Doc Talk #133 – Prescription Medication Misuse and Addiction



There has been a spotlight in recent months on addiction. In this show Dr Dan and Jamieson talked about prescription medications which can be misused, particularly opioids and benzodiazepines.

Opioids include medications like – codeine (tylenol#1, tylenol#3), morphine and tramadol. Some of these medications can be obtained without a prescription.

If you are taking this kind of medication regularly, you should ask yourself what benefit you are getting, and to what risks you are being exposed

Doctor’s prescribing patterns after surgery can have a big impact on patients’ risk of developing opioid addiction. Some studies have shown that 1 in 16 people surgical patients prescribed opioids becomes a long-term opioid user.

The other category of medication that can seem innocuous but is highly addictive are the benzodiazepines. Medication in this category often ends with ‘-pam’, such as diazepam and clonazepam (trade names include ativan).

Abrupt withdrawal from high doses of benzodiazepines can be potentially life-threatening (even leading to seizures). – worse with tolerance, higher doses, concomitant alcohol use

When should you be concerned about possibel addiction or dependence?

  • tolerance – you have to take a higher dose for the same effect
  • withdrawal symptoms – physical or mental symptoms if you miss doses
  • want to cut down but haven’t been able to
  • spending a lot of effort gaining, recovering, using (eg school, work, home)
  • you are using medication to address/mask mental health issues

If you’re going to start a medication, ask about the exit strategy

Your family doctor, VegaAlDrug and Healthlink (call 811) can be great resources.

The Rural Opioid Dependency Program provides treatment to rural and suburban communities.

The first step to getting help is accepting that there might be a problem. If you are unsure, speak to your doctor for advice.


Title image by Fuse809 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (