Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

In 2017, over 17% of Americans filled a prescription for opioid pain medication. These medications include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and others. They’re some of the most addictive drugs on the market. 

Most people who had an opioid prescription filled it 3.4 times in a year. Many prescription drugs can cause addiction if they are continuously refilled and taken. 

Other prescription drugs that cause addiction include: 

  • Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, which treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. 
  • Benzodiazepines such as Ativan,which are anti-anxiety medications that treat panic and sleeping disorders.
  • Hypnotics, or sleeping medications that include Ambien and Lunesta. 

These medications all have something in common: it’s very hard to stop using them without treatment. 

You aren’t alone in prescription drug addiction. An accredited treatment center can help you through withdrawal and the early parts of recovery. Your options may include: 

  • Inpatient treatment: Intensive live-in treatment programs give you the most support. 
  • Outpatient treatment: Flexible outpatient programs let you balance recovery with life, without skimping on treatment. 
  • Medication-assisted treatment: If you’re in opioid recovery, medication can help maintain your stability. 
  • Counseling and therapy: Therapy teaches you new coping skills. It also helps you manage your behavior in recovery. 
  • Aftercare: Recovery doesn’t stop when treatment does. The right aftercare program can keep you stable and lessen your relapse risk.

Prescription drug addiction treatment works. Therapy, medication, and support can make it much easier to stay in recovery. 

Inpatient Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

If you’re looking for added security and stability in treatment, then an inpatient program may be a good fit. 

Inpatient programs are live-in treatment centers that patients stay in for a few months. Inpatient centers are recovery-focused meaning patients can recover at ease and free from any temptations or triggers. 

The types of inpatient treatment programs for prescription drug addiction include: 

  • Standard inpatient programs — An inpatient program is the most intensive type of addiction care. You’ll have access to care and support 24/7. Your days will be filled with different forms of treatment with some downtime. Treatment includes: discussion groups, therapy, recreation and medication appointments. 
  • Residential programs — These programs offer a little more flexibility, but they’re still very structured. You’ll have daytime programming and stay at the treatment center. But you’ll also have more downtime and choices in recreation. This is a good option for those who want more control during inpatient. 

Both standard inpatient and residential programs work better the longer you attend. It’s common for minimum treatment lengths to be 4 to 6 weeks. Still, consider a longer treatment stay if you can.

Inpatient treatment is the most effective when you attend for at least 90 days. 

You may be a good candidate for inpatient treatment if you: 

  • Have a long-term history of prescription drug addiction
  • Have a history of poly-drug abuse, or using multiple illicit or prescription drugs at once
  • Have a history of relapsing on prescription drugs
  • Have health problems that could affect your treatment, such as adrenal disease or kidney disease 
  • Have a history of other mental health disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia

Outpatient Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Outpatient treatment can also be an option for prescription drug addiction. If you need your treatment to be flexible, then outpatient can help. 

You may need flexible treatment because you’re working, going to school or caring for a family. There’s no need to put off treatment because you have responsibilities. Outpatient treatment gives you the tools to recover without the time commitment. 

  • Partial hospitalization (PHP): PHP programs are the most intensive type of outpatient treatment. You’ll receive full-time addiction treatment during the day. Some people attend treatment up to 8 hours daily, for 5 to 7 days out of the week. The daytime programming is similar to what you’d receive in an inpatient program.
  • Intensive outpatient (IOP): IOP programs offer more time commitment options, ranging from from 6 hours weekly to 30 hours. They’re less time-intensive than PHP programs, but you’ll make the most of that time in classes, meetings, group discussions and workshops. IOPs often include a 12-Step program. Even if you only have time for one day per week, IOP is more effective than therapy alone. 
  • Office-based treatment: With in-office treatment, you have the ability to continue going to work and living at home, while attending sessions a few times weekly. If you use medication-assisted treatment, you may have extra visits to receive medication. This is the most flexible type of treatment with the smallest time commitment.

Like inpatient programs, outpatient programs work best if you attend for longer periods. 90 days is the minimum recommendation for outpatient treatment. Many people attend outpatient for months (or years!) and have great results. 

Inpatient programs are very effective, but they’re not for everyone. Talk to your care team about whether you’re stable enough for an inpatient program. Some people with prescription drug addiction do better in an inpatient program. That’s especially true if you’re stopping benzo, opioid, or sleeping pill use. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Many programs use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for prescription drug addiction. MAT works in a few ways: 

  • It can reduce cravings
  • It can block the euphoric effects of prescription drugs
  • It can stop you from feeling withdrawal 

You can receive MAT as part of an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. If you use opioids, then MAT can make your treatment more effective.  

MAT for Prescription Opioids

MAT is one of the most effective treatments for prescription opioid abuse. It decreases your risk of relapse, gives you a better treatment outcome, and prevents overdoses. 

The medications used in MAT for opioids include: 

  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids so you can’t feel high if you relapse. It also reduces cravings. It’s often used alongside buprenorphine, which is also known as Suboxone. 
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine blocks withdrawals and cravings, but it doesn’t block the high. You may receive it as a dissolvable tablet or film. 
  • Methadone: This medication is effective at blocking opioid cravings. However, it doesn’t block the effects of opioids. You’ll receive methadone as an injection at a clinic or office. 

At first, you’ll receive your medication at regular appointments. If you use naltrexone, buprenorphine, or a combination of both, you might be able to take the medication home eventually. However, methadone has a potential for abuse, so you’ll always take this medication in an office. 

MAT for Benzodiazepines & Hypnotics 

Benzos and hypnotics both cause strong physical dependence. Still, there aren’t any MAT drugs that target benzos or hypnotics yet. 

Despite that, your care team will still control your medication withdrawal. 

It can be dangerous to withdraw from these medications alone. Your care team will taper your medication. This means they’ll slowly reduce the dose over time until you can stop taking it. 

It’s very important to get help for detox from benzos or hypnotics. You should never stop taking these drugs cold turkey. 

MAT for Prescription Stimulants

As of 2020, there aren’t any approved medications for stimulant MAT yet. 

Stimulant withdrawal is mostly psychological. It may feel like a severe depressive episode. Instead of receiving drugs to block withdrawal, you may get medications to control your mood changes, withdrawal symptoms, and comfort level. 

Counseling and Therapy for Prescription Drug Addiction

Therapy and counseling are critical parts of prescription drug treatment. All treatment programs for prescription drug addiction include counseling, therapy or both. 

That’s because addiction is a disease that affects your behavior. Your thought processes are a part of your behavior. When you can understand your own mind, you have more control over your addiction, triggers and cravings. 

The most effective types of counseling and therapy for prescription drug addiction include: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy teaches you to avoid triggers, refocus your thoughts and overcome bad coping mechanisms. It’s an effective choice for people recovering from any prescription drug addiction. 
  • Contingency management (CM): CM therapy is a good choice for people recovering from stimulant abuse. It uses rewards to reinforce behavior changes. For instance, you may get a movie and dinner voucher for having 4 negative drug tests in a row. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT teaches you to live through your uncomfortable moments using new coping methods. Instead of turning to drugs, you’ll learn to talk yourself down from a stressful situation. 
  • Individual counseling: Counseling can be very personal. It can help you explore your past and the causes of your drug use. Your counselor can also help identify unhelpful thought patterns and help you challenge them. 
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): It’s hard to stay motivated through recovery and easy to forget why you’re doing it. MI helps you uncover the reasons that recovery matters to you. You’ll learn ways to remember those reasons and put recovery first. 
  • Psychotherapy: If you have emotional challenges that affect your addiction recovery, then this kind of therapy can help. You’ll explore your past and the way it affects your present. 75% of people who get psychotherapy say that they benefit from it. 

If your prescription drug problem stems from another issue, such as trauma, you will get treatment for that as well. For instance, therapy to treat your underlying trauma may include eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. This therapy helps you cope with traumatic events so you can move on from them. 

Aftercare for Prescription Drug Addiction

Treatment doesn’t end when you leave the treatment center. During your stay, your care team will help you develop a plan for aftercare.

Aftercare is an important part of long-term recovery. Without aftercare, there is a greater chance for relapse. Each aftercare plan is different, but the goal is to maintain the stability that you developed in recovery. 

Your aftercare choices may include: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment: If you’re recovering from opioid use, then MAT can help you maintain recovery. Depending on the medication, you may get extra control over your cravings or withdrawal this way. 
  • Therapy and counseling: You might choose to keep up with therapy after your treatment program ends. You don’t need to be in active treatment to benefit from counseling.
  • Continuing outpatient treatment: Many patients keep going to outpatient for months or years after they leave inpatient. This is a normal and healthy way to manage your ongoing disorder. 
  • Group meetings: Programs like Narcotics Anonymous or 12-steps can help you maintain long-term recovery. Social support is a bigger factor than many people in recovery know. 

Does Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Work? 

Prescription drug addiction treatment works. Up to 91% of people who are addicted to prescription drugs experience a relapse. With treatment, that number goes down anywhere from 40-60%. 

Factors that increase the risk of relapse include: 

  • Access to drugs
  • Poor social support
  • Relapse
  • Stress
  • Triggering environments 
  • Triggering relationships 
  • Untreated mental health disorders

Treatment addresses all of these factors. Inpatient treatment reduces access to drugs and triggering environments. Any kind of treatment can help you resolve stress and mental health problems. And any treatment program that lasts 90 days or longer reduces the risk of relapse. 

Who Needs Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction? 

If you’re addicted to prescription drugs, then you need treatment. Prescription drugs are perceived as less harmful compared to illicit drugs, but that’s simply not true. Anyone who lives with prescription drug addiction needs treatment. 

You need treatment if you: 

  • Can’t stop using drugs even if you want to.
  • Doctor-shop, or go to multiple doctors to get more medication. 
  • Have experienced withdrawal when trying to stop using medications.
  • Have financial, social, or health problems because of your prescription drug use.
  • Spend too much time scoring or using prescription drugs

Anyone who abuses prescription drugs can benefit from the right treatment program. You don’t have to hit rock bottom to deserve treatment. Once you realize you have an addiction, it’s time to get treatment. 

Find Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction 

Browse our directory to find prescription drug addiction treatment near you. Search for inpatient and outpatient programs that specialize in MAT and therapy for prescription drug abuse. You deserve to leave prescription drugs in the past.  


  1. How can prescription drug addiction be treated? | National Institute on Drug Abuse
  2. Prescription drug abuse – Diagnosis and treatment
  3. Prescription drug addiction: the treatment challenge
  4. Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction | National Institute on Drug Abuse
  5. Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Francine Mends, MD