Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the recent years. It involves misuse of prescription medications, most often opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants which are used by millions of people worldwide without causing any problems if they are taken as prescribed. Improper use such as increasing the dosage without doctor’s approval or use of prescription medications as an alternative to street drugs, however, can lead to potentially serious complications related to overdose or improper use such as taking the medications with alcohol, while prolonged abuse can lead to addiction. Early detection of prescription drug abuse and proper treatment dramatically reduce the risk of complications which is why it is highly important to pay attention to the early warning signs.

Symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the type of medications which are abused. A person who abuses opioids (they are used to relieve chronic pain, especially in older adults and cancer patients) may experience confusion, low blood pressure, depression and low respiratory rate, while long-term use can lead to dependency and addiction. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants which are used to treat sleep disorders, tension and anxiety have a calming effect but they are usually prescribed for a short period only. Long-term use of CNS depressants affects the efficiency due to developed tolerance and requires higher doses to be able to calm down or fall asleep. Abuse of CNS depressants can cause confusion, drowsiness and rapid or involuntary eye movements, while sudden withdrawal after a prolonged use can lead to life-threatening complications. The third commonly abused class of prescription drugs – stimulants which are used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, chronic sleep disorder and similar conditions typically result in unusually high levels of energy, inability to sleep, agitation and irritability. Since they are used in high doses to achieve the feeling of euphoria, abuse of stimulants can also cause irregular heartbeat.

Symptoms of prescription drug abuse which suggest that a person may have an addiction problem can be difficult to recognize until his or her condition does not become too severe to be able to ignore it. People who are addicted to prescription medications live in denial and often refuse to admit having a problem with addiction. There are, however, a few signs that suggest a potential problem with prescription drug abuse and may include:

Although prescription drug abuse is considered to be a “lesser harm” than abuse of illegal drugs, it can be just as dangerous. Symptoms of prescription drug abuse should be taken very seriously, while the person who has a problem should receive professional help as soon as possible. Early help reduces the risk of potentially serious complications, while the problem is treated a lot easier if the person receives help before developing an addiction.