Prescription drug abuse is a widespread epidemic across the United States as the proportion of people seeking treatment for prescription drug addiction continues to grow. In the United States, opioids, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants are the leading abused prescription drugs.
In the decade ending in 2008, the number of people seeking help for opioid addiction grew 400% – but still, only one in 100 people abusing opioids seek treatment.
The recreational use of prescription drugs is a serious problem among teens and young adults – but people of all ages and demographics abuse prescription drugs. 90% of prescription drug addictions start in teenage years.
The biggest area of concern is the misconceptions regarding the safety of prescription medications. According to studies performed at the Mayo Clinic and the US Department of Health and Human Services, many people (including parents) are unaware of the dangers in providing prescription medications to someone who is not the intended patient.
How Does Prescription Drug Abuse Happen?
Prescription drugs come in many forms and serve a variety of purposes. Commonly abused prescription drugs include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications/sedatives and stimulants.
Addiction often occurs when the potency and/or frequency of dosages are used beyond their recommended instruction. It can also be caused by the body’s tolerance for the medication. When tolerance occurs, an increase in dosage of the drug is required to meet the intended needs.
For others, however, recreational or casual use may lead to addiction. Psychopharmaceuticals, such as those used to treat ADHD, are often favored for the enhancement of mental performance by students. Mood-altering stimulants, such as those used to treat depression, are also popular prescription drugs among recreational users. Other prescribed psychoactive drugs are often abused due to their ability to affect perception and consciousness.
Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction
The signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction vary by the type of prescription drug being abused.
- Symptoms of Sedative, Anti-Anxiety or Tranquilizer Addiction
Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and hypnotics, such as zolpidem (Ambien), are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
A person who abuses sedatives or tranquilizers may or may not be aware of how their abuse impacts their behavior. The most visible symptoms of sedative abuse or addiction include:
- Drowsy or intoxicated appearance
- Confusion about surroundings or time
- Unsteady movements and/or mannerisms
- Involuntary gestures, movements or tics
- Rapid, involuntary eye movement
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Difficulty with memory
- Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse
Stimulants – such as methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine and amphetamine– are used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders.
Symptoms of prescription stimulant abuse include:
- Extreme agitation or irritability
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Elevated body temperatures
- Cardiovascular failure
- Increased hostility
- Feelings of paranoia
- Insomnia, which may continue for days at a time
- Unexplained weight loss
- Symptoms of Opiate Abuse
Opiate painkillers are prescribed to millions of Americans for legal purposes. However, some opiate users continue using their legal prescription beyond its intended use while others seek out painkillers for medical or psychiatric relief. As a result, opiate abuse and addiction progress differently in different people.
Common symptoms of opiate abuse include:
- Rapid decrease in blood pressure
- Disorientation or confusion in familiar surroundings
- Constipation or other digestive irregularities
- Shortness of breath
- Increased pain with higher dosages
- Feeling high (euphoria)
- Poor coordination
General Warning Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse
General warning signs of prescription drug abuse and addiction include:
- Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
- Taking higher doses than prescribed
- Excessive mood swings or hostility
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Poor decision-making
- Appearing to be high – usually energetic or revved up
- Continually “losing” prescriptions so more must be written
- Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
Getting Help For Prescription Drug Abuse
Recognizing that you or a loved one has a problem with prescription drugs is the first step on the road to recovery, and it’s one that takes tremendous amounts of courage and strength. Facing your addiction without minimizing the problem or making excuses is frightening and overwhelming, but it’s important to understand that recovery is within reach.
If you’re ready to make a change and want to seek help for your prescription drug abuse, contact the Orlando Recovery Center today.
Written by: Christina Bockisch
“Drug Abuse and Addiction.” HelpGuide.org. 19 February 2016. <http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/drug-abuse-and-addiction.htm>
“Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse.” Narconon. 19 February 2016. <http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/signs-symptoms-prescription-drug-use.html>