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Recognizing the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

According to a report issued by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20% of Americans ages 12 and older used prescription medications for nonmedical reasons. When someone is using prescription medications in ways that the doctor didn’t intend, that leads to prescription drug abuse. Despite the negative consequences, prescription drug abuse might become compulsive and ongoing. That’s why you must understand the signs of prescription drug abuse. In doing so, you can help a friend or loved one on their path toward recovery by supporting them through prescription drug addiction treatment.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

There are many symptoms and signs of prescription drug abuse. They vary according to the person, as well as the substance they’re using. Other factors, including if there’s another drug abused, the frequency of use, and the addiction’s length, are also factors.

Common signs of prescription drug abuse include:

  • Appearing lethargic, overly energetic, or intoxicated
  • Asking others if they can use their prescription medications
  • Breaking or crushing pills
  • Experiencing withdrawals when medication isn’t available
  • Forging or stealing prescriptions
  • Irritability if medications aren’t available
  • Taking more of a prescription than the dose indicated

Prescription Drug Abuse Symptoms Vary

You’ll find that the signs of prescription drug abuse or addiction vary according to what they’re taking. For example, someone who is abusing opioids might experience confusion, constipation, drowsiness, poor coordination, or nausea. Those who are abusing anti-anxiety medicines or sedatives might experience:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory issues
  • Slurred speech

If someone is abusing stimulants, they might experience anxiety, agitation, high body temperature, paranoia, and a reduced appetite.

The Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is a severe medical condition that requires treatment from chemical dependency experts. Once you determine the signs of prescription drug abuse, it’s time to understand its long-term effects. The most common effects include:

  • Addiction
  • Homelessness
  • Financial difficulties
  • Joblessness

These individuals might also experience relationship problems, social isolation, and legal problems. Along with these social and professional problems, prescription drug abuse can lead to a number of physical and mental health issues such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed breathing
  • Insomnia
  • High blood temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat

Causes of Addiction to Prescription Drugs

You must also understand the causes when looking for the signs of prescription drug abuse or addiction. Typically, only a dentist, doctor, or optometrist can write prescriptions. Additional medical professionals who have the authority to write prescriptions include:

  • Advanced registered nurse practitioners
  • Certified physician assistants
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists
  • Naturopaths (ND or naturopathic doctors)
  • Osteopathic physicians
  • Osteopathic physicians assistants certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physicians Assistants
  • Physician assistants

Knowing who can and who cannot write prescriptions is essential because you want to ensure individuals aren’t receiving medications from unauthorized sources. Just like the signs of prescription drugs varies, so do the causes. 

Some individuals begin abusing them because they’re looking for relief from physical or emotional pain. Others like the pleasurable feelings they receive when taking these medications. These individuals take more than what the prescription indicates to find relief or enhance their feelings of pleasure. 

If you begin to misuse a prescription because of increased pain or euphoric effects, tell your doctor right away. They will be able to adjust your medication to suit any changes in your physical condition. Being honest with your doctor can help prevent prescription drug abuse or addiction.

Getting Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

When it comes to prescription drug abuse addiction, it is vital to seek out a treatment center that can provide you with assistance for the full continuum of care. If you are struggling actively with substance abuse, you want to ensure that the treatment center you are looking into has connections or can offer drug detox to help clients overcome the dangerous and problematic issues associated with early sobriety.

From there, clients need access to inpatient rehab or outpatient treatment center to help them learn about their addiction and discover methods for overcoming this issue and preventing relapse.

Following a stay at inpatient or time at intensive outpatient program, clients should be set up with an aftercare program that will set you up with an alumni community that you can rely on in times of need.

You may be wondering how you can even find all of this, our team at Renaissance Recovery has you covered.

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment Center at Renaissance Recovery

Are you or someone you know exhibiting the signs of prescription drug abuse or addiction? No one should have to navigate these challenging times without support. If you have questions about the various signs and don’t know where to turn, now is the time to reach out for help. Contact Renaissance Recovery by calling 866.330.9449 to receive those answers and learn more about how our prescription drug abuse treatment programs can help.

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country