Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse, Addiction & Facts

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

man in prescription addiction recovery

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Most people take medicines the way the doctors instruct them to, but a significant amount of people are predisposed to become addicted. Most prescription drug abusers begin to use a drug incorrectly after a period  during which their doctor has legitimately prescribed the medication. Often, the prescription may have been written due to chronic pain, and injury, or a mental health condition such as anxiety.

Addiction to prescription drugs is one of the least-recognized forms of drug addiction. A prescription drug, by definition, is any medicine that requires a doctor’s prescription to obtain. The person may have a legal prescription to take the pill they are addicted to. Often, they will abuse the drug by taking it in increasing quantities after they have built up a tolerance.

Different kinds of prescription drugs that are typically abused are:

  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)
  • Amphetamines (Adderall)

In recent years, studies have shown that middle school aged children are most likely to experiment with a prescription that they find around their house or that of a relative or friend. Prescription drug addiction among this age group has risen at an alarming rate.

The Connection Between Prescription Medications and Heroin

Heroin has experienced a shocking resurgence in popularity in the last 20 years due to the frequency with which abusers of opiate medications (like Xanax or hydrocodone) are “graduating”  to heroin use due to it’s relative availability.

This process has become a full blown epidemic in recent years and frequently ends with a fatal overdose.  The user who experiments with achieving pleasurable sensation by “popping pills” can gradually become physically and psychologically dependent on the drugs. Then, when the medications are too difficult to obtain (often costing $50+ per pill and increasingly more regulated and difficult to get), the withdrawal sensations are so unpleasant that the user turns to a solution they would have never imagined they would ever seek out: illegal heroin.

What Are the Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse?

Usually the users abuse stimulants, opiates and tranquilizers/sedatives. These types of prescription drugs cause a chemical reaction in the brain that the users enjoy. Stimulants may cause a user to be shaky and hyper, sometimes causing paranoia and insomnia when taken in larger amounts than prescribed. Opiate prescription drug users will be very subdued and exhibit sleepiness or lack of motivation.  People who abuse tranquilizers may sleep a lot and be incoherent or groggy much of the time.

As we always point out with regard to almost all drugs, the easiest time to identify that someone is abusing them is to look for their being “ill at ease” if they are not able to take the drug.  If you can create activities where you monitor someone for long periods you may be able to notice this change. If the person avoids long activities it may be for exactly this reason – they are subconsciously (or consciously) trying to create windows during which the drugs can be sought or ingested.

All too often these types of clues are overlooked by families (or attributed to other causes).

What Are the Long-Term Effects and Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse?

A person addicted to prescription drugs may accidentally overdose at any time. Each drug is different, and has an effect on the user’s brain that causes them to feel pleasure. However, each drug can kill users and do significant damage to a user’s hearts, lungs, and nervous system. They can also affect memory and judgment, causing significant problems in the user’s family, social, work or school life.

An addiction to prescription drugs may force the user to turn to harder, street version of drugs when their prescriptions are no longer available. The recent rise in heroin addiction in the US has been attributed to an increase in prescription opiate drug addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Dependency/Addiction

One of the biggest telltale signs of prescription drug abuse is drug-seeking behavior. A person may run out prescriptions quickly or get in trouble with the law for forging prescriptions. They may look through their friends or family’s medicine cabinet and steal drugs. They may frequently split pills in half with no medical reason to do so. They may visit multiple doctors in an effort to stockpile their drug of choice.

A person abusing tranquilizers may start having a disheveled, pale appearance. They will have noticeable mood swings, especially when they have run out of the drugs. They may alternate to abusing alcohol when they can’t have the pill they want. They may have dramatic changes in their sleeping patterns; unable to sleep when they cannot have the drug.

Most prescription drug abusers will experience physical withdrawal when they try to cease using it. Prescription drug addiction is a serious condition that requires the help of trained medical professionals in a safe, therapeutic environment.

Getting Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

If you or someone you know may have a problem with a prescription drug, you may want to find out about your treatment options. Many people have been able to reclaim their lives with the help of a supportive treatment environment staffed with caring, supportive professionals. Give us a 100% confidential call at the number above find out your treatment options.