Navigating Prescription Drug Addiction

By Sonya Schweitzer

In Washington, DC, the growing problem isn’t cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines but a seemingly more innocuous yet insidious enemy—prescription drug addiction.

While prescription drugs are often initially prescribed to manage pain or other health conditions, their misuse has evolved into an alarming issue, creating waves of addiction. Prescription drug addiction has taken root in the lives of our friends, neighbors, and family members.

16.3 million Americans misuse prescription drugs each year.

This blog is about navigating prescription drug addiction.

An Increase in Prescription Drug Addiction

As per Health and Human Services, a startling 45.8% of American adults have used a prescription drug, legally or otherwise, within the past month. The high rate of use provides an opportunity for addiction.

The high rate of use, compounded by easy availability, drives the increasing rates of prescription drug misuse and addiction. Indeed, it is a gateway for many other forms of substance abuse, including alcohol.

A View from Washington DC 

To learn about prescription drug addiction in Washington DC, we interviewed Judy at Samaritan Inns. After twenty-five years helping clients step onto the path to recovery, Judy has followed the trend of prescription drug abuse.  Here are some quotes from our interview:

“I find that actually what’s on the rise is that chronic pain management is much more on the rise in the last 15 years… But I’m really shocked at how readily available the narcotics are. And that is what is increasing. The pharmaceutical companies who are making it and the doctors prescribing it.  It is both increasing.”

An example is a trip to the dentist by an addiction client:

“And so, if they have a toothache, if they go to the doctor and are prescribed Oxycontin for whatever malady they have. They going to take it. They are going to abuse it themselves. They are going to take too much, or they are going to sell it…. The doctor’s discharge papers say that they were treated with Fentanyl. Now it’s in their system. As an opiate user, that is a serious problem…..We urge our clients to tell their doctor that they are on the journey to recovery.  60% are not telling the doctor that they do not want the Percocet…”

Judy’s insights are important to note.  Later in this blog, Jeff, from Samaritan Inns, provides five important tips for those in recovery.

How Does the Addiction Start?

On the subject of navigating prescription drug addiction, it is helpful to start at the beginning.

Prescription drug misuse can start as an incident as minor as borrowing a friend’s painkiller for a backache. It might begin innocently but can quickly become an ongoing and compulsive problem. Among the more susceptible are older adults who combine drugs with alcohol and individuals with a history of substance abuse problems.

A common misperception is that prescription drugs are safer than illicit drugs. However, each type of prescription drug carries a range of short and long-term consequences. Additionally, there is a proven link between prescription drug abuse and dependency on other substances.

What starts as an innocent activity often leads to an addiction. For instance, did you know that prescription medications, especially painkillers, are often the gateway to other drugs? It’s reported that 75% of opioid addicts started with a prescription drug before moving to heroin, a cheaper alternative.

Navigating Prescription Drug Addiction Through Education 

The path to recovery for our community starts with education. Recognizing the risks associated with prescription drug misuse is the first step.

Educating yourself about the risk of prescription drug misuse starts with looking in your medicine cabinet. Over 30% of those who misuse pain relievers say that they first got them from family and friends, including their home’s medicine cabinets. Safe storage and disposal of medications are necessary to keep them out of the wrong hands. Is an unused bottle of prescription pain medication in your medicine cabinet a link to someone’s future addiction?

Through education, know the risk factors for those prone to prescription drug misuse. Risk factors include:

  • Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol.
  • Lack of knowledge about prescription drugs and their potential harm.
  • Preexisting mental health concerns.
  • An environment of peer pressure where there is prescription drug misuse.

Education goes beyond the family and home. Combatting prescription drug addiction is a community responsibility. Doctors and pharmacies must adopt robust monitoring of prescriptions to identify potential misuse.

With education and understanding, a friend or family member can help those misusing prescription drugs understand the consequences. A community can help stop the spread of addiction.

The Journey with Samaritan Inns 

Navigating prescription drug addiction is challenging.  Jeff, an RN with Samaritan Inns, provided us with five important tips for anyone using a prescription pain medication:

  1. Tell your healthcare provider, upfront, that you are on a journey of recovery from addiction or even if you would like to decline a prescription.
  2. Take prescriptions only as prescribed.
  3. Only take the medication as long as needed—and for a short time.
  4. Let your sponsor or network know that you have been prescribed a new medication or one that may be addictive.
  5. Immediately tell a friend, family member or sponsor if you feel as if you are getting in trouble.

Fostering an environment of empathy, support, and accountability, the Samaritan Inns team leads individuals on a journey to recovery from addiction. You will reclaim your life from addiction to prescription drugs—or other drugs and alcohol.

Samaritan Inns’ unique approach is not just about treating addiction. It’s about restoring dignity, empowering individuals to rewrite their narratives, and offering them the tools they need to build healthier, happier futures.

Stop the Wave of Prescription Drug Addiction 

The tidal wave of prescription drug addiction may seem overwhelming, but solutions are at hand. Together, with organizations like Samaritan Inns leading the way and community support, we can turn the tide.

For more information about Samaritan Inns and their three-phase recovery program, visit

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