False Friends: Psychiatric Medications and Prescription Drug Dependence

Psychiatric medications, also called psychotropics, are designed to treat mental health issues. They are prescribed with the intention of assisting us to feel happier, more resilient, and more capable of living fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Psychotropics are typically prescribed when we are given a diagnosis like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, post traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia. Many psychiatric medications are household names, such as, Prozac, Ritalin, Xanax, and Ambien.

Women with addiction are particularly likely to have been diagnosed at some point in their lives with a mental health condition and placed on one or more prescription medications to treat it.

At Villa Kali Ma, we generally favor an integral, holistic, and non-medicated approach to recovery. If you have not yet been placed on a psychotropic, we will not encourage you to start using them, though we also understand that in some cases very short-term use for stabilization may be beneficial. Women struggling with mental health conditions should focus solely on inner emotional support and support groups.

We believe that recovery from addiction is not only possible without psychotropics but preferable when you take the lens of long-term health, safety and sustainability. If you desire a successful recovery process, mental health disorder treatment programs should be specifically tailored in holistic rehab centers.

Our Women’s Addiction Treatment Center for Prescription Abuse

Our View On Psychotropic Medications for Mental Illness

Our view has been informed by a picture of the true long-term impacts of psychotropic medications that have emerged in the last decade through the publication of several scientific studies, as well as investigative work by journalists, doctors, medical researchers, and medical professionals reassessing and re-analyzing existing clinical data. In light of the information currently available to us, we consider that many psychotropic medications to most likely be a “false friend” for women with chemical dependency, causing more trouble than they take away.

Psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan, MD and investigative journalist Robert Whitaker are two of the more well-known voices who have spoken up about problems associated with prescription psychiatric medications. In his prize-winning book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, Whitaker takes a closer look at data already in existence and comes to the conclusion that psychotropics have a hand in the rise of medical disability due to mental illness in the United States.

According to Whitaker, a thorough review of data gathered independently as well as data collected in pharmaceutical companies’ clinical studies indicates the following possibility: not only do prescription psych medications not cure the condition they claim to treat, they actually create a host of serious, devastating problems worse than the original condition. Specifically, it looks as though antipsychotics worsen psychosis over time, (they are also linked to brain shrinkage); anti-depressants increase suicidality; anti-anxiety agents worsen anxiety, and so on.

We have zero judgment toward anyone who has turned to psychiatric medications for help with her suffering; it is not a moral issue but only a question of what really works best. We gently emphasize that psychotropics do not cure, but only temporarily treat the symptoms of the conditions they are prescribed for. The most a woman using psychiatric medications can hope for is that her symptoms disappear while taking the drug. When the drug is stopped, she can expect that the original symptoms will return.

Getting off a psychiatric drug is not always easy. As this study finds, psychotropic drugs may create a “backlash” effect, in which the problem originally treated becomes worse after discontinuation of the medication (due to a type of “oppositional tolerance” that is built up). In “Tardive Dysphoria: the role of long term antidepressant use in inducing chronic depression”  the authors likewise explore the connection between antidepressants and an increase in depression on the whole. Finally, anecdotal reports abound detailing the difficulties associated with getting off of psychotropics, as told in the New Yorker piece “The Challenge of Going Off Psychotropics”.

Some prescription psychiatric medications are also addictive, especially the class known as benzodiazepines, which include Xanax and Klonopin, which have been associated with overdose and death. These medications, which are unfortunately rather frequently prescribed to women with anxiety, are famously horrible to withdraw from, and have been correlated with permanent brain damage. Benzodiazepines, alongside the incredibly addictive class of painkillers known as opioids, present a huge likelihood of developing prescription drug dependence. Stimulants used for ADHD are also very habit-forming, hence are at high risk of misuse, and like their chemical cousin speed, incur agonizing withdrawals.

Behavioral Therapy Works As A Successful Alternative Therapy

Perhaps most importantly, we know that successful alternative therapies exist. Promising results have been documented in treating even the severest of psychiatric conditions, such as psychosis, with cognitive therapy (working with your thoughts). Cognitive therapy is only one of many evidence-based psychotherapy techniques which have been demonstrated to work well with addiction, addictive behaviors, its underlying concerns, and co-occurring conditions (such as post-traumatic stress disorder).

The functional medicine approach, in which our mental health troubles are considered treatable with a combination of lifestyle changes, nutrient therapies, exercise, and mindfulness, has an increasingly recognized scientific basis as a way of understanding what mental illness is, to begin with, which looks more and more to be quite different than the medical model may have originally believed, as this study also suggests. Our women’s rehab program capitalizes on incorporating holistic approaches into our treatment setting.

As women, our troubles are complex; they are connected to our childhoods, our life stories, our traumas, our ability to make meaning of our experiences, our attitudes, our spirituality, and our bodies. The traumatic events we have experienced could have led to our substance misuse, our low self-esteem, and several more entities that do not serve us. Suffering touches every aspect of our aliveness; we feel it is best treated with holistic, integrated healing approaches that address every aspect of our multidimensional being.

Specialized Prescription Drug Rehab Programs for Women

We encourage every woman to do her own research, but due to the very real possibility we see that psychotropics cause more harm than good, as well as our own experiences recovering from prescription drug addiction, Villa Kali Ma is committed to an integrative health approach. That means we support the natural knowing within you to grow stronger. We understand your symptoms as messages from the soul and not inconveniences to be medicated away. Because that is how substance use disorders are formed.

Through our prescription drug rehab programs, we help women heal to experience balance, joy, and meaning in life, primarily through spirituality, diet and nutrition, yoga and exercise, community recovery groups like AA, and emotional repair achieved through therapy, breathwork, trauma work, and bodywork. Although our prescription drug rehab programs are integrated with psychiatrists and MDs in treatment, too, we do understand that it’s important to consider all the tools available in treating mental health and addiction (including questions of timing and making sure that appropriate stability is achieved), we aim to work together with the larger goal of life independent from any substance. Therefore, our substance use disorder treatment will work for you.

If you are currently taking prescription medications and also suffer from addiction, please know that we are here, available, committed, and capable, to help you find natural prescription drug rehab programs and pathways to recovery that will help rebuild your brain and lead you toward a life free of any kind of chemical substances, prescribed or not. We are only a phone call away! Wherever you stand on this issue, you are warmly invited, and completely welcome here, to have us help you find your own way to a profound, glowing wellness that comes from deep within you.


What is Prescription Drug Addiction?

prescription drug rebab for women in california

Prescription drug addiction is a widespread substance abuse disorder that has reached epidemic proportions within the United States.

As the name suggests, prescription drug addiction is a substance abuse problem akin to alcoholism and addiction to illegal drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. What distinguishes this addiction from other substance addictions is that it involves dependence on a pharmaceutical product.

Several prescription drugs are highly addictive. Three categories are particularly problematic due to their risk of habit formation combined with toxicity to the body: painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants.


The class of substances referred to as opioids are especially addictive and deadly, resulting in an average estimated 50,000 people’s deaths by overdose yearly, and 600,000 opioid-related deaths since the late 1990s, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics and the Stanford-Lancet Commission on the North American Opioid Crisis, respectively.

Naturally-sourced opioids like morphine are derived from poppies (papaver somniferum). Synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids are created in laboratories for medical applications and include drugs like fentanyl, oxycodone (brand name OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, methadone, Demerol, Percocet, and others.

All classes of opioids are high-risk substances from the addiction point of view. Although originally promoted as non-addictive, these pharmaceutical products are addictive to a deadly degree because they create the same effects on the human nervous system caused by ingesting any form of the plant opium. Opium is the substance used to make the street drug heroin, whose addictive properties are well established. The opioid epidemic is generally considered to be a top public health emergency at this time.

If you suspect you may be addicted to a painkiller like Vicodin or OxyContin, it is highly advisable to seek advice from an addiction professional to support you to safely stop using this substance. Our women’s addiction treatment center can assist you with this.

Sedatives and Tranquilizers

Drugs prescribed for their sedative and tranquilizing effects, intended to treat sleep and anxiety disorders, also feature prominently in the prescription drug addiction epidemic.

While less widespread than opiates, sedative, and tranquilizer addiction is a significant problem in the United States, with an estimated nearly 6 million people abusing them, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. Used for their depressant (soothing) effects, this category of drugs includes brand names like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan, and others.

Prescription sedatives include barbituates, benzodiazepines, eszopiclone (Lunesta), triazolam, zaleplon, flurazepan, temazepam, zolpidem (Ambien), and others. Prescription tranquilizers include clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, muscle relaxers, alprazolam, and others.

Both are likely to be used for emotional coping skills, as sleep aid and are highly addictive. These drugs are also very toxic to the body, with an enormous footprint that includes side effects such as liver failure, brain damage, amnesia, seizures, nightmares, night terrors, coma, and death.

These drugs are addictive because of their calming and dampening effects on the nervous system, creating artificial states of relaxation and simulating feelings of safety and ease. However, in the long run, they aggravate the original condition they are intended to treat, creating an increase in trouble with sleep and anxiety both.

They are also dangerous, in part because of how these pathways in the body work normally, and what happens when a substance is used to artificially modulate or change these pathways. Withdrawals can be life-threatening, with the risk of seizures, coma, and death.

Due to the danger associated with withdrawal from sedatives and tranquilizers, it is vital to receive medical support for the withdrawal process rather than attempting to detox alone. A medically supervised detox will assist greatly with this addiction treatment. A medical detox is considered the first step of formal treatment before engaging in other treatment methods such as behavioral therapy.


prescription drug rebab for women in CAAnother suite of addictive pharmaceuticals is the category of prescription stimulants, which include Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Ritalin.

Stimulants are widely prescribed in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and aim to increase the ability to focus attention and energy.

These drugs are highly addictive, often misused, and are associated with medical complications, including heart disease, respiratory damage, kidney failure, brain hemorrhages, brain lesions, cognitive damage to thinking and memory, and reproductive damage.

Stimulant addiction also contributes to several psychiatric problems, such as severe anxiety, hyperactivity, uncontrolled impulses, and violence. When there is a substance use disorder and mental health disorder together, dual diagnosis programs are often needed to address both illnesses simultaneously.

All in all, prescription drug addiction is a serious condition affecting millions of people now. Our substance abuse treatment programs can assist through inpatient treatment or outpatient programs.

Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Symptoms include tolerance, which is whenever higher doses of a substance are required to achieve the same effect. This takes place over time, as a person progresses in their dependence and the body gradually adapts to, and therefore counteracts, the unbalancing effects of the drug. As the dependence continues, the treatment progresses to combat the dependency.

Our treatment approaches understand the importance of gender differences and gender expectations. In order to undergo complete treatment, our treatment centers cater to women struggling.

Symptoms of prescription drug addiction include withdrawals, which means that in the absence of enough of the substance, an addicted person will experience severe discomfort that provides for physical craving, psychological unease, and mental obsession with getting the needed amount back into their system.

The withdrawal symptoms will vary for every individual depending on the addiction severity. During this entire process, an individual’s emotional, psychological, mental, and physical health is affected. It will take everyone on board to support and conquer this challenge.

A behavioral pattern of craving, psychological obsession, and increasing centricity of the drug in a person’s life emerges. Many people will find themselves led to counterproductive, destructive, and even illegal behaviors in pursuit of maintaining the needed dosage of the drug.

For this reason, we offer family therapy for the woman struggling and her family members. Often, trauma-related disorders are birthed through sexual abuse and various other factors.

In the case of prescription drug addiction, this leads to a variety of problematic behaviors within the medical system. Going to multiple doctors to get extra prescriptions, exaggerating symptoms, faking injuries, forging prescriptions, and even robbing pharmacies can be a symptom.

Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction

Causes are similar to causes of addiction in general. Underlying conditions that may contribute to the development include:

  • Trauma-related disorders
  • Chronic mental, emotional, or physical pain
  • A physical injury or other one-time health event resulting in a prescription for a pharmaceutical product with addictive properties, such as opiates or tranquilizers
  • Being prescribed an addictive pharmaceutical product as a part of a treatment recommendation for a common mental health diagnosis, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sleep trouble, social anxiety, or ADHD
  • Genetic predisposition toward addiction through the family history of substance abuse

Prescription drug addiction also derives in part from social factors that include unfortunate pharmaceutical industry practices, like direct-to-consumer advertising and corporate incentivizing of doctors and hospitals promoting their products.

People suffering from prescription drug or alcohol use today are also negatively affected by our shared societal propensity to treat complex, multidimensional problems with substance-based solutions offered through the Western medical model in general, which has some blind spots when it comes to the aspect of the mind-body connection when treating disease in the body.

A further complicating factor when it comes to prescription drug addiction is that due to the reverence many people hold for doctors and other representatives of the medical field, many are inclined to trust the opinions and recommendations of apparent experts without thoroughly researching a pharmaceutical product in question before beginning to ingest it. Substance abuse disorders begin because of it.

Even when willing to ask some questions, many people are unaware of the degree to which approval by regulatory boards and information put out by medical professional associations may neglect to appropriately emphasize health risks that are likely to be encountered by a percentage of people using the product. Substance use is a very serious matter; nothing to take lightly.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse at Our Women’s Addiction Treatment Center

prescription drug rebab for women in carlsbadPrescription drug addiction treatment is similar to treatment for other substance abuse disorders and follows a similar course.

The first step is to safely detoxify in a supervised setting with the assistance of qualified professionals. Due to the exceptional lethality of some pharmaceutical drugs during the detoxification process, it is strongly advised to seek medical support for this process rather than attempting detoxification by yourself. Our women’s addiction treatment center cares for our clients at our treatment centers.

Detoxification may be supported in some cases with the temporary use of other drugs that help the body adapt to the removal of the problematic substance, for example, to prevent seizures during detoxification from benzodiazepines.

Upon achieving detoxification of the body, the body needs to be supported through a variety of integral health interventions to return to a higher state of functioning through sleep, exercise, and nutritional support, which can be discovered in our outpatient care rehab program.

Very important for any course of addiction treatment to be placed in an environment that reinforces ongoing sobriety with factors like regular accountability, meetings, group therapy, and individual therapy. Finally, it will be necessary to:

  • Learn about the nature of drug and alcohol addiction
  • Build a toolkit of alternate self-care practices for modulation of moods without substances
  • Address underlying issues through a deeper look into the psyche’s needs and wounds
  • Make a plan for relapse prevention
  • Connect to a community of other people recovering from prescription drug addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment at Villa Kali Ma

Villa Kali Ma’s holistic treatment program addresses prescription drug addiction by deeply meeting women at every level of their being. We use physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, creative, and behavioral modalities for healing.

Some of our treatment programs offer the following for substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Dual diagnosis programs
  • Residential treatment
  • Outpatient treatment

Each woman attending our treatment program is guided through a course of treatment, beginning with appropriate detoxification, then a structured setting of cutting-edge treatment programs and holistic healing therapies, ending with graduation as an empowered, community-connected, deepened, recovering woman.

If you’re concerned that you may have developed a prescription drug addiction, feel free to consult us on the best treatment for your case. You are not alone!


I don't believe it to be an exaggeration to say that Villa Kali Ma saved my life.
I couldn't have asked for a better environment to heal and redirect onto a path towards true living.


This place completely changed my life. I needed a drastic change from the typical recovery environment in order to stay sober long-term. I can honestly say that I love who I am today and I am forever grateful for Villa Kali Ma!


I am so grateful I found Villa Kali Ma, it has truly changed my life. Kay is awesome and the entire team who works there is absolutely amazing. If you need treatment, I highly recommend making this the start to your recovery.


Villa Kali Ma is an in-network provider with Anthem BCBS, Multiplan, First Health, Healthnet, and currently accepts most
PPO plans with out-of-network benefits. Call (760) 350-3131 for information on cost and payment options.