Addiction Medicine Specialist Questions High Blood Pressure

Can long term medications make the body really addicted to them?

My husband has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes, and he is 24 years old. If he starts this medication at this young age, is his body likely to get addicted to the medication? I am well-aware that he needs it in order to survive, but I want to make sure that he will be okay.

2 Answers

No, he will not become addicted.
I'm afraid your question contains mistaken assumptions. First, the vast majority of medications have no risk of "addiction." Are certain medications essential to health if you have a condition like hypertension or diabetes? Absolutely. Are they addicting? Well, are you addicted to food or oxygen? If you stop eating or breathing, you will die, but no one considers that an addiction. These medications are like gas in your car. No matter how tired you become of filling up your tank, you have to keep refilling it or your car will stop running. Not an addiction.

Second, only a couple of medications for hypertension pose a risk of withdrawal if you stop them suddenly. So, if you're taking a beta blocker like Inderal (propranolol), carvedilol, or metoprolol and stop suddenly, that could cause chest pain or even a heart attack in a susceptible person. Taper and stop them over about two weeks, no problem. Clonidine has a similar problem. Otherwise, you can stop an antihypertensive drug and all that happens is your blood pressure goes up. Diabetes is similar; I know of no drug with a withdrawal risk, but if you stop them, your blood sugar shoots up.

It's certainly true that hypertension and diabetes may get worse over time, so that you require more medication. It's a little like an old car that gradually gets less gas mileage over time, so you need to fill up the tank more frequently. The problem here is the car, not the gas. Similarly, when they need more medication to control their illness, people often refuse to believe the problem is their hypertension or diabetes itself. They blame their need for more medication on the drug, not the illness.

Finally, "addiction" is when you take a drug like alcohol, Xanax, or Norco that causes euphoria, and you wind up using more and more. You lose control and the drug takes over. The drug then starts causing problems, but you don't stop. No drug for hypertension or diabetes has this risk.