Prescription drug abuse involves taking drugs that have been prescribed to another person, taking more drugs than you have been prescribed, or taking your prescribed drugs in a way other than you should — perhaps by chewing them when they should be swallowed. Individuals might abuse prescription drugs to get high, or because they are trying to stop feeling pain or to increase performance somehow.
Signs and Symptoms or Prescription Drug Abuse
The symptoms caused by prescription drug abuse vary by the type of drug being used. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse, look for the following symptoms:
- Opioids can cause feelings of drowsiness, stomachache, and constipation. When taken in combination with other medicines or in excessive amounts, opioids can cause difficulty breathing. This can sometimes lead to fatal overdose.
- Stimulants cause paranoia and an increased heart rate. Body temperature can increase to dangerous levels with the abuse of this drug. Often, people who abuse stimulants develop anxiety that someone or something is out to harm them.
- Depressants slow down motor function. Speech can be slurred and hard to understand, and a person will become uncoordinated and sleepy. Breathing becomes shallow and the results are fatal in some instances.1
Taking drugs in ways they are not prescribed can result in addiction. If you suspect your loved one is abusing prescription drugs, the Mayo Clinic suggests looking for the following additional symptoms of addiction:2
- Doctor shopping to get more prescriptions
- Making excuses to get more prescriptions
- Taking the prescriptions of family members or friends
- Taking a prescription after it is no longer needed
- Consuming prescriptions with alcohol or other drugs
- Spending large amounts of time thinking about the prescription
- Stealing or borrowing money to get prescription drugs
- Decreased interest in social activity
- Decreased manifestation of self-respect
- Increased irritability and angry outbursts
- Depressive moods and poor performance in responsibilities of daily life
If even one of these symptoms is present, it’s time to get help.
Integrated Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
Some people take prescription drugs in an attempt to relieve physical or emotional pain. Abusing a substance in this way can quickly lead to addiction. When addiction is treated, major consideration is given to finding any underlying causes — such as undiagnosed mental illness —that led to the substance abuse. With the proper treatment, the addicted person can learn to manage future pain and anxiety in a balanced way.
Prescription Drug Addiction and Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders
Sometimes, drug abuse results in the development of a mental health or personality disorder. Other times, substance abuse is the result of an uncomfortable mental health disorder. These mental health problems can take the form of a depressive disorder, anxiety disorder or another type of mental illness.
In extreme cases, a person with a mental health disorder can be impossible to communicate with. Some might feel that the mental disorder and addiction are too complicated to treat. However, teams of specialists are trained to successfully treat these co-occurring disorders. As one disorder is healed, the co-occurring disorder generally improves. In a safe and loving way, mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders can be diagnosed and treated simultaneously.
Support for Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription drug addiction must not be left untreated. If you have questions regarding your own use of prescription drugs, talk openly to the doctor who prescribes them to you. If you are suspicious that someone in your family is abusing prescription drugs, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.