The 45 Warning Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse
Notice the signs and symptoms of abuse before it is too late to get help
Millions of people go to the doctor every year and receive prescriptions for medications to alleviate symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. However, these life-saving medications are also incredibly dangerous if used incorrectly.
Intentional or accidental abuse of prescription drugs can occur with or without an actual prescription if taken in a dosage or by a method other than what was prescribed. In fact, some people use them for non-medical reasons to seek out the feelings and sensations they can cause when taken in high doses.
How Can So Many Be Abusing Prescription Drugs?
“Nobody knew how bad John’s addiction was, until it was too late”
This cycle becomes an easy transition to addiction. For example, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids shared the story of John who fell victim to drug abuse when he was prescribed Vicodin for a back injury.
He was taking 30-40 pills a day until the stress became too much for his body. His mother had no idea he was addicted to his medication until she admitted him to the hospital shortly before he died of multiple organ failure. Sharing John’s story, she said, “Because he falsely believed he could handle abusing drugs, and because of the embarrassment that he felt, he never asked for help.”
Indeed, it seems that embarrassment and fear of judgment are major reasons why many addicts never seek help. Some, like John, may be able to function normally in day-to-day activities with their addiction and do not realize they have a problem. Even those who abuse prescription drugs and do realize they have an addiction might not ask for help because the nature of their addiction causes extreme dependence upon the substance.
What You’ll Find In This Guide
The Risk Factors
The line between drug use and abuse is very thin, and most of the time people cross it without realizing they have done so. As with any drug, tolerance to prescription pills can increase, and the drug user may in turn increase their intake over time. Although some escalate their usage simply because of tolerance issues, others may do so because they find that their prescription pills fill needs other than their intended use. Some find that their pills allow for easier and more fluid social connections because their inhibitions are lowered and their confidence is artificially inflated. If someone is trying prescription drugs among a group of people taking them recreationally, they may be succumbing to the pressure of fitting in. A person who deals with chronic pain, constant panic attacks, or any other debilitating physical or mental health issue may find themselves taking more pills to cope.
Why do some people become addicted while others are able to quit taking prescription pills? While the full answer to this question is complex, there are certain life factors that predispose someone toward abuse of drugs. If the drug user has previously experimented with drugs, they are more likely to abuse their prescription. Other factors include:
Whether or not these issues play a part in your loved one’s life, there are certain behavioral signs to watch for if you suspect an addiction to prescription drugs is forming. Most users are not able to completely hide a severe addiction, but they are still likely to try to hide their abuse, so these minor signals may indicate that more investigation is needed.
Keep an eye out for these behavioral changes:
- Your loved one becomes more irritable or exhibits sudden mood swings or personality change without an obvious cause.
- They become forgetful or clumsy when it is out of their nature.
- They skip work, class, or other regular activities, or their performance in these areas suffers.
- They lie, become more deceitful, and/or avoid eye contact.
- They lose interest in personal appearance and/or things they once loved.
- They have either a major loss or increase in appetite.
- They have an extreme and sudden change in their choice of friends and hang-out locations.
- They are suddenly asking to borrow money or have extra money with no obvious source.
- They become angry and abusive, or engage in reckless behavior.
The Physical Symptoms
Opioid Pain Relievers
Opioid pain relievers are one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs. They are used to treat both short- and long-term conditions such as surgery recovery and cancer. These drugs often contain or go by the names codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine. They have the tendency to be abused because they make the user feel relaxed and intensely happy. Physical symptoms to watch out for include:
SYMPTOMS OF OPIOID ABUSE:
- Confusion and lack of coordination
- Lowered blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Weakness, dizziness, sleepiness
- Constricted pupils
- Watery or droopy eyes
- Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Respiratory depression (inadequate ventilation)
- Sleep deprivation or “nodding”
- Slow, slurred speech
- Slow gait
- Dry skin, itching, or skin infections
- Constant flu-like symptoms
- Bruises or “track marks” (if injecting)
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSANT ABUSE:
- Decreased attention span
- Impaired judgment
- Lack of coordination/dizziness
- Lowered blood pressure
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
- Respiratory depression
- Slowed reflexes
SYMPTOMS OF STIMULANT ABUSE:
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Memory loss and problems thinking clearly
- External indications of mood or emotional problems (aggressive or violent behavior)
- High body temperature and skin flushing
- Anxiety and delusions
- Dilated pupils
- Sweating, shaking or tremors
- Restlessness and hyperactivity
- Paranoia or nervousness
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, or irregular heartbeat
- Repetitive behaviors
What To Do If You Are Concerned For A Loved One
First of all, do not feel guilty or responsible for your loved one’s behavior. Addiction is a mental illness and nobody is “to blame” when it happens. The most important thing is to recognize when there is a problem and address it immediately.
Tell them your concerns in a loving and non-judgmental way, listing specific examples of their behavior that worries you. Avoid threats, preaching, punishment, bribes, and emotional appeals. These methods will increase the guilt and shame in your loved one, which will only serve to increase their prescription drug abuse. Admitting that they have a problem and taking responsibility for their actions are the first steps on the road to recovery, and offers you both a chance to work toward a solution.
Don't Wait Until It's Too Late To Recognize A Problem
If you suspect someone you know is abusing prescription drugs, the first thing you should do is talk to them. Don’t wait until their symptoms become severe! Contact us at DrugRehab.org for guidance and get you the best help possible.