Prescription Drug Addiction Health Risk Factors

Learn more about prescription drug addiction health risk factors, understanding the addiction, and how to get help.

Prescription Drug Addiction Health Risk Factors

Prescription Drug Addiction Health Risk Factors

Learn more about prescription drug addiction health risk factors, understanding the addiction, and how to get help.

Table of Contents


The fastest-growing drug abuse problem in the United States is not illicit substances such as cocaine, meth, or heroine. Instead, it is prescription drug addiction, as these substances are readily and legally obtained, socially accepted, and the risks are not always wholly understood. Some prescription drugs have a high risk of addiction and abuse, and the prolonged use of the drug can pose a lethal threat to your health.

Rise of Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug abuse has slowly been increasing for several years, steadily becoming the leading cause of drug-related overdoses. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug overdoses claim the lives of forty-four people each day, which is more than all other drug classes (excluding alcohol) combined.1

Aside from the risk of overdosing, prescription drug abuse can cause severe damage to organs such as the liver, throat, brain, lungs, and nervous system. It also increases the likelihood of mental illnesses like depression and paranoia. This article examines the health risk factors associated with prescription drug addiction, including the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

In most cases of prescription drug addiction and abuse, a certified doctor prescribes a prescription drug to a patient to treat a specific health condition. Some of these prescribed drugs may generate a euphoric feeling, which people exploit to get high. This is known as prescription drug abuse, which is the use of prescribed medication for non-medical purposes.

Prescription drug abuse can range from taking too much of a prescribed medication, to using another person’s medication, to injecting or snorting crushed medicine. The repeated abuse of prescription medication leads to addiction, which is when the individual continues to use the drugs even if they are aware of its adverse effects on their body due to the need to use said drug to function.

Scope of Prescription Drug Addiction

In a report released in 2020, the National Institutes of Health shows that 5.8%, or about 16.1 million, Americans aged twelve or older reported misusing prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in the past year.2

What Are The Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs?

Prescription Drug Abuse

The abuse of prescription drugs has become more and more prevalent, taking a devastating toll on individuals, families, and the community. Some prescription drugs are more addictive than others, especially if they release dopamine, known as the “feel-good” hormone. The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall under three main categories: painkillers, stimulants, and depressants.

Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose have reached epidemic levels in the United States. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 10.1 million people aged twelve or more abused opioids in the past year.3
Some of the commonly abused prescription opioids include:
  • Oxycodone 
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Co-codamol
  • Tramadol

Prescription Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are consumed by 12.6% (30.6 million) American adults each year. 10.4 % (25.3 million) are legitimate prescriptions, while 17.2% (5.2 million) are used for non-medical purposes.4
Some of the commonly abused prescription benzodiazepines include:
  • Diazepam
  • Alprazolam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Zolpidem

Prescription Stimulants

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 6.6% (16 million) of American adults consumed prescription stimulants in the past twelve months. 4.5% (11 million) of prescribed stimulants were used appropriately, while 2.1% (5 million) have tried it at least once, and 0.2% (0.4 million) had a use disorder. The most abused prescription stimulants are methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine.5

Prescription Drug Abuse Signs And Symptoms

Knowing how to spot prescription drug abuse signs and symptoms can help you seek treatment before falling prey to addiction. However, spotting the symptoms of prescription drug abuse can be challenging because a person might be experiencing the side effects of the prescribed drug without necessarily abusing the drug itself.

The primary signs and symptoms associated with prescription drug abuse include:

  • Dizziness
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Upset stomach, vomiting, or constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Mood swings
  • Depression or anxiety

Causes of Prescription Drugs Abuse

Drug abuse is typically a very personalized experience, and there are many reasons someone might decide to abuse prescription drugs. The following are some of the most common reasons why people may begin abusing prescription medication:

  • To get a euphoric feeling, or a “high”
  • To relax or relieve mental and bodily tension
  • To reduce appetite or increase alertness
  • To prevent withdrawal symptoms
  • To fit in among social groups

Who Is At Risk For Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction affects people of all ages. Still, older adults who tend to take more medications, females, and daily alcohol drinkers are at the most significant risk for prescription drug addiction. Genetics, past trauma, and physical and/or mental illness also increase the risk of addiction.

  • To get a euphoric feeling, or a “high”
  • To relax or relieve mental and bodily tension
  • To reduce appetite or increase alertness
  • To prevent withdrawal symptoms
  • To fit in among social groups

What are the Health Risks of Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prolonged addiction to and abuse of prescription drugs can lead to numerous health complications, some of which can be fatal. Prescription drug addiction is a dangerous condition that can lead to death in extreme cases, especially when consumed in high doses or combined with other drugs. Here are some of the health risks associated with the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

Opioid Health Risks

Some of the health risks associated with opioid addiction may include:

  • Infections in the heart or the lungs
  • Dehydration
  • Liver disease
  • Skin problems
  • Anxiety
  • Seizure 
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke 
  • Overdose

CNS Stimulant Health Risks

Common risks of CNS stimulant addiction and abuse are as follows:
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Paranoia
  • Gut issues, such as constipation
  • Overdose

CNS Depressant Health Risks

CNS depressant abuse risks can include:
  • Loss of coordination
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Overdose

How To Stop Prescription Drug Addiction

Most prescription drugs that are commonly abused tend to activate the brain’s reward center, which makes it difficult for some people to stop misusing the drugs. Prescription drug addiction can also occur in people who need the drugs to manage an existing medical condition.
Here are some tips that can help stop prescription drug abuse:
  • Recognize that you have an addiction to the prescription drug
  • Recognize your triggers
  • Talk to your doctor about treatment options
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)
  • Go to a rehabilitation center

Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

To lower the risk of prescription drug abuse, you should never change your medication regimen without first checking in with your doctor. You should also take the necessary steps to understand your medication and its effects. You should be aware of what effects to expect and which are abnormal.

Here are some other tips to help you prevent prescription drug abuse:
  • Make sure you are getting the proper medication and dosage
  • Check in with your doctor regularly
  • Follow medication directions carefully
  • Know what your medication does
  • Never use another person’s prescription
  • Don’t order prescriptions online unless they’re from a reputable pharmacy

Get the Help with Prescription Drug Addiction at Arrow Passag

Prescription drug addiction is a significant problem in the United States, with the number of fatalities surpassing those of cocaine and heroin overdoses. Whether you are addicted to an authorized prescription that has been prescribed to you or you are engaging in recreational use, seeking the necessary help to overcome this addiction is a significant step that can help you avoid the harmful effects of prolonged use.

At Arrow Passage, we understand that addiction treatment can vary widely on a patient-by-patient basis, which is why we employ a diverse team of drug addiction specialists and offer a vast array of treatment options to guarantee long-term success in your recovery from addiction.

Reach us today to get help for prescription drug abuse.

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