10 Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse: Recognizing the Symptoms

Prescription drug abuse continues to be a widespread problem in the United States. Between 1999 and 2021, more than 450,000 people lost their lives to prescription drug abuse. As statistics show, the majority of prescription drug abuse deaths were caused by opioids such as narcotic painkillers. In order to contend with the prescription drug abuse epidemic, legislators and the medical community have tamped down on prescription practices; however, the epidemic continues. By learning the signs of prescription drug abuse, people can spot them in themselves or in loved ones.

WhiteSands offers a full range of drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, including programs for prescription drug abuse. If you are struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs like Fentanyl, Codeine, Oxycodone, or non-opioid prescription drugs like Adderall or Xanax, you can get help by enrolling in a treatment program at WhiteSands. 

The Gravity of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse can be just as serious and deadly as illicit drug abuse. Although some people become addicted to these drugs after being prescribed them for a medical condition, others may become addicted by using them recreationally. As with alcohol and illicit drugs, prescription drugs are often abused. A person who abuses prescription drugs is at risk for developing an addiction. 

A person who has a drug addiction to prescription drugs can experience profoundly serious repercussions. Some people experience job problems or relationship issues. Others experience physical or mental health problems. Fortunately, addiction treatment can help people manage a prescription drug addiction. WhiteSands features prescription drug addiction treatment based on evidence-based therapies. With high-quality treatment that’s tailored to clients’ needs, people can manage their addiction for the long term. 

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Opioids are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Opioids are extremely addictive and are associated with a high relapse rate–over 85%. Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs that include opioid and non-opioid drugs are:

  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Xanax
  • Valium

These drugs can be dangerous when abused–and have often proven to be deadly. These are not the only addictive prescription drugs. Regardless of the drug, addictive medications can undermine a person’s mental and physical health as well as important aspects of their lives.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse: Physical Symptoms

prescription drug abuse

Prescription drug abuse can cause a wide array of physical health symptoms. Some of these symptoms may be temporary, occurring while the individual is abusing prescription drugs. On the other hand, prescription drug abuse can cause permanent physical health problems. Some of the most common prescription drug abuse symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Dizziness
  • Reduced coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced appetite

These physical symptoms may be debilitating at times. Severe physical symptoms can signify a drug overdose, which can be deadly. 

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse: Behavioral and Emotional Indicators

There are also signs of prescription abuse that are behavioral and emotional in nature. Some of these signs of prescription drug abuse are:

  • Increasing the dose of the drug
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Doctor shopping

Many people who have a prescription drug addiction may also make reckless decisions such as driving while under the influence. Substance addiction can cause a high degree of chaos in a person’s life that colors most aspects of their lives and even the lives of their loved ones. 

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse: Patterns and Habits

Someone who is addicted to prescription drugs may employ habits and patterns of behavior that underscore their addiction. For instance, it’s not uncommon for people with a prescription drug addiction to attempt to stockpile their drug or to doctor shop in order to obtain more of the drug they’re addicted to. 

Many people who abuse prescription drugs employ a pattern of dose increase. As the individual continues to use the drug, they may develop a tolerance to the dose. When they develop a tolerance to the medication, the drug won’t offer the same effects. So, the individual may increase the dose to achieve those effects. Continuing to develop a tolerance to increased doses can pave a path to drug addiction. 

It can be difficult to spot the early signs of drug addiction, but it often becomes apparent when a person has developed a drug addiction. A person might start to call off work more frequently. Their performance at work or school may become noticeably diminished. 

During treatment for prescription drug addiction, therapists will address these problematic patterns and habits associated with the addiction. Clients can develop strategies to change them and, ultimately, manage their substance abuse disorder. 

Risks and Complications of Prolonged Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug addiction is dangerous in both the short and long term. Risks and health complications are not uncommon. Substance use disorders will cause the deterioration of mental and physical health. A person who abuses prescription drugs for a long period of time is at risk of issues such as:

  • Development of depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Just as illicit drugs can lead to severe health problems, so can prescription drugs. Although prescription drugs may be safely prescribed to treat various medical conditions, they can be deadly when abused. 

Prolonged drug abuse can also undermine the important aspects of a person’s life. For instance, a person may experience marital or family relationship problems. Many people experience financial problems related to their drug abuse problems. Sometimes, the abuse of prescription drugs can lead to abuse of illicit drugs. For example, when a person can’t obtain an opioid medication, they may turn to heroin, an illegal drug. Consequently, individuals can also experience legal problems related to their drug use. 

How WhiteSands Can Help: Our Approach to Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment

WhiteSands offers clients a full continuum of care. We offer prescription drug abuse treatment based on best treatment practices, including evidence-based therapies, holistic treatments, and alternative treatments. While substance use disorders are chronic conditions, they can be effectively managed for the long term.

At WhiteSands, we individualize treatment to ensure all clients get the support they need. There are no cookie cutter protocols with us. Clients can expect caring clinicians who will carefully evaluate their needs in order to recommend the ideal treatments. Our full continuum of care means that we can meet clients where they need us. We offer residential treatment, outpatient treatment, aftercare, and more. Our rehab facility offers medical detox and dual diagnosis treatment. 

The core of our prescription drug addiction treatment plans involves evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy. Evidence-based treatments are those that have the support of the medical and scientific communities and have been deemed safe as well as effective for treating drug use disorders. We combine these therapies with some alternative and holistic treatments that are known to promote physical and mental wellbeing. 

If you are living with a substance use disorder, including prescription drug addiction, you can benefit from enrolling at WhiteSands. Let us evaluate your condition so we can recommend the right course of treatment for you. With treatment at WhiteSands, you can move forward along your recovery path. Contact us to discuss our enrollment process and take the first step toward a new and more healthful life.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.