Prescription Drug Addiction Signs & Symptoms

What are prescription drug addiction signs? Read on to learn about prescription drug addiction signs and treatment.

Prescription Drug Addiction Signs

Prescription Drug Addiction Signs & Symptoms

What are prescription drug addiction signs? Read on to learn about prescription drug addiction signs and treatment.

Table of Contents


Before diving into the signs of prescription drug addiction, it is vital to understand what it is. Prescription drug addiction can be defined as the continuous non-medical use of prescribed medication, even when the person is fully aware of the negative consequences of prolonged drug use. 

The rise of prescription drug abuse has become a worrying issue, especially among teenagers. As the third leading cause of overdose fatalities, prescription addiction has reached epidemic levels. As a concerned parent or loved one, understanding prescription drug addiction signs and symptoms goes a long way in ensuring the person abusing prescription drugs gets the help they want early. 

Statistics On Prescription Drug Addiction

According to the National Institutes of Health, 5.8% (16.1 million) of Americans over 12 reported abusing a prescription psychotherapeutic drug in the past year. The report also shows that an estimated 4.4% of 12th graders claimed to misuse a prescription drug in the past 12 months.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.

What Are the Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction?

As prescription drug abuse continues to wreak havoc among the young, parents must be vigilant with the signs and symptoms of prescription drug use to prevent or stop it before it becomes harmful. It’s important to note that someone might display signs of prescription drug abuse, not necessarily because they are using drugs, but due to the side effects of the medicine. 

However, if you spot any of the following signs for an extended period, chances are high that the person is using prescription drugs.

  • Reduced emotional reactivity
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Intense cravings for the prescription drug

Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Opioids can produce a euphoric feeling and are mainly prescribed to manage pain. In 2019, an estimated 9.7 million people above the age of 12 years old abused prescription opioids, involving diverted opioid medications, misuse of prescribed opioid medications, or illicit opioids. Opioid addiction is a chronic illness that is associated with high mortality and morbidity rates.2

Physical Signs of Opioid Abuse

The physical signs of opioid abuse include: 
  • Sweating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Shaking
  • Shallow or slow breathing rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Intense nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Constipation

Psychological Signs of Opioid Abuse

The psychological signs of opioid abuse include: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Irritability
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired judgment and problem-solving issues

Behavioral Signs of Opioid Abuse

The behavioral signs of opioid abuse include: 
  • Abandoning responsibilities
  • Faking pain for opioids
  • Spending less time with family, friends and/or colleagues
  • Stealing prescribed opioids from others
  • Changes in sleep patterns throughout the day

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Prescribed stimulants have the highest risk of abuse. They have the highest risk of abuse because they temporarily increase the user’s attention, energy, and alertness. According to a 2018 report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2.1% (5 million) of US adults misused prescription stimulants at least once, and 0.2% (400,000) were suffering from stimulant addiction.3

Physical Signs of Stimulant Abuse

The physical signs of stimulant abuse include: 
  • Changes (mainly decrease) in appetite
  • Skin problems
  • Twitches or jitteriness
  • Sweating
  • Hair loss
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weight loss
  • Elevated blood pressure

Psychological Signs of Stimulant Abuse

The psychological signs of stimulant abuse include: 

  • Increased confidence
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anger/aggressiveness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Enhanced sensory awareness
  • Hallucinations

Behavioral Signs of Stimulant Abuse

The behavioral signs of stimulant abuse include:
  • Risky or impulsive behavior
  • Deceptive behavior, stealing, lying, cheating, etc.
  • Aggressive or angry outbursts
  • Exhibiting excessive energy or motivation
  • Ordering stimulants without a prescription

Signs and Symptoms of CNS Depressants Addiction

Central nervous depressants are drugs that slow down brain activity, making them ideal for treating panic, anxiety, and sleep disorders. According to SAMHSA, in 2020, 2.2% (6.2 million) Americans over 12 consumed central nervous system depressants within the past 12 months.4

Physical Signs of CNS Depressants Addiction

Listed below are the physical signs of CNS depressants, which include: 
  • Problems urinating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • Blackouts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Weight changes

Psychological Signs of CNS Depressants Addiction

Listed below are the psychological signs of CNS depressants, which include: 
  • Impaired judgment
  • Trouble with memory or concentrating
  • Slowed brain activity
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Behavioral Signs of CNS Depressants Addiction

Listed below are the behavioral signs of CNS depressants, which include: 
  • Slurred speech
  • Inhibited reaction time
  • Chronic fatigue

Prescription Drug Addiction Diagnosis

The first step of recovery from prescription drug addiction involves booking an appointment with a doctor for a diagnosis. Prescription drug addiction diagnosis requires a thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist. In some cases, blood, urine, and other lab tests might be used to assess drug use for monitoring treatment and recovery. 

Prescription Drug Addiction Diagnostic Criteria

The diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders is the accepted standard for investigating, diagnosing, and treating addictions and mental health conditions. According to the manual, prescription drug addiction involves patterns of symptoms caused by the continuous use of a drug despite its harmful effects. Prescription drug addiction diagnostic criteria fall under four standard categories, social problems, impaired control, physical dependence, and risky use. 

When to See a Doctor

If you or a loved one feel that there is a problem with prescription drug use, you must talk to your doctor to address the issues before the person becomes fully addicted. After diagnosis, the doctor will develop a treatment plan unique to your needs and ensure you get the best treatment available. Remember, doctors are there to help you and not judge your decisions. 

Is There a Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction?

Different treatment types are available for prescription drug addiction, ranging from therapy to medication. If you want to take a loved one for diagnosis or treatment but are unsure if they are abusing prescription drugs, you can focus on behavioral signs and symptoms, which can be much easier to note if you are close with the person. 

CNS Depressant Health Risks

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

What Can You Do If You Suspect Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription Drug Addiction Signs

If you suspect prescription drug addiction, you can help a loved one by scheduling individual, group, or family counseling sessions that help determine the factors that lead to the person consuming the drug and the skills for resisting cravings. You can also opt for addiction intervention, which is especially ideal for users who are unable to see or unwilling to accept they have a problem.

Get Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction at Arrow Passage Recovery

While it can be challenging to spot and ascertain the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction, taking them for counseling or staging an intervention for their benefit might be a life-saving idea if you suspect a loved one is using it.

Opportunities for Healing

At Arrow Passage, we understand the challenges associated with prescription drug abuse, which is why we are always ready to help our patients break free from a life of addiction. Our goal is to provide professional, friendly, and effective work through our diverse team of experts. Get help now by contacting us today.

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