January 26, 2024

Prednisone Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

A woman sits an contemplates prednisone addiction

Prednisone is a medication prescribed to address various conditions linked to immune system overactivity and inflammation. Many people who are prescribed this corticosteroid ask, “Can you become addicted to prednisone?” While this class of medication is not addictive in the traditional sense, abusing prednisone can trigger an array of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This guide provides instructions on mitigating the side effects of stopping prednisone by gradually reducing the dosage.

Is Prednisone Addictive?

It is not possible to become addicted to prednisone. Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that involves a complex pattern of behaviors characterized by the compulsive use of a substance, loss of control over its use, and a strong craving for it. Prednisone does not create such cravings or behavioral patterns.

Prednisone belongs to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids, which are used to treat various medical conditions involving inflammation and immune system overactivity. While prednisone can have side effects and potential withdrawal symptoms when discontinued after long-term use, these effects are not indicative of addiction in the traditional sense.

That said, use prednisone only as prescribed by a healthcare professional. Abruptly stopping or misusing prednisone can lead to adverse health effects, including withdrawal symptoms and potential complications. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when taking prednisone or any prescription medication.

man looking up at sky representing Is prednisone addicting

What Is Prednisone Addiction?

Prednisone addiction, in the traditional sense of addiction characterized by cravings, compulsive use, and behavioral changes, is not a recognized medical condition associated with this medication. Prednisone is not known to create the same patterns of dependence and withdrawal commonly seen with substances that have a high potential for addiction – opioids, alcohol, or illicit drugs, for instance.

While prednisone itself is not addictive, some people who use it over an extended period may develop physical dependence. Physical dependence means that the body has adapted to the presence of the drug, and abruptly discontinuing its use can trigger the presentation of withdrawal symptoms.

Physical dependence and addiction are distinct concepts. Dependence occurs when a person’s body becomes accustomed to a drug’s presence and relies on it to maintain normal functioning. Conversely, addiction entails the compulsive use of a substance despite adverse consequences. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), key addiction traits include:

  • Inability to cease drug use
  • Difficulty in meeting work, family, or social obligations
  • Development of tolerance and/or withdrawal (although not all addictions entail these effects)

Consequently, physical dependence on a drug may or may not indicate the presence of addiction. A person may use a medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional and still develop physical dependence without exhibiting addictive behaviors. Conversely, someone may grapple with addiction while their chosen substance does not lead to physical dependence. Beyond this, physical dependence can coexist with addiction. What all this means is that when someone exhibits physical dependence on a medication, it is imperative to assess for signs of addiction and misuse, all while avoiding unwarranted assumptions about their medication use.

Prednisone Withdrawal Symptoms

Although there are no recognized prednisone addiction symptoms, withdrawal syndrome is nevertheless a concern. When someone has been taking prednisone or other corticosteroids over an extended period and decides to discontinue use, they may experience prednisone withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may vary in intensity and duration depending on factors such as the dose, duration of use, and individual sensitivity. Common prednisone side effects withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue: A pervasive feeling of tiredness and low energy is a common prednisone withdrawal symptom. This fatigue can significantly impact daily activities.
  • Muscle weakness: Prednisone withdrawal may lead to muscle weakness, making it challenging to perform physical tasks that were once routine.
  • Joint pain: Pain and discomfort in the joints, often accompanied by stiffness, can occur during prednisone withdrawal.
  • Nausea: Some people may experience nausea, which can contribute to a decreased appetite and potential weight loss.
  • Vomiting: In more severe cases, prednisone withdrawal may result in vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite: Diminished appetite is a common symptom, which can further contribute to weight loss during the withdrawal process.
  • Low blood pressure: Prednisone withdrawal may lead to a drop in blood pressure, potentially causing dizziness or fainting.
  • Mood changes: Individuals may experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or even depression during prednisone withdrawal.

Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity can vary widely from person to person. To manage prednisone withdrawal symptoms safely and effectively, healthcare providers often recommend a gradual tapering of the medication. This tapering process involves gradually reducing the dose over a specified period, allowing the body to adjust to the reduction in medication and minimizing withdrawal discomfort. If you are considering discontinuing prednisone or have concerns about its withdrawal effects, consult with a healthcare professional. 

Woman walking through a grass field representing is prednisone addictive

Treatment for Prednisone Addiction

While prednisone addiction is not a recognized medical condition due to the absence of compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and cravings associated with addiction, seek appropriate medical and psychological support if you have developed a problematic relationship with prednisone or are experiencing difficulties related to its use. Here are some steps to consider when addressing concerns related to prednisone use:

  • Consult a healthcare provider: If you suspect that you have developed an unhealthy reliance on prednisone or are experiencing difficulties due to its use, the first step is to consult a healthcare provider. They can assess your situation, review your medical history, and determine whether any physical dependence or misuse is occurring.
  • Medication review: Your healthcare provider can evaluate the reasons for prescribing prednisone in the first place. You may need to explore alternative treatments or medications that do not carry the same risk of dependence or misuse.
  • Tapering guidance: If you have been taking prednisone long-term and need to discontinue use, your healthcare provider can create a tapering plan. Gradually reducing the dose over time can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and the risk of rebound symptoms.
  • Psychological support: Psychological support, such as counseling or therapy, is often beneficial for individuals who are struggling with prednisone use. A mental health professional can address underlying issues, provide coping strategies, and assist in managing any emotional challenges related to medication use.
  • Addiction assessment: In cases where an individual’s reliance on prednisone raises concerns about potential addiction to other substances or problematic behaviors, a comprehensive addiction assessment may be recommended. This can help identify any co-occurring substance use or mental health disorders.
  • Support groups: Support groups or peer support networks can be invaluable for people dealing with medication-related challenges. Connecting with others who have faced similar situations can provide understanding, encouragement, and valuable insights.

Prednisone itself does not have the same potential for addiction as substances like opioids or stimulants, then. Despite this, concerns related to its use should be taken seriously and addressed with the guidance of healthcare professionals who can tailor a plan to meet individual needs. Open and honest communication with healthcare providers is essential when navigating issues related to prednisone use.

FAQs

Can you get addicted to prednisone?

Prednisone is not considered an addictive medication, as it does not create the same cravings or behaviors associated with addiction.

Do people abuse prednisone?

Prednisone is not usually abused for recreational purposes, but it is vital to use the medication only as prescribed by a healthcare professional due to potential side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

What helps with prednisone withdrawal symptoms?

Prednisone withdrawal symptoms can be managed with a gradual tapering of the medication, under the guidance of a healthcare provider, to minimize discomfort.

Can you die from prednisone withdrawal?

While prednisone withdrawal can be uncomfortable, it is generally not life-threatening. Severe complications can occur in rare cases, though, so seek medical guidance when discontinuing long-term prednisone use.

An image of gratitude lodge, where you can get treatment for prednisone addiction

Get Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

If you need help with prednisone addiction treatment, reach out to Gratitude Lodge in Southern California today. Our rehab centers in Long Beach and Newport Beach welcome you and your pet, providing a safe and secure setting in which you can detox from prescription medications and address the psychological side of addiction free of distractions and triggers.

Supervised medical detox at our California rehabs allows you to access medications and continuous clinical care, streamlining the intensity of the withdrawal process. After a week, you can transition to ongoing inpatient treatment at one of our beachside facilities.

All Gratitude Lodge addiction treatment programs offer targeted treatments that may include:

  • Psychotherapies
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare and support

To start moving beyond prednisone addiction, call Gratitude Lodge at 888-861-1658.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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