Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Substance Abuse “Who am I without my pill?”: escaping a medication trap

“Who am I without my pill?”: escaping a medication trap

05.03.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Situation in Russia is quite unfortunate: a lot of medication is sold without any prescription, and some is even advertised on popular media platforms. As the result, many people “prescribe” themselves certain medication. According to statistics, 84% of Russians go directly to the drug store, without consulting with a doctor. [1]

Medication is perceived as something undoubtedly benign, as they help us get healthy again. What danger can there be in some nasal drops anyway?

Only a few people actually consider the side effects of the medication and the fact that their pills can cause a real addiction.

If you find it hard to fall asleep without a pill, or you reach for the painkiller at the slightest sign of a headache, you are quite likely to have drug dependence syndrome. Our article will help you find out what causes this addiction, what are the symptoms and how we can get rid of it.


  1. Developing addiction to medication
  2. Types of drug dependence
  3. Signs of drug dependence
  4. Testing for drug dependence
  5. Getting rid of drug dependence

Developing addiction to medication

addictive drugs
First thing you should know: there are no safe drugs. Each medication that has a tangible effect also has an impact on your body, changing it. If you take medication sensibly, according to the dosage, then the risk is minimal.
However, if you constantly take medication, then the recommended dosage will stop being effective.

You will have to take more medication, but the body will adapt to it. It becomes a vicious circle: you need a greater dose, your body adapts faster, and one day the medication just stops having a desired effect. However, by that point the body cannot function without the drug. Extreme doses of potent substances can damage the organs and their functionality. Many drugs cause irreversible changes to bodily functions. The consequences can be severe, in some cases even lethal.

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Types of drug dependence

The main danger of medication intake is that a person can get addicted to almost any drug if they take it without prescription and exceed dosage. In Russia, most common addictions include the following:

  • Painkillers. People often take them to fight headache, and women use them to handle menstrual pain. Instead of searching for the cause, people start “extinguishing” pain with pills. It can lead to addiction, and also can make a disorder that causes the pain even worse.
  • Sedatives and sleeping pills. These types of medication affect our psyche, so a state of dependence on such medication can be similar to drug addiction. A person becomes unable to function without these pills and feels utterly helpless. Antidepressants have the same effect.
  • Nasal drops. Yes, even such harmless medication can lead to dependence. People get addicted to the drops very quickly, as they start to think they cannot breathe without them. However, vasoconstrictive nasal drops can actually make breath problems worse: nasal mucous membrane changes drastically under their effect, dries quickly and stops performing its functions. [2]
  • Valocordin and corvalol. These types of medication are particularly popular among elderly. One day someone told them that those were magical drops to “soothe their nerves” and “calm their heart”, so now they take this medication any time they are stressed, even if they don’t have any heart problems. However, only few people know that the potent substance in these drops is phenobarbital, which is one of the barbituates. They severely inhibit nerve system activity and can even induce coma. [3]

Signs of drug dependence


Drug dependence, like any other addiction, can manifest on two levels: psychological and physical. Let’s see how people develop a habit for medication abuse.

Psychological addiction

The only thing people with drug dependence think about is taking their pills. A patient can even start panicking if the idea of stopping the intake of their medication crosses their mind. They always check if they have taken the pill, and if they notice they’ve run out of medication, they rush to the drug store to restock.

Psychological addiction directly depends on the person’s mindset. Such people believe that they cannot live their lives and sleep well without their medication.

They think that their pain is so strong that only a pill can help,
that only their drug makes them feel better. In essence, it is a learned behavior pattern. At this stage, a person requires qualified help form a psychologist to correct it.

Physical addiction

The first sign of this stage is reduced effect of the medication, as the body quickly adapts to higher doses. Meanwhile, a disease that the drug was meant to treat manifests itself more often and with more intensity.

In extreme cases, patients with drug dependence experience withdrawal syndrome when they stop taking their medication abruptly. A person’s health declines: for example, headaches become increasingly strong after quitting painkillers. Discontinuing a medication causes abstinence symptoms, or, simply put, a withdrawal much like the one experienced by drug addicts. [4] The faster the medication leaves the body, the stronger are the symptoms. Once drug dependence reaches this stage, a patient requires serious treatment.

Testing for drug dependence

Mark the statements you agree with.

  1. I often take medication.
  2. I have a lot of medical supplies at home, just in case.
  3. Taking a pill is the best way to feel better.
  4. Sometimes I take medication that is classified as narcotic substances to improve my state.
  5. Only my medication can help me stop worrying about my health.
  6. I always carry some medication with me. I feel anxious if I forgot to take my medication.
  7. If I feel any minor ailment that wasn’t there before, I immediately start looking for medication against it.
  8. I cannot sleep without a sleeping pill.
  9. I always take a sedative when I feel nervous, nothing else helps me calm down.
  10. I don’t want to feel pain, so painkillers are my choice. No need to search for the cause of pain.
  11. Valocordin helps to calm my heart.

Test results:

  • if you have agreed with 5 or more statements, you are quite likely to have drug dependence.

Consult a doctor to make sure that instant withdrawal does not do you any harm. Please remember that drug dependence is a learned behavior pattern, you also should work on it with a psychologist.

Getting rid of drug dependence

Refusing to take medication is the first step on your way to treat addiction. It will help your body recover its functions. However, you should do this under medical supervision. If your dependence became too deep, abstinence syndrom can be life-threatening. Further treatment will depend on the severity of your addiction. In some cases, when patients suffer from severe withdrawal, they are sent to a hospital.

Medical specialists administer a different medication to treat the main disease. A patient must abide by all doctor’s orders and never increase the dosage of their newly prescribed medication.

However, drug dependence is also often supported by a specific mindset, so changing it is an important part of overcoming this addiction. That is where behavior psychology can help.
For example, our 7Spsy technique. It is a course of behavior modification that can help you realize the reasons why you cannot give up medication, and help you quit their abuse in a short period of time. 7Spsy course is taken remotely and lasts 2-6 weeks. It does not affect your process of treating your main disease in any way. By changing your behavior pattern you will learn to live your life to the fullest without any medication soon enough.

We will help you get to rid of an addiction

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  1. «Kak rossiyane prinimayut reshenie o pokupke lekarstv?» https://www.stada.ru/press/news/kak-rossiyane-prinimayut-reshenie-o-pokupke-lekarstv.html
  2. «Lekarstva, vyzyvayushchie privykanie» https://medaboutme.ru/zdorove/publikacii/stati/sovety_vracha/lekarstva_vyzyvayushchie_privykanie/
  3. Zloupotreblenie psihoaktivnymi veshchestvami. Sajt Vsemirnoj organizacii zdravoohraneniya https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/terminology/withdrawal/ru/