Prescription Drug Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

Learn about prescription drug addiction & abuse

Prescription medications can positively affect the lives of those who require them. Whether it is a physical ailment or mental health condition, the use of these medications, regardless of the reason, should be closely monitored by a physician in order to prevent misuse or abuse of the medication prescribed. However, there are individuals who consume prescription medications for non-medical reasons or come to use them inappropriately in order to achieve mind-altering effects. When this is the case, it is considered prescription medication abuse.

Many prescription medications can be addictive and ultimately lure a person into a vicious cycle of addiction. Long-term abuse of such medications can render a number of harmful effects for a an individual, including damage to one’s vital organs, hindered occupational functioning, discord within relationships, and the development of a mental health condition or addiction. However, a person can successfully decrease the impact of such effects, prevent them, or avoid them all together by engaging in substance abuse treatment as a way to break free from the grips of an addiction to prescription medications. Whether an individual is abusing stimulants, tranquilizers, or pain medications, treatment can help a person achieve sobriety, come to understand his or her addiction, and develop the skills needed to sustain healthy recovery.


Prescription drug abuse statistics

Recent statistics show that prescription medication abuse is steadily rising. Research has found that almost 52 million people in the United States have taken prescription medications for non-medical reasons at least once during their lifetime. Painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants are the most widely abused medications and deaths as a result of overdose now surpass those caused by suicides, accidents, and gunshots.

Causes & Risks

Causes and risk factors for prescription drug abuse

The reasons why a person comes to abuse prescription medications can vary. However, researchers and addiction experts alike agree that the following explanations and risk factors can increase a person’s susceptibility to developing a substance abuse problem of this kind:

Genetic: A person’s genetics are now known to be a strong determinant for whether or not substance abuse or addiction will occur in an individual’s life. This conclusion was made after it was realized that members of the same family suffer from chemical dependency concerns. Therefore, it can be said that if a person develops a problem with prescription medications, that individual’s genetics could be partially responsible.   

Environmental: The risk for abusing prescription medications increases exponentially if a person is able to easily acquire these drugs from doctors or other individuals. Additionally, if a person is employed in a position that can make him or her vulnerable to injury, there is an increased risk for getting hurt, requiring medication for managing pain as a result of injury, and subsequently abusing said medications if that individual is not closely monitored by a doctor. Both of these scenarios are examples of how a person’s environment can affect the likelihood of a person developing a prescription medication abuse problem.

Risk Factors:

  • Easy access to prescription medications
  • Presence of chronic or complex pain condition
  • Working in an industry where injury is more likely to occur
  • Personal or family history of mental health condition(s)
  • Exposure to chronic stress or conflict
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, or dependence

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse

The apparent signs of a prescription medication abuse problem can vary. Depending on the medication that is being abused and the length of time the individual has been abusing said medication can both impact the obviousness of such a substance abuse problem. If you suspect that you or a loved one is abusing prescription medication, consider the presence of the following signs and symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Physical aggression towards others
  • Stealing
  • Attempts to conceal drug use
  • Decreased participation in things that were once enjoyed
  • Poor attendance at work
  • Not fulfilling roles / responsibilities
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to acquire multiple prescriptions

Physical symptoms:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Tremors
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Lack of coordination
  • Change in eating habits
  • Lack of good hygiene

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired decision-making
  • Delayed thinking
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Poor concentration

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Agitation
  • Anxiousness
  • Declined motivation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Depressed mood
  • Drastic shifts in mood


Effects of prescription drug abuse

Prescription medication abuse can trigger a domino effect of negative consequences should a person not seek and receive treatment. The listed consequences are likely to occur if an individual continues to abuse prescription medications:

  • Increased conflict with others
  • Divorce
  • Inability to acquire or maintain employment
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Suicide attempts
  • Death as a result of suicide or overdose
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Addiction leading to dependence
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Manifestation of a mental health condition or conditions
  • Suicidal ideations

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription drug abuse & co-occurring disorders

The symptoms of many mental health conditions can be so distressing that an individual may turn to other, unhealthy means of coping with said symptoms. For some, prescription medications offer the mental escape that is desired when a mental illness is present and causes emotional turmoil as a result. When this is the case, it is possible for a person to battle an addiction to prescription medications and be diagnosed with the one or more of the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

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

Galax was a godsend. I went to Galax for abusing Percocet and was cared for with so much compassion and kindness.

– Tresa
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