Recognizing Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse: What to Look For and How to Help
Prescription drugs can be a valuable tool for managing pain and other medical conditions when used properly. However, when misused, they can also be highly addictive and negatively affect someone’s physical and mental health. Prescription drug abuse is widespread in the United States, with 5.1% (or about 14.3 million people) reporting misusing a prescription psychotherapeutic drug in 2021.
With that in mind, let’s review what prescription drug abuse is, discuss the signs and symptoms to look out for, and explore how to help someone struggling with prescription drug abuse.
What is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug misuse occurs when someone takes medication in a way that is different from how it was prescribed. This can include taking more than the recommended dosage, taking someone else’s medication, or using it for non-medical purposes. Misuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and other negative consequences.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs and Their Effects
Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs include opioids, stimulants, and benzodiazepines.
- Opioids – These are used as pain relievers and can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and drowsiness.
- Stimulants – Stimulant drugs are often used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy and can cause increased alertness, energy, and focus.
- Benzodiazepines – Benzos are used to treat anxiety and can cause feelings of relaxation and calmness.
Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
While it can be difficult to recognize when someone is struggling with prescription drug abuse (especially if they are hiding their usage), there are some common physical, emotional, and behavioral signs that may indicate a problem. It’s important to note that these signs may vary depending on the specific drug being abused and the individual’s reaction to it, and it’s always critical to approach the situation with empathy and understanding.
Physical Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
Physical symptoms of prescription drug abuse are often the most noticeable and may include:
- Drowsiness or nodding off
- Slurred speech
- Poor coordination
- Constricted or dilated pupils
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Nausea or vomiting
Emotional Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug misuse can also manifest in emotional changes. Some common emotional signs to look out for include:
- Mood swings
- Irritability or agitation
- Depression or anxiety
- Confusion or disorientation
- Lack of motivation or interest in activities
Behavioral Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
Behavioral signs of prescription drug addiction can be harder to spot, but they are just as important to recognize. These signs may involve actions that are out of character for the individual and can impact their relationships and daily responsibilities. Here are some common behavioral signs of prescription drug abuse:
- Visiting multiple doctors for the same condition
- Using medication prescribed to someone else
- Stealing prescription medication from others
- Buying prescription drugs illegally
- Neglecting responsibilities or relationships
Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse
If you begin to notice these prescription drug addiction symptoms, it’s important to understand that long-term side effects of painkillers or other prescription medications can occur soon after. One of the most significant side effects of prescription drug abuse is the impact on physical health.
The misuse of prescription drugs, such as opioids, can lead to respiratory depression, liver damage, and heart problems—and not to mention, overdose and death. These health problems can be life-threatening, particularly if the person is abusing prescription drugs over an extended period.
In addition to physical health problems, prescription drug abuse can also result in legal issues. This is especially true if someone is caught buying or selling prescription medication illegally. Legal consequences can range from fines and probation to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
Furthermore, prescription medication abuse can also cause social problems, such as strained relationships and job loss. Someone who is struggling with prescription drug abuse may neglect responsibilities at work or school, leading to job loss or poor academic performance. This can cause additional financial and emotional stress for the individual, as well as their loved ones. In some cases, prescription drug abuse can also lead to social isolation and an inability to maintain healthy relationships.
Seeking Help for Prescription Drug Abuse
If you or someone you care about is suffering from substance abuse, it’s crucial to seek help right away. Early intervention can prevent the situation from worsening and increase the likelihood of successful treatment and recovery.
There are prescription drug addiction treatment options available, including detoxification, therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. Seeking guidance from a healthcare provider or a professional addiction treatment center like Elevate Rehab can help identify the appropriate treatment plan and support the journey toward long-term sobriety.
A Holistic Approach to Recovery
Prescription medication abuse is a serious issue affecting people from all walks of life. By recognizing the signs and symptoms and seeking help early on, it’s possible to overcome addiction and achieve long-term recovery through a prescription drugs rehab program. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse, reach out to Elevate Rehab today to learn more about our holistic rehab approach to drug addiction treatment and how we can help.
- NIDA. 2023, February 13. What is the scope of prescription drug misuse in the United States?. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse on 2023, April 25
- NIDA. 2021, June 1. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids on 2023, April 25
- NIDA. 2018, June 6. Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants on 2023, April 25
- Griffin, C. E., 3rd, Kaye, A. M., Bueno, F. R., & Kaye, A. D. (2013). Benzodiazepine pharmacology and central nervous system-mediated effects. The Ochsner journal, 13(2), 214–223
This page does not provide medical advice
Written by Elevate Addiction Services | © 2022 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved