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Signs and Symptoms Of Prescription Drug Abuse

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Most people use prescription drugs as prescribed by their healthcare provider to treat various medical conditions. Once they finish their medication, they stop taking the drug. However, some people become accustomed to the effects of the drug and begin to misuse their medications. If you are worried that you may have become dependent on your medication, reviewing the following signs of prescription drug use is worthwhile.

Are Prescription Drugs Addictive?

Most prescription drugs are non-addictive. However, certain classes of medications can be habit-forming when taken for a period of time. Some of the more common addictive drugs include:

  • Opioids – Hydrocodone, oxymorphone, codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl are often misused due to their powerful pain-relieving effects. 
  • Stimulants – These types of drugs help increase focus and alertness and include Adderall, Dexedrine, Concerta, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. 
  • Anti-Anxiety Drugs – Xanax, Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac are some anti-anxiety medications that can be misused. 

These medications alter neurotransmitters and chemistry in the brain, namely in the pleasure center. The euphoric effects one can experience from taking these substances can encourage repeated use, leading to dependence and eventual addiction.

Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drugs that are misused can include prescriptions received from a healthcare provider, prescriptions stolen from family and friends, or purchasing the medication illegally. The underlying motives why people abuse prescription drugs can include:

  • Enjoying the euphoric effects of the medication. 
  • Avoiding withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Self-medicating to decrease pain. 
  • Enhancing social experiences.
  • Improving sleep.
  • Reducing unwanted emotions, such as depression. 

When prescription medications are abused, there can be serious health risks, including heart attacks, respiratory failure, seizures, accidental overdoses, coma, and death.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is generally defined as using prescription medications in any manner for which they were not prescribed or failing to take the medication as your healthcare provider ordered. Some of the common signs of prescription drug use that indicate usage has turned into abuse include:

  • Doctor shopping to attempt to get multiple prescriptions for the same medication. 
  • Taking the medication with a prescription.
  • Attempting to fill the same prescription at multiple pharmacies.
  • Altering or modifying a written prescription to adjust the number of pills or dosage prescribed. 
  • Buying prescription drugs illegally.
  • Stealing or taking prescription drugs from friends and family. 
  • Take a dosage higher than originally prescribed.
  • Experiencing panic or anxiety when the medication is not available or the number of remaining pills is running low.
  • Having a secret stash of drugs hidden. 
  • “Accidentally” losing one’s prescription. 
  • Hiding one’s drug misuse or downplaying the seriousness of relying on the drug. 

In addition to these behavioral signs, people can experience a range of symptoms that could indicate prescription drug abuse, such as:

  • Changes in appetite and weight. 
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Reduced inhibitions with an increase in risky behaviors and impulsive decision-making.
  • Concentration, focus, or memory problems.
  • Being overly hyperactive, energetic, focused, and driven. 
  • Easily being agitated, irritated, or angered.
  • Extreme mood changes without any warning.

The precise symptoms do vary based on the substance being misused.

Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

The effects of prescription drug addiction can greatly impact one’s ability to maintain relationships with family and friends, keep a job, and take care of one’s personal needs, like eating and bathing. Furthermore, addiction can result in:

  • Isolating from friends and family.
  • Associating with other people who misuse substances.
  • Experiment with illegal substances when prescription drugs are not available.
  • Losing one’s job and home and facing financial ruin.
  • Being arrested for illegal drug possession and use. 
  • Developing mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Having an inability to function with the drug.
  • Experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, tremors, paranoia, strokes, and heart attacks.

Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

The severity of withdrawal symptoms is directly related to the medication abused, the dosage taken, the frequency taken, and the amount of time the drug has been misused. Keeping this in mind, common withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Sweating
  • Hot and Cold Flashes
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle Aches and Pains
  • Intense Flu-like Symptoms
  • Vivid Dreaming
  • Shaking
  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Confusion

The dangers of withdrawal symptoms can intensify if the drug is discontinued “cold turkey.” Many addictive prescription drugs require a weaning process to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms through medically supervised detox

So, the duration of withdrawal symptoms could range from a few weeks to up to a month. However, most people reach their peak – the worst symptoms – in about ten to fourteen days. From there, the symptoms begin to subside.

Find Detox Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction in Orange County, CA

If you or a loved one are showing signs of prescription drug use, we understand it can be scary to want to admit you need help. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, we are with your every step of the way from the time you first contact us. 
We can help you determine the most appropriate treatment options for your prescription drug addiction, including medically supervised detox. To take the first steps to stop abusing prescription drugs, please contact us today!

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