11 Common Medications That Can Be Addictive

Sometimes pills can make the pain go away, but usually it's best to heed to that notion when advised by a doctor or taking a safe dosage of ibuprofen. When taken in excess, or for longer time periods, medications can cause addiction, and this can be dangerous for your wellbeing and happiness, long-term. Getting hooked on a substance won't end well, as it'll mess with your brain and take away a sense of self-control over your lifestyle.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on managing pain and stress, and taking medications only when necessary, as it can open the doors for addiction. "Some of the signs that a person is abusing medication include: taking more than prescribed or using it in a form other than how it was prescribed, missing important social, job-related, or recreational activities because they are using or recovering from the effects of using these medications, repeated and unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop using the medications, 'doctor shopping' or seeking the same medication from different doctors to avoid running out, continuing to use the medications despite the presence of problems at work, or in important relationships, or problems with physical or mental health arising from medication use," advises Suzette Glasner-Edwards, an adjunct associate professor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and a licensed clinical psychologist, over email with Bustle. Here are 11 medications to be wary of, as they can trigger addiction in high dosages or prolonged use.

1. Ativan

According to Stephen Grinstead, Dr. AD, LMFT, ACRPS, contributing expert writer for Pro Corner on, Ativan, a "potent benzodiazepine," can cause addiction with excessive use. "A person physically dependent on Ativan has developed a tolerance to it and needs it in order to function normally. Due to its highly addictive nature, Ativan should only be used under the supervision of a doctor. Generally, Ativan is only recommended for short-term use given the risk of physical and psychological dependence or even addiction," recommends Grinstead.

2. Lorazepam

Grinstead also cautions against Lorazepam, another drug that can cause addiction in people who take it in inappropriate doses. "For a lorazepam addiction, this should include at least a combination of supervised medical detox and therapy with a certified addiction medicine specialist. Ongoing treatment can take place in an inpatient rehab center or through an outpatient program. Treatment for lorazepam addiction can include but is not limited to a medically assisted detoxification," says Grinstead.

3. Vicodin

Hydrocodone, the opiate in Vicodin, has recently been reclassified from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled drug that can only be obtained with a prescription," says Grinstead. "Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological, physical dependence or even addiction," Grinstead adds.

4. OxyContin

OxyContin has been classified as a Schedule II controlled drug that can only be obtained with a prescription. Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, which may lead to severe psychological, physical dependence or even addiction," advises Grinstead. "OxyContin is a time-release oral version of oxycodone, an opium derivative. Oxycodone is the active ingredient in other pain relievers like Percodan and Percocet," adds Grinstead.

5. Ritalin

According to Glaser-Edwards, Ritalin, which is used to help those battling Attention Deficit Disorder, can lead to addiction (especially when you're taking them without even having the disorder). "People often don’t realize that it is potentially dangerous to give some of their pain medicine to someone they know, but the reality is, this can contribute to the development of problems that can lead to or maintain an addiction," says Glasner-Edwards.

6. Adderall

Similarly to Ritalin, Adderall can also promote addiction when taken in high dosages, or by those with whom are simply using it to boost performance in work or academia, rather than in managing ADD symptoms, explains Glasner-Edwards. Speak to a doctor before taking to be sure you're doing it safely, and don't give it to those who don't need it.

7. Valium

Glasner-Edwards cautions against using valium on a too frequent basis or in exceedingly high amounts due to its addictive qualities. If you're suffering from anxiety, consider alternative ways to tame your worries (yoga, meditation, exercise, etc.), or stay with your medications, but seek advice from a physician regarding proper care.

8. Xanax

Known to treat anxiety and depressive symptoms, xanax can help you feel better and more relaxed, but it can also trigger addiction, advises Glasner-Edwards. While this might be okay on occasion (for instance, before a flight if you're fearful of flying), or with guidance from a primary physician, it can be dangerous if taken in excess or for too long

9. Cough & Cold Medication

While cough and cold medications might not seem scary, they can be if taken over time on a chronic basis or in too high of dosages, advises Dr. Lisa Ashe, Medical Director at BeWell Medicine over email with Bustle. These medications contain dextromethorphan, which can produce sedative and stimulant properties, says Ashe, and they are the most commonly abused drugs.

10. Opioid Pain Killers

"As far as 'gateway' medication, one of the most concerning and well documented classes of substances is prescription opioid pain relievers. These drugs can have effects that are similar to heroin when they are taken in larger doses or in other ways than how they are prescribed, and studies suggest that abusing them can, for some, lead to heroin addiction," says Glasner-Edwards. "According to 3 recent studies, nearly half of young people who reported injecting heroin had abused prescription opioids prior to transitioning to heroin use," Glasner-Edwards adds.

11. Ambien

According to experts at Mount Regis Center and Ashe, Ambien can be addictive if taken in too high doses or for too long. Instead of helping ease anxiety and inducing sleep, it can backfire, as the body becomes more addicted. If you notice addiction symptoms, it's best to seek help from a recovery center or loved ones.

If you are taking any of these medications, it's important to go about it safely. Seek advice from a physician regarding length, intensity, and progress, to make sure you don't over do it with time.

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