Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Prescription drug abuse and addiction is due to many factors. It can usually begin when a person has difficulty cutting back or stopping altogether due to a powerful inability to self-soothe or get relief from untreated mental or physical pain. Without the self-resilience and support to handle stress, loneliness or depression, drugs can be a tempting way to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, due to the changes drugs make to the brain, it can only take a few times or even one time to be on the road to addiction.

Addict coping with prescription drug abuse symptoms.

Addict coping with prescription drug abuse symptoms.

Some other risk factors include:

  • Family history of addiction
    • While the interplay between genetics and environment is not entirely clear, there is a higher risk for drug abuse if you have a family history of addiction.
  • History of mental illness
    • Drug abuse can worsen mental illness or even create new symptoms.
  • Untreated physical pain
    • Without medical supervision, pain medications or illegal drugs like heroin can rapidly become addictive.
  • Peer pressure
    • It can be difficult to resist the pressure to try them if people around you are doing drugs, especially if you are a teenager.

Physical Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

One of the main signs a user can employ to assess the level of their addiction is by looking at their tolerance to the drug. As time progresses, a user needs more of the drug to achieve the same effects as they did with a lower dose.
Prescription drug abuse affects the brain and body directly. While high, the drug affects the entire body from blood pressure to heart rate. Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine “amp up” the body, increasing blood pressure and metabolism, and reducing the ability to sleep. Drugs like opiates and barbiturates slow down the body, reducing blood pressure, breathing and alertness sometimes to dangerous levels.
Some general physical signs of abuse and addiction include:

  • Cycles of increased energy, restlessness and inability to sleep (often seen in stimulants)
  • Abnormally slow movements, speech or reaction time, confusion and disorientation (often seen in opiates, benzodiazepines and barbiturates)
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Cycles of excessive sleep or bouts of dizziness and insomnia
  • Unexpected changes in clothing, such as constantly wearing long sleeved shirts to hide scarring at injection sites
  • For snorted drugs, chronic troubles with sinusitis or nosebleeds (prescription drugs that have been crushed for snorting purposes)
  • Excessive sweating, urination or thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Uncontrollable diarrhea
  • Spastic shaking
  • Unpleasant or painful symptoms when substance is withdrawn

The health risks associated with prescription drug abuse vary depending on the agent. Each class of drugs has its own particular set of side effects but in general the majority of effects of prescription drugs can cause the following side effects:

  • Side effects of opioids
    • Respiratory depression, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting
  • Side effects of benzodiazepines
    • Sedation, coma, decreased respiration, lethargy, mental confusion
  • Side effects of stimulants
    • Fever, fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, seizures

Mental and Emotional Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction

Because drugs are abused for the temporary good feelings they provide, abuse and addiction also affect the user’s mood. These feelings can vary depending on the drug used.

Some mental and emotional signs include:

  • Cycles of being unusually talkative and cheerful with seemingly boundless energy (alterations in mood)
  • Increased irritability, agitation and anger
  • Unusual calmness, unresponsiveness or looking “spaced out” (confusion)
  • Apathy and depression (suicidal)
  • Paranoia, delusions
  • Temporary psychosis, hallucinations
  • Lowered threshold for violence

The majority of these individuals may have social or emotional problems, stress, depression, anxiety, financial woes or familial problems. A gradual change in these individuals may give a hint to their problem of prescription drug abuse.

These changes include:

  • A change in friends
  • Declining interest in health
  • Decreased interest in school
  • Isolation from family and old friends
  • Repeated lies, stealing
  • Withdraws from social activities

Prescription Drug Addiction Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, we can help. Please call our toll free number at (888) 371-5714. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your questions on prescription drug addiction treatment.

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