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Treating Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Detox


There are hundreds of prescription drugs that treat everything from chronic severe pain and attention problems to seizures. They are generally effective and well-tolerated among the majority of people who rely on them — but for some, prescription drug abuse develops into a life-threatening addiction.

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prescription drug addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction

With most of us taking prescription drugs at some point in our lives for medical conditions, it is easy to become complacent and think that addiction is not possible. Well, according to figures from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the nonmedical abuse and use of prescription drugs is a real problem in the USA.

There are an estimated 52 million people throughout the country who have used prescription drugs for reasons other than medically intended, at least once in their life.

With this worrying figure in mind, there has been a rise in corresponding ER visits that have been a result of prescription drug overdose. Add this to the many admissions to drug treatment programs for people who’ve become addicted, and it’s clear something needs to be done.

Taking prescription drugs that haven’t been prescribed to you by a doctor or in ways that haven’t been okayed by a medical professional can be dangerous, and even fatal. If you’re currently struggling with a suspected addiction, it’s time to read on for more information and help.

Here, you’ll find all the prescription drug abuse facts you’ve been looking for, as well as any prescription drug addiction symptoms you need to be aware of.

What Are the Signs of a Prescription Drug Addiction?

There are various prescription drug addiction signs to look out for if you suspect someone close to you is suffering from a prescription drug addiction. These include:

  • Taking larger doses of prescribed meds than usual
  • Using the drugs for reasons other than prescribed
  • Contacting the doctor for refills more often than usual
  • Forging or altering prescriptions
  • “Losing” prescriptions
  • Doctor shopping — getting multiple prescriptions from various medical professionals
  • Stealing medication — you may notice your meds go missing whenever this person is around
  • Crushing pills
  • Lying about drug use
  • Ordering deliveries of meds over the internet

If you or your loved one is exhibiting some of these behaviors, it’s time to take action.

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What Are the Symptoms of a Prescription Drug Addiction?

When you’re addicted to prescription drugs, symptoms can be very pronounced at times and less obvious at others. In addition to the warning signs of prescription drug addiction above, if you notice any of these general behavioral patterns, it’s likely that you or your loved one has a problem with addiction:

  • Irritability, especially when you don’t have a prescription for your drug of choice
  • Inconsistent sleep patterns
  • Mood swings that correspond with the absence or availability of the drugs
prescription drug addiction

In addition to the above symptoms, you should also look out for these symptoms, characteristic of specific drugs:

Symptoms of CNS depressant prescription drug abuse

  • Confusion
  • Seemingly intoxicated or drowsy
  • Unsteady mannerisms or movements
  • Involuntary tics or movements
  • Poor decision making and judgment
  • Memory issues
  • Rapid involuntary eye movements

Symptoms of stimulant prescription drug abuse

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Extreme irritability or agitation
  • Unusually high body temperature
  • Hostility
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia that can last for days
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Cardiovascular failure

Symptoms of opiate prescription drug abuse

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Digestive issues, such as constipation
  • Rapid drops in blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Shortness of breath

These are the most common symptoms. You or your loved one who is addicted to prescription drugs may experience one or more, or even different symptoms than these listed above.

How Can I Help My Loved One Recover From a Prescription Drug Addiction?

If you believe someone close to you may have a problem with prescription drug addiction, it’s important to get the help and support you both need. You may be wondering where to turn and how on earth you can get your loved one to stop using.

You need to be very tactful when encouraging your loved one to seek help. Whatever you do, try not to use accusatory language and be as understanding as you possibly can. Yes, it’ll be very difficult not to get angry — after all, they’re no doubt impacting your happiness. However, you don’t want your good intentions to backfire on you.

helping addicted loved one

Naturally, it’s likely they’ll put up a great deal of resistance and will likely be in denial that they even have a problem. Often, it’s only when a drug abuser faces seriously negative consequences as a result of their habit that they realize they need help. If this is the case, try to be as supportive as you can, without enabling their drug-seeking behaviors.

Know that here at 12 Keys Rehab, we are available 24/7. Our team includes a number of successfully recovered addicts who know first-hand what you are going through. Just being able to chat and to share your worries with an empathetic and impartial person can help you to get things straight in your own mind, so you can begin to help your loved one in the best way possible.

Why You Should Enter a Prescription Drug Recovery Treatment Center

When you’re facing an addiction, it’ll be unlike anything else you have ever experienced, and nothing prepares you for your life spiraling out of control. Entering a prescription drug recovery treatment center will stabilize your erratic life, as well as offer you a place safe from the temptations of relapsing.

A treatment center will provide you with all the resources and tools you’ll need to detox and to relearn how to live your life. This will include addressing areas like:

  • Finding your purpose again in life
  • Re-creating and maintaining stable relationships
  • Reestablishing stability within your home life
  • Focusing on wellness and health

As it’s very common to relapse when recovering from a substance abuse addiction, treatment centers teach you the techniques to prevent this before it even occurs. A good center will focus on:

  • Dependency. You’ll be helped and overseen by qualified staff who will assist you with detoxing and managing your addiction symptoms.
  • Therapy. You’ll be provided with a unique and personalized therapy plan that takes into account everything necessary for your successful recovery.
  • Aftercare. You’ll not be left alone after your withdrawal treatment. You will receive the aftercare you need to allow you to live a drug-free life.

When you’re choosing the best treatment center for you, it’s important to look for the following:

  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Holistic therapies geared toward every aspect of your life
  • Effective and proven treatment plans
  • Friendly and professional staff
  • Personalized attention
  • Practical support
  • Privacy
  • 24/7 availability
  • Non-judgmental atmosphere
  • Affordability
  • Aftercare services
prescription drug addiction

At 12 Keys Rehab, we offer all of the above and more. As we’re completely focused on you, you’ll be able to keep in touch with your loved ones, if that is important to you. You can even have them over to visit during our designated family visiting times.

We also offer a huge variety of activities for you to enjoy, no matter what your tastes. You can even gain new skills during your time with us.

We place a huge emphasis on a real and workable lifelong recovery. This involves finding safe ways to enjoy your life again, without the influence of prescription drugs getting in the way. Prescription drug addiction is a treatable disease — and there are millions of people living in recovery today who can attest to that fact.

Contact us today with absolutely no obligation. We’re here for you whenever you need us.

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Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The range of prescription medication people abuse is varied, but what are the most common types? As you might imagine, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are usually sedatives, benzodiazepines, opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, and stimulants — basically anything that can give you a rush or make you feel good.

These three main categories of drugs are ones that can be quite easily abused:

  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants for treating sleep and anxiety disorders – such as Xanax and Valium.
  • Stimulants for treating conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – for example, Concerta, Ritalin and Adderall.
  • Opioids for treating chronic pain conditions – such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
categories of prescription drugs

You may be thinking that prescription drugs are not as dangerous as illicit drugs, but their addictive properties are very real.

How Do You Safely Detox From Prescription Drugs?

The only safe way to detox is to get yourself into prescription drug addiction rehab. Quitting your habit will probably be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever had to do in your life, and just knowing you have a whole team of professionals behind you and rooting for you genuinely makes all the difference.

How Is a Prescription Drug Addiction Treated?

prescription drug addiction treatment

Here, at 12 Keys Rehab, we offer you a safe haven where you can explore the issues surrounding your prescription addiction. We will get to know you and create an effective treatment plan that is completely tailored to you as an individual.

Our caring and professional staff know exactly what you’re going through, as many of us have been down that same road ourselves. This makes us empathetic as well as sensitive to your needs and hopes.

We understand you have been walking a difficult path and that quitting drugs will be one of the biggest and probably most worrisome experiences you’ve ever considered. This is why at 12 Keys, we believe detox should be about so much more than getting the drugs out of your system. We want to help you to repair your body, soul, mind and relationships, too.

This is why your detox is just the first step toward recovery. We will also offer you all the treatments, counseling, therapy and fun you could ever need to make yourself feel whole again. We can help you heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Does a Prescription Drug Addiction Cause any Permanent Damage?

You’re probably asking yourself by now whether being addicted to prescription drugs could be permanently damaging to your health. It’s a complete misconception that an addiction to prescription drugs is less serious or less dangerous than that of illicit drugs.

prescription drug addiction

In fact, using any drug in a way it’s not been prescribed is toying with potentially fatal consequences. Take note of these addiction dangers per class of prescription drugs:

  • Opiates. These drugs are particularly dangerous when you take too much, especially when you’re taking other substances such as barbiturates, alcohol or benzodiazepines, like Xanax or Valium. They can cause respiratory distress and even death.
  • CNS depressants. Although these can make you feel calm and sleepy at first, after some time you’ll notice that you need to take progressively larger doses to obtain the same effect. Again, using these with alcohol or with some over-the-counter allergy and cold medications can potentially slow your breathing up to the point of death.

    Additionally, if you’ve been on these drugs for a prolonged period of time, suddenly stopping can give you life-threatening symptoms, such as seizures.

  • Stimulants. When these are abused in certain ways, such as crushing pills or taking high doses, they can become very addictive. Stimulants should never be taken alongside over-the-counter decongestants as they can cause you to suffer from a dangerously high body temperature as well as irregular heart rhythms.

Why You Should Never Mix Alcohol and Prescription Drugs

It’s important never to drink alcohol when you’re taking any of the above medications, as this can potentially cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Internal bleeding
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heart problems

You might not know this, but certain medicines, such as laxatives and cough syrups, can contain as much as 10 percent alcohol, so be careful if you’re considering taking these alongside prescription medications.

prescription drugs and alcohol

It’s also important to know that older people are highly susceptible to dangerous medication/alcohol interactions. This is due to aging slowing down the ability of your body to break down alcohol, so it stays in your system longer.

If you’re worried about how alcohol may be affecting you, and you’re taking prescription drugs, speak to a medical professional as soon as you can.

Liver and Other Organ Damage From Prescription Drugs

Abusing prescription drugs can destroy your self-esteem, your relationships and your short-term health. In addition, there are other serious and potentially long-term negative health effects, as you’ve already read above. What’s more is that certain prescription drugs, especially opiates, can seriously and irreversibly damage your organs:

organ damage from prescription drugs

Your liver

All drugs are processed and broken down by your liver. It, therefore, stands to reason that this organ can become very stressed by prescription drugs and the toxins that are left there as a byproduct of your addiction. Over time, this can lead to liver failure.

Your kidneys, muscles and heart

If you abuse drugs to the point of becoming comatose, you run the risk of suffering from rhabdomyolysis. What this means is your muscle tissue can rapidly breakdown as a result of your being immobilized for hours. In addition, the chemicals that are released via this process will travel through your bloodstream causing damage to other organs. This condition is a leading cause of kidney failure and heart damage that can result in a heart attack, or even death.

Chronic prescription painkiller use can also lead to kidney damage, even if no other issues are present.

liver and kidney damage

Your lungs

Many prescription drugs suppress your respiratory system and can bring on conditions like pneumonia. Prescription drug overdoses can result in you stopping breathing altogether, as well.

Your brain

Depressed respiration (slow breathing) that’s associated with experiencing an opiate overdose can also cause hypoxia. What this means is that less oxygen will be reaching your brain, and this can have both short and long-term neurological and psychological effects of prescription drug abuse that can be as serious as irreversible brain damage and coma.

How Long Does It Take to Withdraw From Prescription Drugs?

withdrawal from prescription drugs

The length of your withdrawal from prescription drugs varies depending on how long you’ve been addicted as well as the type of drug you’re taking and in what quantity. Generally speaking, you can expect your physical withdrawal symptoms to last according to the information below, depending on the category of prescription drugs you’ve been taking. Please keep in mind that cravings and psychological symptoms can last longer:

  • Opiates – Typically, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms anywhere from five to ten days.
  • CNS depressants – It can take weeks or even months to fully withdraw from these drugs.
  • Stimulants – Physical withdrawal usually takes around a week. However, psychological symptoms can drag on for some time afterward.

What Are the Stages of Prescription Drugs Withdrawal?

There are different stages of prescription withdrawal, depending on the drug you’re taking. These include:

Opiates

Your main symptoms should last for around one to two days, with the initial withdrawal beginning within eight to 12 hours of taking your last dose. You should have completed your withdrawal within five to ten days.

Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation

CNS depressants

Withdrawal usually begins within one to four days, and it peaks within the first few weeks. However, it can take weeks or even months to fully withdraw in some cases.

Symptoms to expect:

  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability

Stimulants

Your symptoms usually come on within hours to days after your last drug use. The most intense withdrawal symptoms will be at their strongest at around a week.

When you’re withdrawing from stimulants, you will be generally unhappy. In addition to this, you may also experience:

  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed down movements
  • Jittery
  • Impaired memory
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia/hypersomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Dulled senses
  • Body aches
  • Paranoia
  • Slowed speech
  • Drug cravings
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Disinterest in things you used to enjoy
  • Unpleasant dreams

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What Do Prescription Medications Do to the Brain?

There are three main classes of commonly used prescription drugs, and each has different effects on your brain. Let’s go into more detail about how these drugs work in each of these categories:

  1. Opioids

    Opioids are good for effectively managing pain when they’re taken as prescribed. In fact, they can significantly improve your quality of life when you’re suffering from chronic pain. However, they give you a euphoric feeling that can be addictive when used long term.

    Opioids work by attaching to receptors in your gastrointestinal tract, spinal cord, brain and other body organs. They then reduce your perception of pain and make you feel good.

  2. CNS depressants

    Benzodiazepines are prescribed to millions of people country wide to treat sleep disorders and anxiety. They work by affecting the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) brain neurotransmitter, decreasing brain activity and making you feel calm.

    Barbiturates, like Luminal and Nembutal, also depress your central nervous system. These medications are often used to treat seizures and for anesthetic purposes. When you’ve been taking these drugs for a while, you'll find you need more and more to get the same effect, which can be highly dangerous.

  3. Stimulants

    As the name suggests, stimulants increase your attention levels, energy and alertness, and they are used to treat ADD, ADHD, depression and other problems. On a physiological level, these drugs increase your blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar. They also open up your respiratory pathways, as well as constrict your blood vessels.

    Prescription drugs should never be taken lightly, as many have the potential to have seriously negative effects on your health.

Do People Become Addicted to Prescription Drugs?

There is a real risk of becoming addicted to the types of prescription drugs mentioned above, as they have such intense effects on your brain. In terms of prescription medication addiction risk, if you start abusing prescription drugs early in life, you run the risk of becoming addicted, particularly if addiction runs in the family.

Other factors can also influence your likelihood of becoming addicted — especially if you have a co-existing mental illness, or a chronic pain issue.

No matter your reasons for beginning to abuse prescription drugs, addiction can easily occur. Addiction is a brain disease, but it can be treated successfully with detox and counseling. If you’re worried about your own drug use or that of someone close to you, contact us today for help and advice.

What Is a Prescription Drug Addiction Like?

Armed with an understanding of what the symptoms of drug abuse are, you might be wondering what being addicted is actually like. For someone who hasn’t had first-hand experience with addiction, it can be very difficult to comprehend.

When you’re addicted, you’ll do anything to satisfy your need for drugs. Having said that, everyone’s experience with addiction is entirely unique, and it’s very important for friends and family to do their best to understand what being addicted is actually like.

addiction experience

Once an addiction has developed, you’ll take drugs just to feel normal. In the beginning, your habit will make you feel good. However, over time, your brain and body will become reliant on drugs to allow you to function.

This is a very scary place to be — not to mention that when you’re addicted, you’ll often put yourself at great risk to get your next fix.

Because the people around you don’t understand what’s going on with you, you’ll often feel propelled to spend time with other drug abusers who do know what life’s like for you every day. Over time, you’ll have grown apart from almost everything and everyone you once loved, with no clear way of getting your old life back.

On the flip side, if you’ve often felt like an outsider throughout your life, the feeling of camaraderie with your drug buddies might be the only real connection you’ve felt with anyone. This is very dangerous, as these people will drag you right down with them.

For these reasons, when you approach someone who’s addicted to prescription drugs, try to talk with them about their disease. It’s important to be firm yet understanding. It’s a very delicate balance to reach, as your loved one may begin to feel further alienated from you and from the “normal” world around them.

The key to getting through to someone who is addicted is to do so from a place of love and understanding. It’s likely you’ll face an almost unbreakable wall of resistance, but it can be done.

If you’re reading this and can identify with these feelings, you’ll know that being addicted to prescription drugs is often a very lonely and frightening journey. If you’ve tried to quit your habit in the past and have been unsuccessful, it’s likely that you’re feeling demoralized and lost. Quitting your habit alone is incredibly difficult, so if you’ve found yourself in that boat, then please be assured that there is help available to you right now.

Here at 12 Keys Rehab, we have many years of experience of treating prescription drug addiction. If you’re currently in crisis and need support, contact us any time, day or night. Our understanding team will listen to you and will offer you a helping hand toward your first steps to a new and healthy life.

Why Do So Many People Turn to Prescription Drugs?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medications that have been prescribed by your doctor for a genuine medical condition. In fact, most people find they can take their meds and come off them when their doctor decides it’s ok.

However, when you start taking prescription meds for a genuine reason, you can, in time, find that you begin to enjoy the effects associated with them. This can lead to eventually taking more and more of the drug or even moving on to harder drugs to achieve a more significant high.

Reasons you might abuse prescription drugs include:

  • To relax (tranquilizers and painkillers)
  • To feel good
  • To get high
  • To experiment
  • To reduce your appetite (stimulants)
  • To be sociable
  • Because of peer pressure
  • Because you see them as safer than street drugs
  • Because you’re addicted

What Types of Co-Occurring Disorders Exist With Prescription Drugs?

If you have a substance use disorder alongside a mental health disorder, this is known to be a co-occurring disorder (also known as a dual diagnosis).

Some of the most common mental health issues found in people with prescription drug addiction issues are ones relating to anxiety and also mood. These mental illnesses include:

Anxiety-related disorders

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic disorder

Mood-related disorders

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Major depression

Severe Mental Illness

  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia

It can often be difficult for professionals to diagnose co-occurring disorders. This is because symptoms of prescription drug addiction can mask symptoms of mental illness. Additionally, people with mental health disorders do not always believe their substance abuse it related to their mental health disorder. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

There are some typical patterns that show up when you’re suffering with co-occurring disorders, including:

  • Drug use problems that appear resistant to prescription drug addiction treatment
  • A worsening of mental health symptoms even while receiving treatment

Here, at 12 Keys Rehab, our professional and knowledgeable staff have so much experience with helping people with co-occurring disorders to recover and lead positive, focused new lives. If you’re worried you might be suffering from a co-occurring disorder along with your addiction, contact us today.

Dangers of Quitting Prescription Drugs Without Assistance

If you’ve ever tried quitting prescription drugs cold turkey, you’ll know just how difficult it can be. In fact, it’s virtually impossible just to decide to stop — and remain clean by yourself. Prescription drug withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to self-manage, and they can be dangerous to your health.

dangers of quitting on your own

In addition, quitting drugs requires modifying every aspect of your life — from leaving your drug buddies behind you to learning ways of coping with your drug-taking triggers. For these, and so many other reasons, it’s important to seek professional help.

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Is There a Connection Between Prescription Drug Abuse and the Rise in Heroin Abuse?

Unfortunately, there seems to be a link heroin abuse and the abuse of prescription drugs. Once it becomes difficult to acquire the abused prescription drugs, perhaps because a doctor no longer prescribes the medication, prescription drug abusers will look elsewhere to achieve the high. Often this means seeking our heroin.

There are various other reasons that prescription drug users move on to heroin, these include:

  • Heroin itself is a prescription drug in some countries, though not in the U.S. When it’s used medically in other countries, it’s known as diamorphine.
  • Heroin is an opioid drug. Just like OxyContin and Vicodin, heroin is an opioid and has very similar effects to your prescription painkillers. Therefore, for some people, it seems “natural” to make the transition from prescribed painkiller to illicit heroin.
  • Heroin is everywhere if you know where to look. With prescription drug monitoring programs in place nowadays, it’s getting harder to obtain some prescription drugs on a long-term basis. Heroin, however, can be obtained easily on the street.
  • Heroin is cheaper than prescribed pain meds. When hooked on prescription drugs, it can cost a fortune over time. Heroin, on the other hand, is cheap to buy in comparison.

With people from all walks of life getting used to the effects of their prescription opiates and the fact that heroin is easy to get hold of, many abusers turn to illicit drugs in time. If you’re suffering from a prescription drug problem, it’s time to seek the help you so desperately need.

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

As the name suggests, prescription drug abuse is the term for using a prescription medication in a way that hasn’t been intended by a medical professional. This term can cover anything from borrowing your friend’s painkillers for a toothache, to injecting or snorting ground up medications to get a rush.

When your drug use becomes compulsive and you just can’t stop no matter the consequences, you have a problem.

Key Statistics About Abuse and Addiction to Prescription Drugs

Abuse and addiction to prescription drugs is seriously affecting the economic, social and health welfare of so many people in the United States, and the figures are sobering:

  • According to the results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), there were an estimated 2.1 million people in the country suffering from substance use disorders relating to prescription opioids.
  • The NIDA has stated that between 2001 and 2014, there was a 2.8-fold increase in the number of deaths from prescription drugs.
  • Breaking down the above number, between those same years, there was a 3.4-fold increase in deaths due to prescription opioids.
  • According to The United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia, prescription drug addiction statistics show that in just one year, six times as many people died of prescription drug overdose than overdoses of all other illegal drugs combined.
  • The same source indicated that ER visits from issues when taking prescription drugs increased from 2004 to 2008 by 97 percent.
prescription drug statistics

What Are the Typical Demographics of a Prescription Drug Addict?

Results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2010 reveal that there were 2.4 million U.S. citizens using prescription drugs in a first-time, nonmedical way in the past year. This works out to a huge 6,600 new users per day.

The survey found that a third of these new users were between 12 and 17, and that more than half were females.

Prescription drug abuse can affect anyone from any walk of life. However, it’s known that women, older people and young people are often at a higher risk of abusing.

new prescription drug users

How Are Prescription Drugs Typically Used?

Generally, when you’re abusing prescription drugs, you began taking them in the form that they come in. However, it is also possible to crush the pills up and snort them through your nose or to even inject the powder. This will quicken the drug’s entry into your brain and bloodstream, and it will amplify the effects.

When you’re experiencing a problem with these drugs, you’ll often take them in higher quantities than they were originally prescribed. Add this to taking the drug in ways that haven’t been prescribed, and you could be setting yourself up for serious medical complications, including overdose, and even death.

Get Help for Prescription Drug Abuse

At 12 Keys Rehab we help clients beat addiction every day. If you have questions about prescription drugs or want to learn more about the differences between dependency and addiction, call us now. At 12 Keys Rehab we can help you find your path to freedom, starting today.

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