Symptoms, Signs & Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

Understanding the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction can help you or a loved one make a decision about treatment. Every experience with prescription drug addiction is different, and if you or a loved one are struggling, we are here to help.

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

Learn about prescription drug addiction and substance abuse

Of the countless prescription drugs currently in circulation throughout the United States, some of the most commonly prescribed ones include painkillers, amphetamines, sedatives, and antianxiety medications. While these medications can be beneficial for individuals who are struggling with symptoms of numerous physical and psychological conditions, they can also be very dangerous when used outside of professional direction.

If you are one of the many people who are struggling with prescription drug abuse, you are likely experiencing some negative symptoms of your use, which can include family conflict, trouble in the workplace, and cognitive impairment, to name a few. However, you do not have to allow this behavior to continue.

Know that there is help, and professional treatment is available. By partnering with a team of skilled and compassionate professionals at a quality treatment center, you can end your prescription drug use and move forward in living a happier, healthier life.


Prescription drug addiction statistics

Research shows that nearly 52 million people throughout the United States have abused a prescription medication. The following statistics are provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Nearly 6.1 million people have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes within the past 30 days.
  • America consumes 75% of the world’s prescription drugs, but only makes up 5% of the global population.

Men abuse prescription drugs at a more frequent rate than women do.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for prescription drug addiction

Studies have shown that one’s genetics and/or environment can play a pivotal role in the development of a prescription drug abuse problem. Some of the most common factors connected to prescription drug abuse include the following:

  • Easy accessibility to prescription drugs
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, or mental illness
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Exposure to substance abuse at a young age
  • Continued exposure to stressful situations
  • Experiencing pain conditions that prescription medications might have been prescribed to treat

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction

The symptoms that a person may display when abusing a prescription drug will depend on the kind of drug and the amount he or she is consuming. However, some of the most common symptoms related to prescription drug abuse include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Trouble performing to standard at work
  • No longer engaging in previously enjoyed activities
  • Frequent absences from work
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Deceitfulness
  • Visiting different doctors to obtain numerous prescriptions
  • Stealing or borrowing money

Physical symptoms:

  • Impaired coordination
  • Tremors
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Decline in personal hygiene
  • Altered sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating habits

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of good judgment
  • Trouble with reasoning
  • Disorientation
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling emotionally numb or detached
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation


Effects of prescription drug addiction

If your prescription drug use continues, you are putting yourself at risk for experiencing several negative effects to your overall well-being. Some of these effects can potentially include the following:

  • Family conflict
  • Loss of relationships
  • Chronic unemployment due to trouble performing well in a work setting
  • Decline in physical health
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health conditions
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory problems

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription drug addiction and co-occurring disorders

In many instances, substance abuse can occur alongside one or more mental health conditions. You are at increased risk for experiencing symptoms of the following co-occurring disorders if you continue to use prescription drugs outside of prescribed guidelines:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal & overdose

The longer you continue to use prescription drugs, the more likely you are to become physically dependent on them. When you stop your use entirely or decrease how much you are consuming, you can go into withdrawal, which can be painful and upsetting. Some common symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Profuse sweating

While withdrawing from prescription drugs can be physically and emotionally taxing, continuing to use can cause you to overdose, which can cost you your life. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms after using prescription drugs, it is imperative that you obtain immediate medical help at your nearest hospital:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Delirium