Each year, millions of individuals and families alike are faced with the repercussions of long-term and severe prescription drug addiction. Facing an addiction to prescription drugs is often no different than confronting addictions to alcohol and illicit substances. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for prescription drug addictions is imperative whether you are facing an addiction yourself or if you are looking to help family members or friends who have succumbed to a physical or mental dependency on one of their very own medications.
Prescription Drug Facts
Did you know that prescription overdoses in women have increased by more than 400% in women along with 265% in men since 1999? Additionally, each month, at least 6.1 million US citizens abuse prescription drugs, making it one of the most significant issues faced in America today. Not all prescription medications operate the same. There are multiple classes when it comes to prescription drugs, as some medicines are meant for focus and stimulating the brain, and others are prescribed to calm the CNS (Central Nervous System) of the body.
Types of Common Prescription Medications
Some of the most commonly prescribed and abused types of medications today include:
Anti-Anxiety Medication (Benzodiazepines): Prescription medication for anxiety and depression are majorly abused, especially among individuals who have a history of addiction or are simply not finding the relief they desire from their current medication. Some of the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), Ativan, and even hypnotic drugs such as Ambien, which is frequently prescribed for those who struggle with anxiety or getting a good night’s rest each night.
Opioids: The opioid crisis is one of the biggest disasters impacting the citizens of the US in recent and modern history. While opioid medications are known to help with severe pain, it has also lead to an increasing number of deaths and accidental overdoses in the past decade. Common opioid medications include Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and a mixture between the two typically referred to as a Norco.
Stimulants: Stimulants are another popular class when it comes to prescription medications and drug addictions. While most prescribed stimulants are designed to help individuals who have trouble focusing, concentrating, and staying awake, they quickly become abused by those who do not have a genuine or authentic use for them. Common stimulants that are often abused among those who have prescribed the drugs and those who do not include Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, and even Dexedrine. While stimulants can lend a significant hand to those in need of assistance with everyday tasks, responsibilities, and focus, they can also work to provide a euphoric experience for those who do not have a use for the stimulants.
Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse
Not all signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse mimic or mirror one another. In fact, signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction are likely to vary quite a bit, depending on the type of substance or prescription drug that is being used and depended on by the individual who is struggling with addiction. Identifying a potential issue with prescription medication among family members or friends is possible by understanding what types of signs and symptoms each class of drug or medication typically manifests.
Opioid Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Opioid abuse in prescription medications and illegal substances has continued to grow and skyrocket in the past decade alone. With the potency of opioids becoming increasingly more powerful, it is essential to understand the signs and symptoms to watch for in those you suspect may have an existing or oncoming addiction to opioid prescription medications. Some of the most commonly displayed signs and symptoms of opioid abuse among individuals of all ages include:
Euphoria/Feeling High: Individuals with an opioid addiction report feeling euphoric or “high” while taking the prescription medication, especially if they are not in need of the painkillers they are taking on a regular basis.
Nausea/Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting becomes more prevalent with severe and physical addictions to opioids
Bowel Changes: You may notice increased constipation with a developed and ongoing opioid addiction
Slower Heart Rate: Your breathing may slow and become more depressed as you continue to take opioids when it is not necessary.
Cognitive Disruption: Loss of coordination, balance, and increased confusion are all signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and abuse. Constant drowsiness is also common.
Loss of Effectiveness: If your opioid painkillers or prescription medications no longer work as advertised, it may be due to a growing physical dependency or addiction to the substance.
Benzodiazepine / Anti-Anxiety Prescription Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Benzodiazepines, or anti-anxiety medications, are notorious for depressing the CNS, or central nervous system in the body. While the medicines are best known for treating panic attacks and assisting with short-term anxiety, they are some of the most abused prescriptions available to individuals of all ages. Some of the common signs and symptoms of benzodiazepine abuse include:
Increased Drowsiness: Increased drowsiness and sleepiness is extremely common with benzodiazepine addictions
Cognitive Issues: Confusion, slurred speech, poor concentration, dizziness, and even trouble recalling memories and events is exceptionally likely among those with severe dependencies and addictions to benzodiazepines.
Depressed Nervous System: A depressed, nervous system is a result of overdosing on benzodiazepines. A depressed, nervous system quickly leads to slowed breathing and a much slower heart rate.
Stimulant Abuse Signs and Symptoms
At the opposite end of the spectrum from benzodiazepines and opioids, stimulants typically trigger signs and symptoms that cause an individual to appear more active, awake, and alert at all times. Because stimulants are designed to increase focus and attention, they can trigger the following in individuals who are struggling with addictions to Adderall, Ritalin, or other stimulants themselves:
Euphoria: Individuals who do not require a stimulant for a real medical disorder often report feelings and responses of euphoria while taking the drugs.
Increased Alertness: Increased alertness, awareness, and the ability to focus and concentrate are extremely common among those who frequently use or abuse stimulant prescription rugs.
Irregular Nervous System: It is not uncommon for those who use stimulants to experience high blood pressure, an increased heartbeat, and even irregular body temperature. Regulating body temperature becomes increasingly difficult for those who are using and abusing stimulants.
Loss of Appetite: A loss of appetite becomes more common among individuals who frequently take and abuse stimulants. It may be challenging to maintain a healthy and regulated metabolism with an addiction to stimulants.
Sleeping Issues: Individuals who take stimulants regularly may find it challenging to adhere to a traditional sleeping schedule. A lack of sleep or onset insomnia is not uncommon among those who take stimulants more frequently than recommended or prescribed.
Mood Swings and Fluctuations: Mood swings, changes, and fluctuations are also prevalent among those who currently use or abuse stimulants for recreational or personal purposes. You may feel increased anxiety and agitation, especially when you do not have access to stimulants or if you feel attacked about the number of stimulants you require each day. You may also experience increased paranoia in conjunction with your newly developed anxiety, especially if you are anxious about your stimulant usage or need. Mood swings and increased anxiety are prevalent among individuals who are not only addicted to stimulants, but any type of drug, substance, or prescription medication. Whenever you notice a shift in your moods, how you react to various situations, and your everyday activities or lifestyle, it is vital to take note. Keep track of how you are reacting to any prescription drug you are prescribed, even if you have a genuine need for the substance based on conditions, diseases, or disorders you have been officially diagnosed with personally.
Seeking the necessary help you require for a prescription drug addiction you are facing, or that is currently in development is not always easy, especially if you are having difficulty admitting your addiction. The first step to truly get the help you need for any type of addiction you are facing is to acknowledge that there is a problem that you no longer want to have in your life. Admitting you have an addiction is one way to set yourself up on the proper path to life and the future of sobriety.
Understanding prescription drug addiction is imperative whether you have struggled with addiction yourself or if you are looking to lend a hand and resources to friends and family members in your own life. By understanding the signs and symptoms of prescription medication addiction, ensure your loved ones are not succumbing to a new and potentially life-threatening addiction at all times. While it is not always easy or straightforward to identify a real addiction to prescription medications, it is possible once you are familiar with the prospect of addiction and which signs or symptoms to look for in everyday life.