Prescription Drug Abuse Signs, Symptoms, Treatment

The use and abuse of prescription drugs has become a nation-wide epidemic. Children of younger and younger ages are making their way into grandma’s medicine cabinet and helping themselves to her supply. They pay no mind to the consequences because of the false perceptions that come along with prescription drugs. The abuse of prescription drugs is just as lethal as the abuse of hard-core street drugs. In 2014, 43% of drug overdoses reported in ERs were caused by prescription drugs. An estimated 2 million people suffer from prescription drug addiction.

Types of Prescriptions Commonly Abused

The most commonly abused prescription drugs are the following:

  • narcotic painkillers (Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Roxycontin, Codeine, Fentanyl, Percocet, Vicodin, Diluadid)
  • anti-anxiety medications (Xanax, Valium, Librium, Klonipan, Ativan)
  • ADHD medications (Ritalin, Vyvanz, Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine)

Keep these, and all medications, out of the reach of children. If narcotics are prescribed, they should be kept in a safe and secure place, where no one other then the person prescribed the medication can find the pills.

Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse


The symptoms that manifest from prescription drug abuse depend on the medication being abused. In people that are misusing opiates, look for drowsiness, nausea, constipation, depression, low blood pressure, confusion, and decreased heart rate. For abusers of stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, the symptoms that may appear are weight loss, increased energy, increased anxiety, jitteriness, irritability, agitation, insomnia, high blood pressure, and irregular heart rate. If sedative abuse is suspected, watch out for fatigue, drowsiness, confusion, unsteadiness, poor judgment, and irregular eye movements. Some signs of drug abuse other then the physical side effects can be recurrent theft, manipulative tendencies, dishonesty, mood irregularities, poor judgment, and doctor shopping (go to more than one doctor in order to rack up numerous prescriptions).

Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse

If you suspect that someone you know and love is abusing prescription medications, seek treatment immediately. Often an interventionist, a therapist, or a psychiatrist is a good person to consult because often the person being confronted will deny that there is a problem, or get very angry. Let them know that your intentions are good, and that when they are ready, help is available. Speak to a doctor to see what level of treatment might be necessary for the person struggling. Individual counseling, outpatient treatment, detoxification, and inpatient rehabilitation are all great options for the addict. The earlier the intervention happens, the greater likelihood of recovery, but whatever stage the disease is at, help is possible. Call a 12-step intergroup and find a local support meeting to start off. These meetings can be great hubs of hope and recovery to show the addict that sobriety is possible. Stay diligent.