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Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

prescription drug addiction treatment

When you have an addiction to prescription drugs, it can have various adverse effects on your health and personal life. Like many other addictions, prescription drugs alter a person’s brain chemistry and create a physical and psychological dependence on the substance. Once a person becomes addicted, their whole life will revolve around taking prescription drugs, and it can become difficult to quit without professional intervention.

Below, we’ve compiled valuable information about prescription drugs, the signs and symptoms of addiction and the various types of treatment available. Continue reading to learn how to get professional help for yourself or your loved one.

What Are Prescription Drugs?

Prescriptions drugs are medications doctors prescribe to treat various physical and mental health conditions. When a person takes these medications as prescribed, they can help them feel better. However, misusing these drugs can result in various adverse physical and mental effects and the potential for overdose.

about 66% of adults in america

Prescription drug abuse has become a significant concern in the United States. About 66% of adults in America use prescriptions drugs. In 2020, 5.8% of people over 12 misused prescription drugs.

There are multiple different types of prescription drugs, including:

  • Opioids: Opioids are prescription painkillers that include oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone and methadone.
  • CNS depressants: There are many CNS depressants, including benzodiazepines, barbiturates and sleeping pills. Specific types of these medications include Xanax®, Klonopin®, Mebaral® and Ambien®.
  • Stimulants: Different types of stimulants include Adderall®, Ritalin® and Dexedrine®.

Each of these medications has unique side effects, and misusing these drugs can change how your brain works, alter your ability to make good decisions and make it challenging to practice self-control. Once these medications change your brain function, they have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Once a person develops a prescription drug addiction, they’ll likely need professional help to quit using the drugs and improve their well-being.

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Signs and Symptoms of a Prescription Drug Addiction

multiple types of prescription

While there are multiple types of prescription drugs, the signs of prescription drug abuse are generally the same. Like other addictions, abuse of prescription drugs has many identifiable signs you can use to determine if you or a loved one needs help:

  • Tension in personal relationships
  • Loss of productivity at work or inability to hold down a job
  • Failure to keep up with responsibilities
  • Lying to your doctor to get prescriptions
  • Committing crimes or stealing from friends or family to fund the addiction
  • Financial strain
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Constantly thinking of ways to obtain and use the drug
  • Failure to quit despite the desire or negative consequences
  • Poor or worsening physical and mental health
  • Lack of control
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Denial or irritability when confronted about substance misuse
  • Social isolation from loved ones
  • Mood swings and behavioral changes

While the signs of prescription drug use are usually the same, the symptoms vary based on what type of medication a person is taking.



Doctors often prescribe opioids as painkillers, but people can also find them through other means. The opioid epidemic in the United States is arguably the most well-known example of the outcomes of prescription drug misuse. When a person misuses opioids, they’ll experience symptoms such as:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty breathing or respiratory depression
  • Lack of coordination or balance
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred or broken speech

CNS Depressants

Medical professionals will prescribe CNS depressants to individuals who struggle with insomnia, anxiety disorders or seizures. These medications slow brain activity and induce a sense of calm throughout the body. A person who abuses CNS depressants will experience various symptoms, including:

  • Slow breathing
  • Problems with memory
  • Mood changes
  • Slowed reflexes or reaction times
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Trouble walking or maintaining balance



A doctor might prescribe a prescription stimulant to someone with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to make them feel more alert and energetic. These medications also improve a person’s ability to focus on tasks. When a person abuses these drugs, they can experience:

  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Lack of appetite or weight loss
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure and uneven heart rate

While some of these symptoms overlap, each type of prescription drug has a unique effect on the body.

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What Causes a Prescription Drug Addiction?

Any person can become addicted to prescription drug addiction, but certain factors increase the risk. Prescription drugs are already highly addictive due to their potential for physical and psychological dependency. When other risk factors come into play, a person can quickly get addicted to these medications.

family history of addiction

These risk factors include:

  1. Early substance use: People who start using drugs early in life are more likely to develop an addiction than those who use prescription medications later in life. When a person develops addictive behaviors at a young age, their brain development is affected, making them more prone to developing mental health conditions.
  2. Peer influence: The people you surround yourself with can also influence your risk of addiction. If your peers use prescription drugs, you may feel pressured to take part to fit in or avoid judgment. However, experimentation and constant access to prescription drugs can quickly lead to an addiction, especially if you often spend time with peers who use substances.
  3. Environmental influences: People who experience abuse or neglect at a young age are more likely to experiment with substances, including prescription drugs. They may use these medications to cope with their emotions or due to a lack of familial support. If you frequent environments or settings where drug use is common, you may also feel tempted to experiment with prescription medications, increasing the risk of addiction.
  4. Genetics: Biology and genetics play a significant role in addiction. Someone with a family history of addiction is more likely to become addicted to prescription drugs once they start taking them. People with a so-called “addictive personality” are also more likely to experience addiction. Even if you have a family history of alcohol use disorder and choose not to drink, you can become addicted to another substance, such as opioids or stimulants.
  5. Mental health conditions: Once a person starts to use prescription drugs, they may begin to rely on these medications to improve their mental health symptoms. However, a person can begin to misuse these medications to find relief, which opens the door to addiction. Misusing prescription drugs can also worsen many mental health conditions, causing a person to use more of the substance to medicate their symptoms.
  6. Access to prescription drugs and lack of knowledge: Some people start taking prescription drugs once their doctors prescribe them these medications. When people take these medications as prescribed, the risk for addiction is low. However, some people lack proper education on the dangers of these medications and addiction. A person might take more than prescribed to alleviate their symptoms before talking to their doctor, which increases the risk of physical and psychological dependency.

If a person has one or more of these risk factors and starts using prescription drugs, there’s a high potential for addiction, which can have various adverse effects on a person’s life. Prescription drugs can quickly alter the brain’s functions and turn into addiction before you realize it happened.

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Short- and Long-Term Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

If you’re prescribed medication for a physical or mental ailment, the drug will come with information outlining the list of short- and long-term effects. However, if you take prescription medication without a doctor’s approval, you may be unaware of these effects. Even people who take these medications under a doctor’s supervision can potentially abuse them if they’re not properly educated about the associated risks.

Once a person starts taking prescription drugs, they’ll experience the short-term effects almost immediately. The effects will vary depending on whether someone is taking these medications as prescribed or abusing them.

Some of these effects include:

  • Euphoria or excitement
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Behavioral changes or mood swings
  • Aggression, violence or hostility
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements

once a person starts prescription drugs

Once a person starts using prescription drugs regularly, they put themselves at risk for the long-term effects of addiction. Prescription drugs alter our brain chemistry and affect communication between the central nervous system. Once these changes happen, the brain will start to tolerate the drug, and your body won’t be able to rebalance itself without the drug. 

Taking prescription drugs for an extended period can cause various symptoms, such as:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Hindered muscle movements
  • Impaired coordination and balance
  • Organ damage or failure
  • Respiratory failure
  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Decreased cognitive functioning
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Anxiety or aggression
  • Worsening mental health symptoms
  • Increased risk of heart attack, stroke or coma
  • Increased risk of overdose

Many of these long-term effects can drastically impact a person’s quality of life. Once a person reaches physical and psychological dependence on prescription drugs, they’ve become addicted to the substance and often need professional help to detox.

How to Know When It’s Time for Treatment

Admitting you need help for addiction can be challenging. Fortunately, a professional prescription drug addiction center can help you get your life back on track and help you overcome the challenges related to addiction. Some people need help identifying when they need assistance, as they might not have a clear idea of how addiction affects their lives.

How to Know When It's Time for Treatment

A few signs that indicate it’s time for treatment include:

  • Putting yourself or others at risk: People using prescription drugs often have lowered inhibitions and engage in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence or criminal activity. These actions can put yourself or others at risk for injury or legal ramifications. Misusing prescription drugs can also harm your physical health, so if you’ve noticed a decline in your well-being, it could indicate your addiction is worse than you thought.
  • Finding it challenging to quit on your own: People with an addiction to prescription drugs have developed a physical and psychological dependence on the medications. Once someone reaches this point, it can be challenging to quit taking prescription drugs, even if the desire is there. A professional treatment center can make quitting easier with ongoing support, medical care and counseling.
  • Experiencing negative consequences: Drug addiction has various effects on a person’s life. They might find it challenging to keep up with their responsibilities, have tension in their relationships or experience physical and mental health problems. Professional treatment can help remedy the adverse effects of prescription drug addiction and help you get your life back.
  • Revolving your life around addiction: Once a person becomes addicted to prescription drugs, it starts to take over their life, becoming one of the only things they think about or do. They have little time for anything else and begin to lose interest in things, such as connections with friends and family or work opportunities.

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, it’s time to seek professional treatment. A prescription drug addiction treatment center can help you improve your quality of life and help you overcome your addiction.

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Types of Treatment Available for Prescription Drug Addiction

Types of Treatment Available for Prescription Drug Addiction

Addiction treatment must be personalized to each individual’s unique circumstances to ensure they’re getting the most out of their care and have the best chance at a successful recovery. It’s crucial to abstain from drug misuse in a safe way. Quitting a substance “cold turkey” can result in harmful side effects, so it’s important to do so in a healthy way under professional supervision.

With this in mind, multiple types of treatment exist for prescription drug addiction, including:

Medication-Assisted Withdrawal

People who have become addicted to prescription drugs have developed a physical and psychological dependence on said medications. If they suddenly stop taking the drugs, they’ll experience various withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • High blood pressure and heart rate
  • Fever and sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hallucinations

One of the types of treatment for prescription drug addiction

One of the types of treatment for prescription drug addiction is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which helps patients manage their symptoms to focus on their treatment. Doctors will prescribe the medication and keep you under 24/7 supervision to manage your symptoms and ensure your safety.

Before you’re prescribed any medication, you’ll undergo a full medical assessment to determine if you have any additional physical or mental conditions. If you’re prescribed any medication to help with withdrawal and cravings, you’ll have adequate support and guidance to ensure you don’t develop a secondary addiction.

Inpatient Care

Residential inpatient care allows patients to recover from prescription drug addiction in a safe and sober environment. Patients can also benefit from medication-assisted treatment with access to 24/7 care and supervision.

Inpatient care can be helpful for anyone with substance use disorder, but it’s best for individuals who don’t live in a sober or safe environment. For example, someone might live with family members who use prescription drugs, which can be challenging for someone in the middle of treatment. Residential treatment allows patients to get away from their triggers and focus on treatment with access to ongoing support and care.

Outpatient Care

Outpatient Care

Outpatient care is another way to treat prescription drug addiction and is suitable for people who have responsibilities to maintain outside of treatment, such as childcare or work. Outpatient programs are also an excellent option for people who have a safe and sober environment at home with a robust support network that can help them avoid temptation and triggers.

Outpatient care provides more flexibility since you can participate in treatment at varying intensity levels. Some people may attend therapy for eight hours a day on the weekdays and go home once the day ends. Others may participate in the meetings for a few hours in the afternoon once they get off work.

Regardless of the frequency, all patients have access to the same quality treatments as those in an inpatient program. The only difference is you can go home at the end of the day to process new information in a familiar environment.


A major component of addiction treatment is therapy, which you’ll participate in regardless of whether you’re in inpatient or outpatient care. Therapy can help you rewire your thinking and develop a deeper understanding of yourself and your addiction. The objective is to help you stay motivated in your recovery, identify ways to overcome triggers or cravings, set goals for the future and improve your overall well-being. 

Multiple types of therapy are used to help individuals overcome prescription drug addiction, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A CBT program focuses on changing your beliefs and thoughts about addiction. Rather than focusing on your past behaviors, CBT has you look at where you’re at in your journey to identify how you can make positive changes. You’ll also learn coping skills to help you manage your triggers and stress so your behaviors line up with your thoughts and beliefs.
  • Trauma therapy: Traumatic experiences are sometimes why people start using substances, as they provide a way to cope with uncomfortable feelings and memories. Trauma-informed therapy helps you address your trauma and find healthy ways to cope. The goal is to resolve the root cause of your trauma so you don’t feel a need to use substances to deal with the events from your past.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): An ACT program helps you accept your current situation, emotions and the steps necessary to reach sobriety. Rather than focusing on past mistakes or worries about the future, you’re grounded in the moment so you can commit to your recovery and make positive goals moving forward.
  • Motivational interviewing: Some people who enter treatment are resistant to the process and might believe their addiction isn’t affecting their lives to the degree it truly is. Motivational interviewing helps patients see the reality of addiction and how substance misuse results in negative consequences. The goal is to help patients be involved in their recovery and stay committed through treatment.

Relapse Prevention

Once you complete treatment, it’s essential to stay dedicated to your recovery to prevent a relapse. A relapse prevention program can help you maintain your sobriety long after treatment, even when you encounter a stressful or triggering situation.

An addiction specialist will help you identify the factors that could be contributing to relapses, such as work-related stress or financial strain. Once you’ve identified these factors, you’ll map out responses to these situations. For example, you can call a member of your support group or sponsor when you’re feeling stressed and close to relapse so they can remind you why it’s essential to stay committed to your recovery.

Your relapse prevention plan will also include coping skills you can use in stressful or triggering situations, including journaling, hiking, yoga or meditation. You’ll talk with an addiction specialist about aftercare programs, such as 12-step group therapy.

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The Process of Treating a Prescription Drug Addiction

If you’ve never participated in rehab before, you might not know what to expect. Below, we’ve outlined the prescription drug addiction treatment process, so there are no surprises when you enter treatment.


Before you can begin treatment, you’ll go through an assessment process to determine the level of care you need. An addiction specialist will need to determine the severity of your addiction by asking you questions about your prescription drug use. They’ll ask you questions such as:

  • When did you start using prescription drugs?
  • How often do you use prescription drugs, and what’s your regular dose?
  • What situations make you feel like you need to use prescription drugs?
  • What symptoms do you experience while using prescription drugs?

When answering these questions, it's essential to be honest

When answering these questions, it’s essential to be honest about your experience so the addiction specialist can help you curate a plan suited to your needs. They’ll likely also ask you questions about your mental health to determine if you have a co-occurring disorder that requires simultaneous treatment. They’ll also determine how your addiction has affected your personal life, such as your personal and professional relationships.

Once the assessment is complete, you’ll work with your addiction specialist to create a personalized addiction treatment plan. This plan will include various types of treatment to help you overcome addiction and improve your well-being.


The next step in the process is detoxing from prescription drugs. If you’re struggling with withdrawal symptoms, you may qualify for medication-assisted treatment, which can help you feel more comfortable as you’re detoxing.

You’ll be monitored by medical staff the entire time, so you feel safe and secure as your progress through treatment. Methadone and buprenorphine are often used in treating prescription drug addiction because these medications can trick the brain into thinking you’re still taking drugs, so you experience less severe withdrawal symptoms.

If you enroll in inpatient care, you’ll be able to detox in a safe and sober environment that prevents relapse. You’ll also have support from medical staff who can help you work through your uncomfortable physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

While medication can help, it’s only one part of treatment. While you’re detoxing from prescription drugs, you’ll participate in various forms of treatment to help you get to the root cause of your addiction.


As you detox from prescription medications, you’ll start treatment, which consists of various therapies to help you learn how to manage your triggers and overcome stress. You’ll learn valuable coping skills and how to restructure your thoughts to make positive behavioral changes that will help you achieve your goals.

Some of the types of therapy you might encounter during treatment include:

Part of addiction treatment will also include participation in recreational activities, which will help you learn how to enjoy life without prescription drugs. Recreational activities can help promote whole-body healing and encourage healthy lifestyle changes once you re-enter sober society. Different recreational activities include yoga, art, music, hiking and exercise.


The final step of the addiction treatment process is aftercare planning. Addiction is a chronic illness that requires constant care to sustain long-term sobriety. An aftercare plan will include the many steps you can take to take care of yourself after treatment and stay committed to your recovery.

Depending on your situation at home and the severity of your addiction, part of your aftercare plan might include sober living homes. These homes act as a transitional period between treatment and independent living. Sober living homes can be an essential part of the process for people who live in triggering environments. These homes also provide individuals with structure, such as daily chores and work-life responsibility. Residents will be able to start to gradually transition into independent living while they participate in a relapse prevention program.

An aftercare plan might also include participation in 12-step support group meetings. These meetings allow individuals to connect with others at various stages of recovery and help them feel less isolated throughout their journey. You’ll be able to discuss your challenges or voice your concerns without fear of judgment, as every group member is familiar with the toll addiction can take on a person’s life. You can also rely on members of your support group to hold you accountable to sustain your recovery well after your official treatment has ended.

The Benefits of Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

The Benefits of Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

If you’ve never participated in addiction treatment before, you might not be aware of the many benefits these facilities offer. Below are some of the most notable benefits of seeking treatment from a professional addiction treatment center:

  1. Ongoing support: Support is an essential part of the addiction recovery process. When you enter professional prescription drug addiction treatment, you’ll have access to a vast support network, even once you’ve left the facility. During treatment, you’ll have access to support from medical staff and counselors who can help you navigate the challenges of addiction recovery. Once you’ve completed official treatment, you’ll be able to continue to connect with others in support groups who share your experiences. Feeling supported during your recovery journey can help you maintain your sobriety and prevent a relapse.
  2. Treatment of underlying conditions: Many people with addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder that contributes to their addiction. Some people even use prescription drugs to self-medicate and relieve their symptoms. When you seek professional treatment, you’ll be treated for addiction and mental health simultaneously to improve your well-being and help you overcome your substance misuse disorder. Once you’re treated for your mental health, the desire to use prescription drugs won’t be as overwhelming, and it’ll be easier to focus on your treatment.
  3. Multiple levels of care: One of the main benefits of professional addiction treatment is access to various levels of care. You’ll get the specific type of care that will benefit you most and help you recover from addiction. Whether you need help with withdrawal, counseling or aftercare planning, an addiction treatment center is equipped to handle all of your needs so you can sustain your sobriety and get your life back on track.
  4. Healthy coping mechanisms and structure: While you participate in treatment, you’ll learn healthy coping mechanisms to help you manage your triggers and cravings once you re-enter sober society. You’ll also learn how to structure your day to have less time to think about your past substance use and focus on moving toward your goals. When you have a moment where you’re experiencing an intense craving or in a triggering environment, you can take a moment and rely on one of your coping mechanisms, such as meditating or journaling. These skills will also help you focus on your goals to make positive changes and improve your well-being.
  5. Better physical and mental health: When people become addicted to prescription drugs, they experience various adverse physical and psychological health conditions. Once they seek treatment and the drugs leave the body, their physical and mental health will improve. Treatment facilities also offer nutritious meals and activities to help improve your physical health. Ensuring you’re in peak physical and mental health helps keep you engaged in your recovery.

Rather than going through addiction alone, an addiction treatment center can help you through each step of the recovery process and set you up with the tools to help you succeed. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug addiction, seeking treatment from an addiction treatment center can help you improve your quality of life and work on goals for your future.

FAQs About Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

If this is your first time seeking professional addiction treatment, you might have some questions about the process. We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions to help you understand what you can expect from treatment.

What Medications Are Used in Medication-Assisted Treatment?

Multiple medications are used in MAT to help with withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. When you go in for your assessment, an addiction specialist will help you determine what medication is right for you. Medications that are often used to assist with prescription drug misuse treatment include methadone and buprenorphine.

These medications can help trick the brain into thinking you’re still taking drugs so you don’t experience severe withdrawal symptoms. They can help you focus on your recovery and prevent a relapse once you’ve exited official treatment. Medications can also be used to treat physical and mental ailments, so you can spend more time focusing on counseling and setting goals.

If you’re considering medication-assisted treatment, ensure you talk to your addiction specialist about any additional medications you may be taking.

Will Insurance Cover the Cost of My Treatment?

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) requires insurance providers to offer mental health and addiction treatment coverage in the U.S. Insurance companies are required to provide the same level of care for mental health conditions and addiction as they would physical conditions.

It’s essential to know what your insurance provider covers. For example, if you have limited coverage for physical conditions, you’ll have limited coverage for mental health and addiction. However, if you have insurance of any kind, you can assume you’ll have coverage for your addiction treatment.

At Gateway Foundation, we accept all major insurances, so you don’t have to worry about paying out-of-pocket for the entirety of your treatment. If you’re unsure where or how to start, we can help you find coverage for various rehab programs.

How Can I Convince My Loved One to Seek Treatment?

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with prescription drug addiction, you likely want to help them reclaim their life and reach sobriety. One of the best things you can offer your loved one is your ongoing support. You don’t want to enable their behaviors, but you want them to know you’re here to help them when they need it.

Approach them calmly and assure them you don’t blame them for their addiction. Allow your loved one to talk about their challenges and let you know you’re there to listen without judgment. Your support will help them feel less alone and more willing to receive help.

When you feel ready, you can recommend that they seek help from a professional addiction treatment center. Let them know how these facilities can help improve their life and overcome addiction challenges.


If your loved one is resistant to care, try talking to a professional for their advice or to see if they might help you with an intervention. They have plenty of experience assisting people in seeing the importance of addiction treatment and can be a valuable tool to assist you in getting your loved ones the help they need.

How Long Will I Need Treatment?

The length of treatment you need will vary based on the severity of your addiction and how long you’ve been misusing prescription drugs. If you choose an inpatient program, your stay can vary between 30 to 90 days. Outpatient treatment can last even longer, depending on the frequency of your treatment.

Once you complete your assessment, an addiction specialist will help you determine the length of your care and any necessary follow-up treatments you might need once you’ve completed inpatient or outpatient care. These treatments can include continued participation in a 12-step program or sober living home. Addiction is a lifelong disease, and while there’s an end to official treatment, it requires long-term care to achieve the best results.

How Can I Prepare for Treatment?

Before you meet with an addiction specialist, you should prepare for your first appointment or stay at an inpatient facility. If you have the necessary information available beforehand, it’ll make transitioning into the treatment process seamless.

Some things you should prepare ahead of time include:

  • Your insurance information
  • A list of medications you’re currently taking
  • A list of symptoms you’re experiencing from substance use or withdrawal
  • Personal information, including life changes or stressors
  • Any questions you might have about the treatment process

If you’re going into an inpatient program, there should be a list of items you can and can’t bring. Take a careful look at this list and ensure you pack the essentials, so you’re prepared and comfortable during your stay.

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Take the First Step and Contact Gateway Foundation

Seeking professional treatment for prescription drug misuse can help you get your life back and improve your physical and mental health. At Gateway Foundation, you’re never alone. We’ll help you through each step of the treatment process and help you create a personalized treatment plan so you can rest assured you’re getting the level of care you need and deserve.

With Gateway Foundation, you’ll have access to multiple levels of care and ongoing support from our staff. We’re dedicated to helping you get your life back on track and helping you create goals for a successful future. Take the first step toward recovery and contact us today to get started or learn more about our prescription drug addiction treatment center in Chicago, Illinois.

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