Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse, Addiction & Recovery

Opiate doctor

Opiate Addiction Treatment Might be Easier than You Expect

Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse

  • Many people take medicines the way the doctors instruct them to, but a significant amount of people become addicted to certain mind-altering drugs
  • Addiction to prescription drugs is one of the least-recognized forms of drug addiction
  • The most commonly abused prescription drug categories are opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants
  • Recent studies show that prescription drugs are the most popular drugs that teens and preteens experiment with.
  • According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH),1 nearly 6000 abuse a prescription drug for the first time every day

Most prescription drug abusers have begun to use a drug incorrectly after their doctor has written them a prescription. They discover that they like the feeling of the drug and take more of it than prescribed to get the effects they want. Many people have a legal prescription to take the pill they are dependent on, but they end up taking it in increasing quantities as they develop a tolerance to it. This can lead to a dangerous addiction and unforeseen consequences.

Prescription Drugs Frequently Abused2

  • 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)

Symptoms/Signs of Abuse

People who abuse their prescriptions  have become dependent on “self medicating” using  stimulants, opiates and tranquilizers/sedatives. Each of these drug classes causes a chemical reaction in the brain that the user enjoys.

Stimulants may cause a user to overly talkative and hyper. Sometimes these drugs will cause paranoia and insomnia when taken in larger amounts than prescribed.

Opiate prescription drug abusers will show symptoms of sedation, including an increased likelihood of falling asleep. They may seem elated and/or disoriented due to the drug’s effects. They may exhibit other symptoms similar to link to heroin abuse. People who abuse benzodiazepen and other sedatives will appear sedated when high; they may seem “out of it” or “spacy” and have slowed respiration and reaction times.

Dangers of Long-Term Prescription Drug Abuse

A person, who misuses any prescription drug, whether it’s an opiate, sedative, or stimulant, will experience long-term effects. Many people who become addicted to prescription drugs may accidentally overdose. While each class of drug has different symptoms and side effects, each drug can kill users and do significant damage to a body. Some of these side effects take place during regular use and are magnified when abused. Most drugs of abuse can affect memory and judgment. Addiction or dependence can cause significant problems in the user’s family, social, work or school life.

An addiction to prescription drugs may lead a user to the user to turn to illicit street drugs or underground marketplaces to get their drug of choice. Chronic prescription drug abusers tend to turn to illegal sources when their legal supply of the drug is cut off.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug users who have become dependent on their drug of choice will increasingly exhibit “drug-seeking” behavior. They may finish a bottle prematurely or “doctor shop” to try to stock up on their drug of choice. They may steal drugs or forge prescriptions. They may hoard pills or ration pills when their supply is running low.

If a person is addicted to a prescription drug, they may have noticeable mood swings, especially when they have run out of the drugs. They may look unkempt and seem tired most of the time. Some users will have mental health challenges, experiencing anger  or anxiety attacks when they run out of the drug. Some people abuse alcohol when they can’t have their drug of choice or abuse an alternate substance.

Getting clean from prescription drugs is often difficult because so many of the drugs people abuse have very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, it may even be dangerous to go “cold turkey” from the drug. Any medical professional or counselor will tell you that prescription drug addiction is a serious condition. Detoxing or “tapering down” may require the help of trained medical professionals in a safe, clinical environment where the patient can be monitored for adverse events.

How to Get Help With a Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction can leave a user in a cycle of ups and downs, but it always ends in “down”. Many people who are addicted to a drug feel like they simply cannot survive without it. We want you to know, there is a way out, and it’s available to you. Many people have been able to get out of the spiral of addiction and find a new way to live.

If you think you have a problem with prescription drugs, you’re in the right place. We’re here to help! Just give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about your treatment options. All phone calls are 100% confidential.


1.Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, available here.
2.Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs, available here.