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Prescription drug addiction signs and symptoms

Prescription drugs have undoubtedly improved the lives of millions of people throughout the UK and around the world. When used as directed, under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, prescription drugs can have a wide range of positive effects.

However, due to the recreational high that prescription drugs can produce when they are abused, this can lead individuals to develop a harmful addiction to substances that were originally prescribed to them for a legitimate medical reason. As well as producing a range of common effects, addiction to these substances can also result in a range of serious and unpleasant prescription drug addiction symptoms.

Some of the most common immediate effects following prescription drug abuse include:

  • Opioid painkillers – when abused can cause strong feelings of euphoria and relaxation
  • Stimulants – when abused can induce feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and excessive energy
  • Benzodiazepines – when abused can cause the user to feel relaxation and pleasure

Depending upon the type of prescription medication that an individual has been abusing, potential problems may include irreversible long-term damage and even death. Therefore, understanding the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction is crucial in order to ensure that this dangerous condition is recognised and tackled. Intensive prescription drug addiction treatment at Manor Clinic can equip individuals with the skills and strategies that will empower them to live healthier and more productive lives, free from prescription drug addiction.

What are the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction?

The signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction can vary widely and depend upon a number of factors, including the type of prescription drug that an individual has been consuming, as well as how regularly they have been taking this. However, the following are all common signs and symptoms that may suggest that an individual has a problem with a prescription drug addiction:

Physical symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

  • Impaired co-ordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation
  • Sleep disturbances including insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat and slowed breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Reduced or increased appetite and weight fluctuations
  • Constipation
  • Dramatically increased or reduced energy
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Finding that you have built a tolerance to the drug meaning that you need to take more of it to achieve the desired effects
  • The appearance of withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug or are unable to obtain it
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Psychological symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Impaired ability to focus or concentrate
  • Enhanced ability to focus or concentrate
  • Poor judgement
  • Memory problems
  • Paranoia and confusion
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Chronic low mood
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Taking prescription drugs in order to relieve stress
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health conditions

Behavioural and social symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

  • Using prescription medications after the legitimate symptoms that they were treating have subsided
  • Borrowing or stealing prescription medications
  • Attempting to acquire multiple prescriptions by visiting many different doctors
  • Ordering prescription medication on the internet
  • Devoting a large amount of time to acquiring, using, and recovering from the abuse of prescription drugs
  • Prioritising obtaining and taking prescription drugs over activities that were once important to you
  • Feeling as though you want to stop taking prescription drugs, but finding that you are unable to
  • Being defensive and secretive about your prescription drug misuse
  • Continuing to take prescription medication even after suffering negative consequences as a result of this
  • Using prescription drugs when it is obviously dangerous to do so, such as immediately prior to driving or when also consuming alcohol

What are the long-term effects of prescription drug addiction?

Prolonged misuse of prescription drugs can lead to a whole host of long-term negative effects and outcomes. These may include:

  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory problems
  • Damage to virtually all organs
  • Short and long-term cognitive impairments
  • Family conflict
  • Social isolation
  • Relationship breakdowns
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Problems with the law resulting in arrest and imprisonment
  • Homelessness
  • Pervasive feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Suicidal thoughts and impulses

What are the effects of prescription drug withdrawal?

When a person has developed an addiction to prescription drugs, ceasing or reducing the amount of the drug that they consume can trigger a whole host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Powerful cravings for the prescription drug
  • Diminished appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Twitches and tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia (sleeping more than usual)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Headaches

At Manor Clinic, we offer a comprehensive detox programme, which is the process by which all traces of harmful substances are removed from your body in a controlled and medically supported setting. This process enables prescription drug withdrawal symptoms to be managed effectively, thus addressing the physical aspects of your addiction, and equipping you with the ability to commence with rigorous prescription drug addiction therapy when you are physically stable.

What are the physical effects of prescription drug overdose?

Overdosing on prescription medication can cause a range of severe effects and can even result in death. The following are all signs that someone has overdosed on prescription drugs and requires urgent medical attention:

  • Shallow or otherwise irregular breathing
  • Faint pulse
  • Rapid, reduced, or irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Disorientation and/or extreme confusion
  • Seizure
  • Coma

This page was reviewed by Sarina Wheatman (FDAP) in November 2019 and is scheduled to be reviewed again in November 2021.

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