Skip to content

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Addiction, Symptoms, Causes, Complications, Risk Factors & Treatment

Prescription drug abuse is the use of prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. It is problematic use includes everything from taking a friend’s prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. Drug abuse may become ongoing and compulsive, despite the negative consequences.

However, prescription drug addiction involves people building a dependence on prescription pharmaceutical medications. In many cases, prescription drug misuse occurs due to a voluntary pursuit of the euphoric feeling that some medications provide people.

Once addiction sets in, misuse becomes compulsive and difficult to overcome. Additionally, addiction to prescription drugs can cause severe long-term consequences, including physical injury and mental illness while also affecting personal and professional relationships. Fortunately, there is a way for people to remove the addiction from their lives and overcome prescription drug misuse. 

We Level Up as a accredited Schizophrenia Treatment Center
We Level Up is an accredited Treatment Center

In addition, prescription drug abuse can affect all age groups, including teens. The prescription drugs most often abused include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and stimulants.

In fact, Prescription drug abuse in older adults is a growing problem, especially when they combine drugs with alcohol. Having multiple health problems and taking multiple drugs can put seniors at risk of misusing drugs or becoming addicted.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the specific drug. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are:

  • Opioids – Often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and can relieve pain. For example, medications containing oxycodone such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and those containing hydrocodone such as Norco.
  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives – Is used to relieve anxiety and or help with sleep, but their use can result in dependency and a substance use disorder. Like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and hypnotics, such as zolpidem (Ambien), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
  • Stimulants – A drug that excites any bodily function, but more specifically those that stimulate the brain and central nervous system. Stimulants induce alertness, elevated mood, wakefulness, increased speech and motor activity and decrease appetite such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others), dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall XR, Mydayis), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders.

Difference of Prescription Drug Abuse


  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Feelings of Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Increased dose required for pain relief
  • Worsening or increased sensitivity to pain with higher doses (hyperalgesia)


  • Increased alertness
  • Feeling high
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Reduced appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives may cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with memory
  • Slowed breathing

Other signs include:

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings or hostility
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision-making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up or sedated
  • Requesting early refills or continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

Causes of Prescription Drug Abuse

Some users abuse prescription drugs because they want to feel good or get high, to relax or relieve tension, to reduce appetite or increase alertness, to experiment with the mental effects of the substance, to maintain an addiction and prevent withdrawal, to be accepted by peers or to be social, and to try to improve concentration and academic or work performance. These causes imply that all addicts wanted to avoid their fears and problems.

Risk factors of Prescription Drug Abuse

Some people fear that they may become addicted to medications prescribed for medical conditions, such as painkillers prescribed after surgery. But you can reduce your risk by carefully following your doctor’s instructions on how to take your medication. Prescription drug abuse can happen at any age but commonly begins in teens or young adults.

Research shows that some things about you might make you more likely to abuse prescription drugs. These risk factors include:

  • Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol and tobacco
  • Family history of substance abuse problems
  • Certain pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • Exposure to peer pressure or a social environment where there’s drug use
  • Easier access to prescription drugs, such as having prescription medications in the home medicine cabinet
  • Knowledge about prescription drugs and how they might hurt you


Abusing prescription drugs can cause a number of problems. It can be especially dangerous and even lead to death when taken in high doses, when combined with other prescription drugs or certain over-the-counter medications, or when taken with alcohol or illegal or recreational drugs. Abruptly stopping the medication may cause withdrawal symptoms that can include nervous system hyperactivity and seizures. 

Medical Consequences

Here are examples of serious consequences of prescription drug abuse:

  • Stimulants – can cause dangerously high body temperature and hallucinations.
  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives – can cause memory problems and have a significant risk of death. 
  • Opioids – can cause low blood pressure, a slowed breathing rate, and the potential for breathing to stop or a coma. 

Physical Dependence and Addiction

Because commonly abused prescription drugs activate the brain’s reward center, it’s possible to develop physical dependence and addiction.

  • Physical dependence – is also called tolerance. Its the body’s response to long-term use.
  • Addiction – it is a compulsively seek a drug and continue to use it even when that drug causes significant problems in their lives.

Other Consequences

Other potential consequences include:

  • Risky behaviors because of poor judgment
  • Using illegal or recreational drugs
  • Being involved in crime
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Decreased academic or work performance
  • Troubled relationships


Prescription drug abuse may occur in people who need painkillers, sedatives, or stimulants to treat a medical condition. The FDA offers these guidelines for safe prescription medication use:

  • Keep controlled substances
  • Follow the dosage recommendations when taking your medications
  • Follow directions carefully
  • Never stop taking medication on your own
  • Always correctly dispose of your unused medications
  • Pay close attention to the number of pills you were prescribed
  • Don’t order prescriptions online unless they’re from a trustworthy pharmacy
  • Talk honestly with your doctor about any personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Don’t crush or break pills, especially if they’re time-released
  • Make sure you know how a drug will affect your driving and other daily tasks

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

Treatment for opioid addiction includes medications that can help people get control without a high chance of addiction. Typically, a key part of treatment is counseling or psychotherapy. It may also require withdrawal detoxification, addiction medicine, and recovery support.

  • Counseling – It is a process where an individual, couple or family meet with a trained professional counsellor to talk about issues and problems that they are facing in their lives.
  • Withdrawal – Withdrawal can be dangerous and should be done under a doctor’s care. Depending on the prescription drug and usage, detoxification may be needed as part of treatment and may include:
    • First. Opioid withdrawal
    • Second. Withdrawal from anti-anxiety medications and sedatives
    • Third. Stimulant withdrawal
We Level Up is an accredited Treatment Center

At We Level Up Treatment Center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We all work as an integrated team providing Prescription Drug Abuse for the use of prescription medication and successful recovery. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential and there is never any obligation.


[1] FDA –