Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Druge Abuse

Most of us think we know the tell-tale signs of drug abuse. Some of us thankfully only witness the debilitating effects of drug abuse by viewing its portrayal on a television show or movie.  We may think that drug abuse mainly affects the homeless, lost, or crazy.  There are, however, millions of people who live with the personal agony of secret drug abuse, and experience the dangers of drug addiction. Drug abuse has many faces and can affect us at ANY socioeconomic level.  It can look like the star athlete who hurt his knee and is now addicted to opioids. It can look like the parent who has become dependent on Xanax while trying to balance work, life, and children. For those that are still wary of the topic and are not sure what the exact signs are, I have compiled a list describing side effects of use or abuse, and behavioral manifestations of abuse.

Symptoms of abuse can vary with each type of drug. On this site, we are pain focused, but opioids are not the only medication misused or abused by those suffering from chronic pain. The following are side effects of prescription drugs that may be given for pain or conditions related to mental health:

Symptoms of:

Opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.)

  1. Constipation
  2. Nausea
  3. Feeling high (euphoria)
  4. Slowed breathing rate
  5. Drowsiness
  6. Confusion
  7. Poor coordination
  8. Increased pain with higher doses

Sedatives and anti-anxiety medication (Xanax, Valium, Ambien, etc.)

  1. Drowsiness
  2. Confusion
  3. Unsteady walking
  4. Slurred speech
  5. Poor coordination
  6. Dizziness
  7. Problems with memory
  8. Slowed breathing

Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, medications used for ADHD and sleep disorders)          

  1. Reduced appetite
  2. Agitation
  3. High body temperature
  4. Insomnia
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Irregular heartbeat
  7. Anxiety
  8. Paranoia

Here are other signs of prescription drug abuse that apply to opioids, sedatives, and stimulants:

  1. Stealing, forging, or selling prescriptions
  2. Taking higher doses than prescribed
  3. Excessive mood swings or hostility
  4. Increase or decrease in sleep
  5. Poor decision-making
  6. Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
  7. Continually “losing” prescription, so more prescriptions must be written
  8. Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
  9. Engaging in risky behaviors because of poor judgment
  10. Using illegal drugs
  11. Being involved in crime
  12. Motor vehicle accidents
  13. Decreased academic or work performance
  14. Troubled relationships

How does this process of abuse occur? It is a complicated combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors. Let’s explain some confusing terms. Physical dependence is your body’s physiological response to taking a drug for a certain period of time. If you stop using the drug abruptly, or reduce the dose quickly you will experience withdrawal symptoms. The key is to reduce the dose of the medication slowly. Tolerance develops when the drug produces fewer effects over time. Often, the drug dose is increased to overcome this effect. Abuse is any use of an illegal drug, or the intentional use of a medication for non-medical purposes like using opioids as a sleep aid or to “get high.” Addiction is a neurobiological disease that combines genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors together to influence its development. We see patients with impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harmful consequences, and/or craving. Addiction is a serious problem and there are millions of people who struggle with the disease. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are concerned for yourself or a loved one.

For more information about addiction, you can listen to “Addiction, Opioids, and Recovery” here.

Remember, no one is immune to pain, but anyone can overcome it.

Source Information: MayoClinic.orgNarconon.com

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Posted in Addiction, Blog, Medications.

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