Prescription Drug Addiction Warning Signs & Symptoms

The Landing provides prescription drug addiction treatment for men rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier, more satisfying life.

Understanding Prescription Drugs

Learn about prescription drugs and substance abuse

Substance abuse and addiction are significant problems throughout the world. One form of substance abuse that numerous individuals have battled is the misuse prescription drugs. Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of individuals who have started abusing prescription drugs for either recreational or self-medicating purposes. There are a variety of different forms of prescription medications that are abused by individuals, including the following:

  • Sedatives such as Ambien and Nembutal
  • Antianxiety medications such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin
  • Pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and morphine
  • Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall

When consumed for proper medical purposes, each of these medications can be incredibly beneficial, relieving an individual’s physical and psychological pain. However, when taken in larger doses than prescribed, or taken more often than directed by a medical professional, these drugs can cause users to become dependent. When used outside of the guidelines provided by a professional, drugs such as sedatives, prescription painkillers, antianxiety medications, and stimulants can bring on feelings such as excessive relaxation and emotional detachment. Stimulants can increase an individual’s energy and ability to focus, which is often appealing enough to cause individuals to abuse these medications to the point that they become addicted. When an addiction has developed, it can be tremendously challenging to overcome without the help of trained professionals.


Prescription drug addiction statistics

Experts estimate that about 52 million people in the United States have abused some form of prescription medication at least once in their lives, and more than 8 million Americans have misused a prescription medication in the past year. Although the United States comprises only 6 percent of the world’s population, it is responsible for 75% of the global consumption of prescription drugs.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for prescription drug addiction

There are a number of components that must be looked into when attempting to understand why some individuals develop a substance abuse problem and others do not. The following are among the more common causes and risk factors:

Genetic: Years of research have shown that there is a powerful link between genetics and the onset of substance abuse and addiction, including the abuse of substances like prescription drugs. Those who have family members who have battled with chemical dependency are at an increased risk for battling with similar issues than those who do not share this similar background.

Environmental: There can be a variety of environmental factors that add to an individual’s likelihood of becoming addicted to prescription drugs. One of these environmental factors includes an individual’s exposure to drugs such as these. If an individual spends a lot of time within an environment where he is exposed to drug use, he will be more likely to experiment with use himself. In addition, those who have battled with a condition that causes them to require the use of prescription medications are also at risk for becoming addicted because of the access they have to these substances. Individuals who go through traumatic events and do not have the appropriate coping skills to handle that trauma are also likely to abuse prescription drugs as he attempts to self-medicate his emotional upset.

Risk Factors:

  • Being the victim of abuse or neglect
  • Suffering from a condition that requires the use of prescription drugs for symptom relief
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Family history of chemical dependency
  • Ease of access with which one can obtain prescription drugs
  • Personal or family history of mental illness

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction

The signs and symptoms than an individual can exhibit when abusing prescription drugs can vary from individual to individual and are often based on the type of substance that is being abused. Other factors that can play a role in the type of symptoms that are displayed can include the period of time that an individual has been using and the amount that he is using. The following are some of the numerous symptoms that can indicate that an individual is battling a prescription drug problem:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to acquire multiple prescriptions
  • Stealing
  • Lying
  • Frequent absences from work
  • Alterations in occupational performance (for example, one might show a decline in performance if he has grown addicted to prescription painkillers, while one might show an increase in performance if addicted to stimulants)
  • No longer participating in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Behaving in instigative, and sometimes aggressive, ways
  • Social withdrawal or a change in the company one keeps

Physical symptoms:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of good hygiene
  • Impaired coordination
  • Tremors/shakes
  • Altered eating habits
  • Changes in sleep patterns (possibly battling with insomnia or hypersomnia, depending on the drug that is being consumed)
  • Weight gain or weight loss

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Decline in one’s ability to use appropriate decision-making skills
  • Delayed thought process
  • Decline in one’s ability to use sound judgment
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Changes in concentration capabilities
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Changes in temperament
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Periods of emotional detachment
  • Depression
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Frequent mood fluctuations
  • Loss of interest in things or activities that were once enjoyed


Effects of prescription drug addiction

Abusing any form of a substance will cause an individual to go through a number of negative consequences, and the abuse of prescription drugs is not any different. The specific issues that can develop in response to ongoing prescription drug abuse can vary based on the type of medication that is being abused. Some of the many effects that can dramatically impact an individual’s life if he or she continually abuses prescription medications can include the following:

  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Occupational failure, resulting in job loss and possible ongoing unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Organ damage/organ failure
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health conditions
  • Interaction with law enforcement or legal ramifications as a result of falsifying prescriptions
  • Memory disturbances
  • Family discord/divorce
  • Social isolation or disturbances arising within important relationships

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription drug addiction and co-occurring disorders

The presence of symptoms that are linked to mental health conditions have been known to develop within individuals who are grappling with prescription medication addiction. Those who are battling with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for example, are more likely to abuse prescription drugs in an attempt to cope with the emotions they are experiencing. In addition to PTSD or other trauma related disorders, the following conditions have been linked to those who are also struggling with an addiction to prescription medications:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Additional substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal & overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal: The continued abuse of prescription drugs will lead to the development of withdrawal when an individual stops using them. The type of prescription drug that is being abused will affect the severity and the type of symptoms that develop at this time. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal that can begin during this time can include:

  • Tremors/shakes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Vivid dreams
  • Sleep problems
  • Abdominal cramping restlessness

Effects of prescription drug overdose: An overdose happens when an individual consumes more of a substance that his body is able to handle. All overdoses should be treated as medical emergencies and treatment should be obtained immediately to prevent death. Some of the signs that might show that an individual is experiencing a prescription medication overdose can include:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Cyanosis
  • Severe dizziness
  • Sudden loss of the ability to communicate
  • Lapsing into a coma
  • Changes in skin pallor
  • Severe breathing difficulties
  • Dilated pupils
  • Death

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My addiction to prescription drugs got to the point where I would fake symptoms to get the drugs that I wanted. I had enough of this, so I got treatment at The Landing where I was able to get lasting recovery.

– Anonymous Client
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