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Prescription Drug Abuse: Symptoms and Risks

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Prescription Drug Abuse: Symptoms and Risks

Prescription drug abuse is defined as the consumption of any prescription medication that was not indicated or prescribed by a doctor. This abuse can include drug diversion – taking drugs from others, and snorting or injecting pills to get an extreme high.
Prescription drug abuse can affect anyone at any age, but it’s more common among younger people. The most commonly abused drugs are opioids, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants such as Adderall. The earlier the abuse is discovered, the better chance the problem can be treated before it turns into a full-fledged addiction.


Symptoms of abuse vary depending upon the drug. The most commonly abused drugs and symptoms include the following:
  • Opioids, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin) used to treat pain
  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) and hypnotics such as zolpidem (Ambien)
  • Stimulants such as dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall XR) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) which used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders.
Signs and symptoms of general prescription drug abuse:
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Unsteadiness
  • High body temperature
  • Slowed breathing rate or slurred speech
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Dizziness and poor coordination
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Poor decision-making
  • Risks
Most people who receive addictive drugs following surgery or injury do not abuse them. However, there are risk factors to consider that may increase the likelihood of becoming addicted to prescription drugs.
Risk factors for prescription drug abuse include:
  • Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol and tobacco
  • A family history of substance abuse problems or addiction
  • Younger age
  • Certain pre-existing mental health conditions
  • Exposure to peer pressure where there is drug or alcohol use, easy access to prescription drugs

If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.

Please call us today at 877-497-6180 for a free consultation.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology