, abrupt withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be life threatening as the addict can experience seizures. Withdrawal symptoms can be intense and hard to manage, both physically and psychologically. This can result in the individual feeling drawn back to drug use. It can also be very difficult for the family member who is looking after the addicted person through the detox process. They may not have the emotional strength to keep their loved one motivated nor the medical expertise required to make sure the symptoms are minimised.

Withdrawal, in the physical sense of the addiction, can take up to 14 days, and sometimes longer.  You must ask yourself if safe addiction rehab detox is really achievable without medical support and monitoring. Or without a professional to help you manage the psychological feelings you will be experiencing.

What can I expect when I go into residential treatment for addiction to prescription drugs?

A residential detox and rehab treatment programme offers the best chance of long-term recovery as it treats both the physical and psychological addiction to prescribed medication.

On admission, a doctor will assess you, and prescribe any appropriate medication to reduce the risk, and alleviate the symptoms, of withdrawal. Benzodiazepine withdrawal will be managed by gradual withdrawal on a sliding scale regime. To support opioid detox, a substitute therapy such as Subutex may be used or a gradual withdrawal on a sliding scale regime will be advised. You’ll have a physical examination, and a urine test to record drug usage. Routine blood tests may also be taken. The doctor will review any current prescribed medication. Throughout the benzodiazepine detox process, your physical well-being will be monitored.

You’ll be assigned a key worker who will gather background history and develop a rehabilitative care plan. You’ll be fully involved with this. The plan will address your use of prescription drugs, behavioural issues and physical, psychological and social needs.

The rehabilitative treatment for addiction to prescribed drugs will consist of education, counselling and therapy to help you understand and challenge the addictive illness. You’ll learn to recognise trigger points and affective behaviours to allow a life free from the harm that addiction creates.  Many rehab programmes are based on the world-renowned 12 step model to drug recovery and offer a holistic approach with healthy living advice.