Prescription Drug Rehab - PAX Riverbend Addiction Treatment

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

prescription drug abuse

Prescription drug abuse refers to using prescription medications in a way that defies a doctor’s orders. This includes mixing medications, crushing, snorting, or injecting medications, taking more than prescribed, or seeking prescriptions from multiple doctors. Sometimes, prescription drugs are sold illicitly on the streets. The most common types of prescription drugs that are abused are stimulants, benzodiazepines, and opiates. 

Prescription drug abuse is one of the most common kinds of chemical dependency. However, it is seldom recognized early. After all, it is easy to justify in the beginning because the substance is given to patients by a professional doctor. Unfortunately, many prescription drugs carry a risk for abuse. When abused, these drugs often lead to chemical dependency and addiction. More importantly, this type of drug abuse often warrants help from a prescription drug rehab.


Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

The signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend heavily on which types of medications are abused. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include stimulants, benzodiazepines, and opiates.[1]


Stimulants, as suggested by the name, stimulate the central nervous system. These medications increase focus, energy, talkativeness, and heart rate. Stimulants are often prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, when taken in large doses, stimulants can lead to paranoia, insomnia, and even heart problems. Stimulant medications that people abuse include Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin. 



Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, are central nervous system depressants. These drugs are generally prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines work by producing more GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA then slows brain activity, producing a relaxing and calming effect. Unfortunately, due to how common these drugs are prescribed and how addictive they are, many people abuse them. Benzodiazepine abuse not only leads to health complications, but it may cause severe and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.



Opiates and opioids are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. This includes Fentanyl, OxyContin, Codeine, Morphine, Hydrocodone, Opana, Percocet, and Vicodin. When opiates are taken, the brain releases an excess of dopamine, which sends messages to the rest of the body that something pleasant is happening. Sadly, this dopamine boost is highly addictive. Due to overprescribing and the addiction potential of opiates, these drugs are one of the most common, deadly abused prescription medications in the United States. 

Opiates and Opioids


Who Abuses Prescription Drugs?

Virtually anyone who gets their hands on prescription medications like these can abuse them, but not all do. After all, some people are more susceptible to prescription drug abuse than others. A person’s biology, environment, mental health, family history, and childhood can all contribute to drug abuse. For example, people who have either a family history of addiction or a mental health condition are more likely to abuse substances than those who don’t.[2]

Similarly, a person’s social environment can impact whether or not he or she abuses prescription drugs. If the people you surround yourself with are abusing Xanax, you may become curious and try it yourself, or feel pressured to do what your friends are doing. People may abuse prescription drugs for different reasons. For example, some students who need to stay up late to study abuse Adderall. Or, these drugs are combined to counteract or exacerbate the effects of other drugs. Regardless of the reason, prescription drug abuse sometimes leads to addiction.


Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is difficult to spot in the beginning, especially if the person in question has a prescription for whatever drug they are using. However, if someone buys a prescription on the street, regardless of the amount they take, this is considered drug misuse Some signs that a person is abusing prescriptions include:[3]

  • Taking larger doses than prescribed
  • Taking doses closer together than the label suggests
  • Snorting, smoking, or injecting a pill that you should swallow
  • Taking medication when you don’t need it
  • Seeing multiple doctors for multiple prescriptions, or “doctor shopping”
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take drugs
  • Combining medication with alcohol or other drugs
  • Purchasing prescription drugs illegally on the street

The signs of prescription drug abuse vary depending on which medication is abused. A person who abuses opiates will exhibit symptoms such as restricted pupils, slowed speech, and itchiness. People who abuse stimulants may be energetic, overly talkative, losing weight and sleeping very little. Lastly, people who abuse benzodiazepines might seem forgetful, have difficulty processing and understanding information, and have slower reaction times. If a person’s drug abuse progresses, it may turn into an addiction. Consequently, a person who abuses prescription drugs may need help from a prescription drug rehab.


Prescription Drug Rehab

Anyone who abuses prescription drugs and struggles to stop can benefit from addiction treatment. People who abuse prescriptions typically need an intensive treatment program that begins with medical detox services. After all, many prescription medications, including opiates and benzodiazepines cause dangerous, and sometimes fatal withdrawal symptoms. 

After detox, prescription drug rehab consists of behavioral therapy and medication-assisted therapy, if needed. While enrolled in these programs, clients work with their therapists to understand how their addiction developed and how to treat it. Therapy prepares clients with the skills and tools needed to stay sober. In most cases, therapists encourage aftercare treatment or relapse prevention programs. Aftercare services prevent relapse and support long term recovery.

Prescription drug addiction doesn’t have to last forever. When people obtain the help they need at a prescription drug rehab, they can stay sober and turn their lives around. If you or a loved one needs help, reach out today.




Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.