Addiction Q&A: How to Identify Prescription Drug Abuse

Addiction Q&A: How to Identify Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in America, especially for teens. According to the NIDA for Teens (National Institute of Drug Abuse for Teens), prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans aged 14 and older (after marijuana). Even if you’re not a parent yourself it’s a huge cause for concern.

This month’s drug Addiction Q&A comes from The Discovery House blog and concerned reader Laina who asks:

“I think my son might be experimenting with drugs, prescription drugs to be exact, but I’m not 100% sure. Are there certain signs I can look out for? I am really worried he might get into trouble.”

Great question! As a parent, it is normal to be concerned about your child or even adult child’s potential drug use. If you suspect that your child is using drugs, concern is an imperative as is taking some action to resolve the matter. First, keep in mind that experimentation is a euphemistic way to describe the use of drugs, illicit or otherwise. A painter experiments with a new color. A chef experiments with a new ingredient or technique, but someone who uses any illicit or prescription drug without the consent of their healthcare provider is an abuser, someone who is abusing drugs. Let’s go over some of the signs you can look out for if you suspect that someone you love is abusing prescription drugs.

Addiction Q&A: How to Identify Prescription Drug Abuse

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

It’s important for parents to keep in mind that prescription drug abuse is just as deadly as illicit drug use. While getting into legal trouble is always a concern, the real danger is what drug use does to one’s health. Moreover, because the risk of overdose is always present, the threat to life can never be ignored. Additionally, it can be difficult for parents to tell whether their child is using illicit or prescription drugs because abuse symptoms may be similar. Regardless, parents should consider drug abuse if their child exhibits any of the following signs or symptoms:

• Bloodshot eyes
• Sudden weight loss or weight gain
• Insomnia
• Unusual smells on body or clothing
• Slurred speech
• Shaking or tremors
• Impaired coordination
• Confusion or reduced cognitive ability
• Mood swings
• Uncharacteristic periods of hyperactivity
• Anxious or depressed

Behavioral Changes to Look out For

Parents should also take note if their son or daughter begins to exhibit behavioral changes that are out of character for their child. Reduced attention to personal hygiene and grooming could be a cause for alarm. Acting secretive and withdrawn is another sign that there is a problem, particularly if associated with other behaviors like skipping class, failing to do homework or chores, or clashing with family members. If you’ve noticed missing money or valuables around the house, you should definitely suspect a drug problem.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Prescription Drug Abuse?

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms or behaviors, it’s vital that you get to the bottom of the problem. The first step is to get help from professionals, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Trained addiction specialists and counselors can provide you with information and help for confronting your teen drug user, staging an intervention, and getting your child into treatment before their abuse problem transitions to a full-blown addiction.

You can also bring your child to see your healthcare provider and request a screening. If your child is shown to be using drugs, you can go from there. However, if your child is found to be “clean,” you can also ask your healthcare provider to help you determine what’s wrong and what may be causing the signs and symptoms you’re witnessing. Your child could have a mental issue or even an eating disorder. However, once you determine the nature of the problem, you can take the steps needed to solve it.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.

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