Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Understanding Prescription Drug Abuse

Learn About Prescription Drug Addiction

When an individual takes more medication than was prescribed, takes someone else’s prescription, or uses meds in a way that was not intended by the prescribing physician, it is considered prescription medication abuse. Prescription medications are needed for a number of different mental and medical health conditions, but still many of them are highly addictive. Some of the most commonly abused prescription medications include narcotic painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin, sedatives like Xanax, and stimulants like Adderall.

In addition to the mood and mind-altering effects associated with prescription drug use, many individuals abuse these substances because they are under the false assumption that prescription pills are safer to abuse than illegal street drugs. For these reasons, it is important that a person who abuses prescription medications to seek treatment in order to live a happy and healthy life.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription Drug Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders

When people are battling an addiction to prescription medication it is quite common for them to also be struggling with the symptoms of an additional mental health disorder. Many times the prescription medication abuse is an unhealthy attempt to try and cope with the presence of distressing symptoms. The following mental health conditions are those that are frequently diagnosed in individuals who are struggling with an addiction to prescription medications:

  • Another substance use disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depressive disorders


Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

Recent statistics show that 52 million adults in America have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes at some point in their lifetimes. Furthermore, reports have shown that more people die as a result of prescription medication abuse than from gun violence, suicides, or car accidents.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Abuse

A number of different factors have been cited as playing a role in influencing whether or not an individual will begin to abuse prescription medication and subsequently develop an addiction. The following concepts are some of the most commonly agreed upon causes and risk factors:

Genetic: Multiple studies have drawn the conclusion that genetics influence the development of an addiction. Individuals who developed substance abuse concerns were found to be more likely to have a family history of substance abuse and addiction. An individual’s genetic makeup may explain why some individuals are more likely to drug abuse than others.

Environmental: A person’s environment and certain life circumstances can influence whether or not he or she will begin to abuse prescription medications. For instance, if a person is exposed to prescription drug abuse or has easy access to such medications, it is more likely that prescription medication abuse will occur. Additionally, if an individual lacks the necessary skills for coping with distress and turmoil, the abuse of prescription medications could occur if said individual has access to prescription medication.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, or dependence
  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Presence of a chronic pain condition
  • Working in an industry where injury is more likely to occur
  • Exposure to high levels of stress or conflict
  • Easy access to prescription medications

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Since each medication is going to have a different set of side effects, the signs and symptoms associated with prescription drug abuse are going to vary depending upon the specific medication an individual is misusing. Furthermore, should an individual mix prescription drug abuse with other substances, such as alcohol, other symptoms may arise. The following signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of prescription drug abuse:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Change in interests and/or friends
  • Poor attendance at work
  • Not fulfilling roles and responsibilities
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Engagement in aggressive behavior
  • Engagement in reckless behavior
  • Stealing or engagement in other illicit behavior
  • Possessing multiple prescriptions
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to acquire multiple prescriptions
  • Lying or being deceitful

Physical symptoms:

  • Lack of good hygiene
  • Tremors
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Change in eating habits
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sweating
  • Fast or irregular heart beat
  • Respiratory depression

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Delayed thinking
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Poor concentration

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Sudden mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Agitation
  • Anxiousness
  • Declined motivation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Depressed mood


Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Abusing prescription medications comes with several dangers, including serious health risks and impairment in other areas of daily life. Below is a list of just some of the negative effects of misusing prescription medications:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Organ damage
  • Organ failure
  • Addiction leading to dependence
  • Increased risk for involvement in accidents and physical injury as a result
  • Poor occupational performance resulting in job loss
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Loss of interpersonal relationships
  • Development or exacerbation of mental illness symptoms
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Death as a result of overdose or suicide

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Prescription Drug Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of prescription medication withdrawal: When an individual stops using prescription medication that his or her body has become dependent upon, he or she will likely experience symptoms of withdrawal. The specific symptoms one experiences will depend upon the prescription medication being abused, and may include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma
  • Seizures

Effects of prescription medication overdose: Taking more than the recommended amount of any type of prescription medication is known as an overdose. An overdose on prescription medication can result in serious, harmful symptoms or even death if immediate medical attention is not provided. If any of the following effects occur, it may indicate that someone is experiencing an overdose:

  • Shallow heart beat
  • Chest pains
  • Muscle cramping
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Brain damage
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Creating cocktails of prescription drugs used to be a big part of my free time. The staff at Starlite Recovery Center helped me get the appropriate rehab and detox. I am celebrating my first year of sobriety and am confident that I will have many more to come with the supportive staff at Starlite to support and help me on this journey.

– Brian H.