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A Prescription for Disaster: 10 Tell-Tale Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By April 21, 2019
signs of prescription drug abuse

Americans are taking more prescription drugs today than at any other point in the past. There are almost 5 billion prescriptions filled every year.

For the most part, this is a good thing. The majority of people take their prescriptions as prescribed to treat certain illnesses and conditions.

But there are a few downsides to the country’s infatuation with prescription drugs. One of them is that there are millions of people who are abusing prescription drugs and putting themselves at risk.

If you suspect someone in your life is doing this, look out for the signs of prescription drug abuse. If you spot any of them, get them the help they need to kick their addiction to prescription drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax, Valium, or Adderall.

Here are 10 of the most common signs of prescription drug abuse.

1. Mood Swings

People who are hooked on prescription drugs tend to experience a series of drastic mood swings throughout the course of a day.

When they’re under the influence of their drug of choice, they’ll often appear to be very happy and satisfied with life. But as the drug wears off, they’ll sometimes slip into a state of depression and not be friendly to others.

It’s not out of the ordinary for a person to have mood swings every now and then. But if you notice someone is having them almost every single day, it’s time to investigate it further.

2. Constant Irritability

Those who abuse prescription drugs spend a ton of time trying to get their hands on them to fuel their addiction. And they can get very agitated when prescription drugs aren’t available.

People who are struggling to get the drugs they need will often:

  • Lash out at those around them
  • Blame others for their bad mood
  • Exhibit hostility towards anyone who tries to calm them down

If it feels like someone you know is on edge all the time, try to get to the bottom of why that is. Prescription drug abuse could be to blame.

3. Irregular Sleep Patterns

Using prescription drugs that haven’t been prescribed to you can wreak havoc on a person’s sleep patterns. People will sometimes struggle to fall asleep at night and then sleep all day to make up for it.

Some people will also skip sleeping altogether on certain days when they use high dosages of prescription drugs. The drugs will make it impossible for their bodies and minds to get the rest they need.

This often causes them to turn to other prescription drugs designed to help them fall asleep. It can lead to them getting stuck in a vicious cycle with no way out.

4. Dramatic Weight Gain or Weight Loss

Do you know someone who has gained a lot of weight overnight or dropped 20 pounds in a matter of just a few weeks?

There could be a logical explanation for it. For all you know, stress (and stress eating) could be to blame for their weight gain. A new diet or a juice cleanse could be the culprit behind their weight loss.

But dramatic weight gain or weight loss could also be one of the signs of prescription drug abuse.

5. Money Troubles

A prescription drug habit can take a toll on more than just a person’s physical and mental well-being. It can also cost them a fortune, especially if they start needing to take higher dosages of drugs to achieve the same high.

If someone is struggling with prescription drug addiction, there’s a good chance that they’re going to have money troubles. Even if they’re able to hold down a job, they’re going to spend a good chunk of change every week on drugs.

Be wary if a friend or family member is always hitting you up and asking to borrow money. It could show that they’re battling some kind of addiction.

6. Stealing or Lying

Someone who is dealing with prescription drug addiction will do just about anything to get their next fix. That might include stealing prescription drugs from someone else or stealing things they can sell to get drug money.

It also might include lying about why they need to borrow money or denying that they’re using drugs. Keep your eyes (and ears!) out for these signs of prescription drug abuse.

7. Poor Decision-Making

Does it feel like a friend or family member has made a series of bad decisions in recent months?

They might just be going through a rough patch. But their bad decisions could also be a direct result of prescription drug use.

When someone is hooked on drugs, they use so much brain power focused on finding drugs that they don’t always think clearly. They’ll make poor decisions in every area of their life without even realizing that they’re doing it.

8. Memory Issues

There are lots of different prescription drugs that can cause a person’s memory to fade. From anti-anxiety medications like Xanax to narcotics like Vicodin, these prescriptions will make some people more forgetful.

If you know someone who suffers from unexplained memory issues, it might mean that they’re more than just absent-minded. They could be fighting a losing battle with prescription drug abuse.

9. Increased Alcohol Use

Studies have shown that those who abuse alcohol are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. But the reverse also seems to be true as many prescription drug abusers rely on alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is a problem in and of itself. But it can turn into an even worse situation when someone starts mixing prescription drugs and alcohol together.

10. Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person is addicted to prescription drugs, they won’t be able to function without them. They’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have the drugs in their systems.

These withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Severe insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Tremors

Most people will require professional assistance to work their way through these symptoms. Checking them into a drug rehab facility will help them detox safely.

Watch for Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Is a friend or family member exhibiting any of these signs of prescription drug abuse? Work up the courage to ask them if they might have a problem.

Or, if you find yourself demonstrating any of these signs, be honest with yourself about what you’re going through. You can get help with your problem and stop using prescription drugs.

Contact us today to learn more about kicking a prescription drug habit once and for all.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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