Signs & Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Bayside Marin is a premier rehabilitation center dedicated to the treatment of prescription drug addiction in California. Bayside Marin blends evidence-based treatments with alternative, holistic modalities to comprehensively treat all aspects of our client’s life.

Understanding Prescription Drugs

Learn about prescription drugs and substance abuse

When a person is suffering from a mental health condition(s) and/or pain condition(s), prescription medications can provide the alleviation needed to in order to live a life that is not restricted due to these types of afflictions. Oftentimes, when one’s doctor prescribes medication, suffers of such conditions are informed of the risks involved and encouraged only to take the given drug as directed. Many prescription medications are addictive in nature and could lead to an addiction if a person abuses these drugs. Prescription painkillers, more specifically, can be highly addictive and, if an individual consumes these opioid medications outside of the recommendations of one’s doctor or for recreational purposes, an addiction is likely to manifest.

Central nervous system depressants and stimulants are other types of prescription medications that are often abused by people. These substances, much like painkillers, can be habit-forming and cause a person to develop a dependency upon them. Trying to break free from a substance abuse concern of this kind is often ripe with obstacles, as withdrawal is known to occur if a person ceases his or her use of these drugs without the supervision of professionals who can monitor an individual’s vital signs. Fortunately, there are many treatment options in existence that can help those addicted to prescription medications so that a drug-free life can be realized and enjoyed.


Prescription drug addiction statistics

Reports show that painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants are among the most abused prescription medications in this day and age. With more people dying as a result of prescription medication abuse than from gun violence, suicides, and car accidents, prescription medication abuse has become a widespread epidemic in the United States. Moreover, recent statistics show that 52 million adults in America have used prescription drugs for non-medical, recreational reasons at some point in their lifetimes.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for prescription drug addiction

While there can be many reasons why a person comes to abuse prescription medications, the following concepts are those that are widely agreed upon by experts in the fields of mental health and addiction:

Genetic: Several studies have proven that there is a genetic influence on the development of addiction. Within many of these studies, individuals with chemical dependency concerns were found to have a family history of substance abuse and addiction. Other research studies discovered specific genes that can also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse. In lieu of these results, it can be concluded that a person’s genetic makeup can explain why some people are more susceptible to abusing drugs, such as prescription medications, than others.  

Environmental: It is possible that a person’s environment and certain circumstances can influence whether or not he or she will abuse prescription medications. If a person is exposed to prescription drug abuse, has easy access to such medications, or is prescribed medication but is not appropriately monitored by his or her physician, it is probable that prescription medication abuse will occur. Additionally, if an individual lacks the necessary skills for coping with distress and turmoil, the abuse of prescription medications could occur if that person is able to acquire these substances with relative ease.

Risk Factors:

  • Presence of a chronic pain condition
  • Working in an industry where injury is more likely to occur
  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Lack of supervision from one’s prescribing doctor
  • Exposure to high levels of stress or conflict
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, or dependence
  • Easy access to prescription medications

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction

People who abuse prescription drugs often go to great lengths to hide their substance use. Because of this, it may not always be obvious to close friends and family members that a person is struggling with this type of chemical dependency concern. If you suspect that you or a loved one is battling an addiction to prescription medications, it can be helpful to note if any of the following signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse are present and consider seeking treatment:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Increased conflict or physical aggression towards others
  • Stealing
  • Possessing multiple prescriptions
  • Attempting to drive or perform other daily tasks while under the influence of prescription medications
  • Change in interests and/or friends
  • Poor attendance at work
  • Not fulfilling roles and responsibilities
  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to acquire multiple prescriptions
  • Lying in order to conceal one’s drug use

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Delayed thinking
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Poor concentration

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of prescription drug addiction

Abusing prescription medications can render numerous harmful effects for an individual. With the ability to impact not only the abuser of such substances, the consequences of prescription drug abuse can trickle down and adversely affect the family members, friends, and coworkers of the individual battling this type of chemical dependency concern. The listed effects are those that can occur if a person does not seek treatment to end an addiction to prescription medications:

  • Suicidal ideations
  • Suicide attempts
  • Death as a result of suicide or overdose
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Addiction leading to dependence
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Demise of meaningful interpersonal relationships
  • Inability to acquire or maintain steady employment
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Manifestation or exacerbation of mental illness symptoms

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription drug addiction and co-occurring disorders

When untreated symptoms of a mental health condition or conditions are present in an individual’s life, there is a high likelihood that that person will utilize alternative methods for coping with his or her turmoil. The abuse of drugs, such as prescription drugs, is common among people grappling with untreated mental illness and puts these individuals at risk for becoming dependent upon substances. Furthermore, if a person possess a genetic predisposition to certain mental health disorders, the abuse of prescription drugs or other substances can cause symptoms to emerge. The following mental health conditions are those that are frequently diagnosed in individuals who are struggling with an addiction to prescription medications:

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

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal and overdose

Effects of prescription medication withdrawal: Individuals who have attempted to end an addiction to prescription medications without the help of knowledgeable professionals often report a number of unpleasant symptoms that arise after ceasing their use of these types of drugs. The symptoms that these people report are known as withdrawal symptoms and can often be enough of a reason for a person to remain trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction. The following effects are those that are known to occur when an individual is withdrawing from prescription medications:   

  • Changes in appetite
  • Coma
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Aching muscles
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Restlessness
  • Vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Agitation
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Tachycardia
  • Elevated levels of anxiety

Effects of prescription medication overdose: Experiencing an overdose could lead to an untimely death if emergency medical attention is not sought as soon as the signs of overdose become apparent. An overdose on prescription medications can occur if an individual consumes more of the drug than his or her body is able to process at a given time. If any of the listed effects take place after an individual consumes a prescription drug, it should be heeded as a warning that that person’s health is at risk:

  • Dulled skin tone
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Communication difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Cyanosis
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Shallow heart beat
  • Chest pains
  • Muscle cramping

Treatment here is individualized and emphasizes learning about the symptoms of prescription drug addiction instead of just trying to hide them.

– Anonymous Client
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