Prescription Drug Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Prescription drug abuse occurs when an individual consumes one or more prescription drug outside of the prescribed guidelines offered by medical professionals. This behavior can include consuming more medications than prescribed, consuming other people’s medications, or continuing to use prescription medications for longer than initially intended.

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

Learn about prescription drug addiction

Some individuals might combine prescription drugs with other substances to increase the mind-altering effects they are hoping to achieve. Individuals tend to have the misconception that consuming prescription medications is safe because a doctor has provided the medication. However, abusing prescription medications can easily cause an addiction and dependency issue to develop if the warning signs of these problems are not treated. The most commonly abused prescription medications are opioids, stimulants, and depressants. Continual abuse of these medications can cause a number of damaging effects to occur, some of which can be deadly. When individuals are trying to overcome an addiction to prescription drugs while battling an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, or bulimia nervosa, the negative impacts they might experience can be even more destructive.

Thankfully, there is effective treatment available to those who want to defeat their prescription medication addiction and co-occurring eating disorder. By making strides towards achieving recovery, an individual can decrease his or her likelihood of damaging his or her mental and physical wellbeing, and learn to live a life that is free from the chains of addiction and eating disorders.


Prescription drug addiction statistics

Roughly 52 million Americans ages 12 and older have abused prescription medications at some point in their lives. Additional research has shown that tranquilizers, stimulants, and painkillers are some of the most commonly abused prescription medications. A study on drug overdose rates in the country shows that prescription drug overdoses take more lives than gunshot wounds, car accidents, or suicides.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for prescription drug addiction

There are a variety of causes and risk factors that can influence an individual to turn to the abuse of prescription medications. Experts in the field of addiction believe that specific genetic and environmental influences can indicate whether an individual is more apt to abuse these types of substances. Consider the following:

Genetic: An extensive amount of research has proven that addiction can be heritable, especially in those who have a biological parent who has battled with substance abuse and addiction. Those who have this type of family history are placed at an increased risk to abuse, and possibly become addicted to, prescription drugs.

Environmental: Specific environmental triggers can cause an individual to start abusing prescription drugs, and eventually develop an addiction to them. Situations at home or at work that include a great deal of stress can cause one to start using prescription drugs to cope. Additionally, those who are employed in positions where the possibility of injury is greater, such as public safety positions or constructions workers, have a higher chance of abusing these substances if injury is incurred upon them.

Risk Factors:

  • Working in an industry where injury is more likely to occur
  • Easy access to prescription medications
  • Presence of a chronic pain condition
  • Exposure to chronic stress or conflict
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, or dependence
  • Personal or family history of mental illness
Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction

The signs and symptoms that would suggest that an individual is abusing prescription medications can typically be seen through one’s behaviors. There are a great deal of cognitive, physical, and psychological symptoms that can present themselves if an individual is recreationally abusing prescription drugs:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Visiting multiple doctors in order to acquire multiple prescriptions
  • Lying
  • Poor attendance at work
  • Not fulfilling roles / responsibilities
  • Attempts to conceal drug use
  • Change in interests and/or friends
  • Increased conflict or physical aggression towards others
  • Stealing

Physical symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Lack of coordination
  • Change in eating habits
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of good hygiene
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Slurred or incoherent speech

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired judgment / decision-making
  • Delayed thinking

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiousness
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Declined motivation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Personality / temperament changes

Effects of prescription drug addiction

The continual abuse of prescription medications can render a person vulnerable to experiencing a variety of dangerous effects. Impacting one’s overall health and wellbeing, in addition to many other scary consequences, the following are examples of what effects can develop when an individual abuses these substances:

  • Suicide attempts
  • Death as a result of suicide or overdose
  • Manifestation of a mental health condition
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Inability to acquire or maintain employment
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Divorce
Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription drug addiction and co-occurring disorders

When individuals abuse prescription drugs, it is likely that they are also struggling simultaneously with other mental health conditions. In fact, symptoms of a mental health condition might develop or worsen when individuals abuse prescription drugs recreationally. Unfortunately, it is common for individuals who struggle with eating disorders to also engage in prescription drug abuse. In addition to eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge-eating disorders, there are many other mental illnesses that have been known to co-occur alongside of prescription drug abuse, including:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Other substance use disorders
Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal and overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal: Continued abuse of prescription drugs can cause an individual to develop a physiological dependency on them. When this occurs, and an individual stops her use abruptly, withdrawal can occur and can bring on a number of painful side effects. Some withdrawal symptoms linked to prescription drug abuse can include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Coma
  • Agitation
  • Elevated levels of anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Vivid dreams
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Aching muscles
  • Profuse sweating
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

Effects of prescription drug overdose: When an individual abuses substances like prescription drugs, a chance of overdose always remains present. Overdose occurs when an individual ingests more of a substance than his or her body can handle. The effects listed below, which can become possible when an individual experiences an overdose, should be treated through immediate medical care:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness or lapsing into a coma
  • Inability to communicate
  • Lips, fingers, or extremities turning blue
  • Respiratory failure
  • Loss of skin tone
  • Clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slow heart beat
  • Cramps in one’s muscles
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pains

My prescription drug addiction and my eating disorder had begun to consume me. The staff at Montecatini helped me see the light.

– Former Client
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