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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction?

Abuse of prescription drugs is dangerous and can have a number of side effects. Learn more about prescription drug addiction and resources that can help.

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Misuse and abuse of prescription drugs are dangerous and can have several side effects. However, treatment for prescription drug abuse is available, and you don’t have to go through it alone. There are different treatment options to choose from that best suit your wants and needs. 

Prescription Drug Addiction Definition

Prescription drug addiction is characterized by long-term abuse of prescription drugs despite the negative consequences that may occur in someone’s life. Prescription drug abuse involves using prescription medications for non-medical purposes. Using medication outside its prescribed purposes can be very harmful and cause dangerous side effects.1 

Prescription Drug Addiction Statistics

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, about 2   million Americans are addicted to prescription drugs. Among those struggling with an addiction, only 12.7% acknowledge that they have a problem. Therefore, it’s imperative to learn the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction to get those struggling the help that is needed.

Which Prescription Drugs Are Commonly Addictive?

Several prescription drugs have the potential for addiction. These include:

  • Opioids: Prescription medication abuse is common with opioid painkillers. Commonly abused prescription opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and tramadol. 
  • CNS Depressants: Central nervous system depressants can also have a high risk of abuse. CNS depressants with an increased risk of abuse are diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), and alprazolam (Xanax).3
  • Stimulants: Stimulant medications can also have a high risk of addiction. Commonly abused stimulant drugs are Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. 

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Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Addiction

There are many common risk factors for prescription drug abuse. These will be detailed below.  

Individual’s Gender

Gender can affect someone being more prone to prescription drug misuse. Depending on the type of drug, certain medications can have a higher risk of abuse for males or females due to how they interact with the biological properties of the individual.

Individual’s Age

Younger individuals may be more susceptible to prescription drug misuse and addiction. Young people may abuse prescription drugs due to peer pressure or be more prone to experimenting with prescription medication. It’s crucial to monitor prescriptions in people under 18 to ensure they’re using the medication safely.


Genetic factors can make someone more prone to prescription drug abuse. Someone with a family history of drug abuse may also be more likely to abuse drugs themselves. Understanding someone’s family history and genetic background is an essential part of a prescription drug addiction rehab program.

High Doses

Taking high doses of a substance will cause a higher likelihood of developing an addiction. Taking high doses of prescription drugs over a long period is dangerous and can lead to many negative consequences.

Physical Health Problems

Those with physical health problems may be more prone to prescription drug abuse. People with physical health problems often receive prescription drugs to help manage their condition. Prescription drugs with addictive properties that aren’t properly managed can lead to addiction, among several other issues.

Mental Health Disorders

People who struggle with mental health conditions may also be more susceptible to prescription drug misuse. Many people with mental health disorders may abuse prescription drugs to self-medicate.

Acute and Chronic Pain

Someone with acute and chronic pain may be more prone to prescription medication abuse, especially if prescribed addictive painkillers to treat their condition. Some people may also abuse prescription drugs to self-medicate chronic pain.

Substance Use History

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction?

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction to get those struggling the help and support needed.

Physical Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Common physical prescription drug addiction symptoms are:

  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug or lower the dosage
  • Poor physical appearance
  • Dilated pupils
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Impaired coordination

Psychological Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Common psychological prescription drug addiction signs include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion

Behavioral Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Common behavioral signs of prescription drug addiction include: 4

  • Drug-seeking behaviors
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Irregular sleeping habits
  • Using prescriptions at a faster rate than prescribed
  • Crushing or breaking pills
  • Stashing medication in multiple places around the house
  • Stealing or forging prescriptions

Side Effects and Dangers of Prescription Drug Addiction

Many dangerous side effects can occur as a result of prescription drug abuse.

Serious Side Effects of Prescription Drug Addiction

Serious side effects of prescription drug addiction include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressiveness
  • Extreme paranoia

Overdose on Prescription Drugs

One of the more dangerous side effects of prescription drug addiction is the potential for a prescription drug overdose. Many of the severe side effects of prescription drug abuse, such as slowed breathing, increased heart rate, and low blood pressure, can have serious health consequences when these medications are taken in high doses. This can lead to a potentially fatal overdose.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction

The best way to avoid prescription drug addiction is to take medications safely. You can do this by consulting with your doctor and asking questions when prescribed a new medication. When taking prescription medications, you should ensure you only take them within recommended doses and for the duration of time recommended by your doctor.

If you or your loved one does experience prescription drug addiction, there are many treatment options available. Going to a rehabilitation center is a great first step towards sobriety. Treatment opportunities will be discussed further below.


Prescription drug detox is one of the first steps in treating prescription drug addiction. Withdrawal symptoms will likely be experienced during this time, ranging from mild to severe. Going to a prescription drug rehabilitation center will help keep this process as safe as possible.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment allows you to stay at a treatment center for some time while working through a recovery program. This keeps you in a stable, structured environment away from temptations so you can focus on recovery.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment requires you to attend treatment sessions at designated times throughout the week. However, with outpatient treatment, you can return home at night after treatment sessions are completed. This is a good option for those with work or family responsibilities they don’t want to leave behind while receiving treatment.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is an integral part of recovery from prescription drug addiction. Behavioral therapy will teach you coping mechanisms to manage the stresses of life without the use of drugs or alcohol. It will help you reroute negative behavior patterns into more positive ones.


Mediation may also be used in a treatment program to help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent a relapse from occurring. Medications used are scientifically studied and proven to be effective.

Find Help at Ripple Ranch Recovery

If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction, Ripple Ranch Recovery can help. Ripple Ranch Recovery uses evidence-based treatments that are proven to get the best possible results. Our friendly and supportive staff will work with you every step of the way as you complete your treatment program. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you.