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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction?

If you or a loved one are displaying any of the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction, it’s important to seek help immediately.

Prescription Drug Addiction

Addiction is a relapsing, chronic brain disease characterized by obsessive drug use and drug-seeking behavior, despite the harmful consequences that come with it.

Prescription drug addiction occurs after one starts to abuse the drugs they have been prescribed by a doctor for another condition. These substance abuse disorders most commonly include pain medication abuse.

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Common Addictive Prescription Drugs

Addiction is a serious risk with certain types of prescription drugs, especially those that are taken in higher-than-recommended doses or used in ways other than prescribed.

The most common addictive prescription drugs include:

  • Opioids: Opioids are both legal and illegal drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine.
  • CNS Depressants: Central nervous system depressants slow down the nervous system. They include benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam, as well as barbiturates such as phenobarbital.1
  • Stimulants: Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy. They include drugs such as amphetamines (Dexedrine® and Adderall®), methylphenidate (Ritalin®), and cocaine.

Prescription Drug Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

There is no single cause for prescription drug addiction. Rather, it is a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors that often impact someone developing a prescription drug addiction. Some other risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Physical and mental health status
  • Environmental factors
  • Biological factors

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction?

Patients who suffer from opioid addiction, along with those who develop a CNS depressant addiction or stimulant addiction, often display the following signs and symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable drug cravings
  • Increased tolerance to the drug, requiring larger and larger doses to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
  • Spending large amounts of money on the drug
  • Neglecting work or school in favor of using the drug
  • Isolation from family and friends

After Identifying the Symptoms - What Comes Next?

If you or someone you know is displaying any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Prescription drug addiction is a serious condition that can lead to life-threatening consequences. Seeking help from a qualified professional can mean the difference between life and death.

These signs and symptoms can be preventable if they are caught or treated early enough. Be aware of what these symptoms might entail for you or a loved one.

Prescription Drug Addiction Complications and Health Risks

Prescription drug addiction can lead to a number of serious complications, including overdose, organ damage, and even death.

Health Risks and Consequences

In addition to the risks listed above, prescription drug addiction can also lead to a number of other varying health risks, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ulcers

Serious Medical Consequences

Prescription drug addiction can quickly lead to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, prescription drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.2

In 2020, almost one hundred thousand people died from accidental overdoses, and more than half of those were due to prescription drugs.3

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence occurs when your body becomes so used to a drug that it can no longer function as it once did without it. If you try to quit, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological, and they can be very severe. It’s best to undergo withdrawal at a medical clinic.  

Prescription Drug Overdose

Taking too much of a prescription drug can lead to an overdose. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Other Consequences

In addition to the above, prescription drug addiction can also lead to a number of other consequences, including:

  • Job loss
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Legal problems
  • Health problems

How to Prevent Prescription Drug Addiction

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent prescription drug addiction, or at least mitigate its effects. These include:

  • Only take the medication as prescribed by your doctor
  • Do not share your medication with others
  • Dispose of unused or unwanted medications properly
  • Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about the medication you are taking, including if you find yourself wanting to take more of it, or enjoying the effects it has
  • Talk to your doctor about any other medical conditions or medications you have that could be affected by the medication you are taking

How to Help Someone with Prescription Drug Addiction

If you know someone who is struggling with prescription drug addiction, there are a number of things you can do to help, including:

  • Encourage them to seek help from a qualified professional
  • Offer to go with them to their appointments
  • Help them to stick to their treatment plan
  • Encourage them to attend support groups
  • Offer to help with childcare, transportation, or other household chores
  • Be supportive and understanding
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle choices
  • Help them to avoid high-risk situations
  • Encourage them to stay away from drugs and alcohol

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription Drug Addiction

There are a number of resources available to help if you or a loved one are struggling with prescription drug addiction. These include:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment for prescription drug addiction. Treatment will vary depending on the individual and their unique needs. However, there are a few key components that are often involved in treatment, including detoxification, counseling, medication, therapy, support groups, and aftercare planning.

Prescription Drug Detox

The first step in treatment is often detoxification, or the process of allowing the body to rid itself of the drug. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable process, and it is important to detox under the care of a qualified professional.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment involves staying at a residential facility where you will receive 24-hour care and supervision. This can be an important step in treatment, especially if you or a loved one are struggling with a severe addiction.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment involves attending treatment sessions at a facility, but then returning home or to a sober living environment at the end of each day. This can be a good option for those who have a less severe addiction or who have already completed an inpatient treatment program.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies are an important part of treatment for prescription drug addiction. These therapies can help you to identify and change the behaviors that contribute to your addiction.4


There are a number of medications that can be used to help treat prescription drug addiction. These medications can help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and they can also be used to treat underlying mental health conditions.

Get Help From Boardwalk Recovery

If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you or your loved one to recover.
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