Prescription Drug Abuse

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription Drug Abuse is an addiction just as powerful and all-consuming as addictions to gambling, drinking, smoking, sex or illegal drugs. Taking a pill fulfils a need for the addict, just as gambling or drinking seemingly helps to solve needs or problems. Just why someone becomes an addict remains unknown.

However, many prescription drug abusers have needed to take the medications for legitimate health reasons. They just do not stop taking the medication when they are healed. The most popular kind of medication that is abused is painkillers, followed by tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants or “uppers.” People of all ages and backgrounds can become prescription drug addicts.

What are the Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse?

Symptoms depend on what kind of drug is being abused. Addicts to painkillers and sedatives tend to be constantly drowsy, constipated, cannot concentrate or remember things as they normally would, become clumsier than usual, slur their speech and may have dilated pupils. Addicts on stimulants often have very small or “pinpoint” pupils, sleep less, talk faster and seem full of energy.

The main problems with prescription drug abuse are not the symptoms but the impacts of the addict’s need to score on others. Addicts may “doctor shop” so they can get more prescriptions. They may steal other people’s medications. They often have money problems. They have trouble at work and school since the pills take up so much of their lives. They may lose their partners or friends because their need to score and take pills takes priority over anything else.

Prescription Drug Abuse Causes

Prescription drug abuse has several possible causes, including environmental, genetic, psychological and biological factors. Children who grow up in chaotic households where they may be exposed to people with addictions may be at a greater risk for developing a drug problem later in life. Children of relatives with drug problems are also at a higher risk for drug abuse in their own adult lives.

Mental illness may be another cause of prescription drug abuse. Left untreated, mental illness, coupled with attempts to manage the symptoms, could lead to ‘self-medication’ with alcohol or drugs. People who struggle with medical conditions and are given prescription medications can also become addicted to prescription drugs.

Teenagers often use prescription drugs to reduce their appetite, to be accepted by their peers, to feel good (get high), to improve concentration on academic tests, improve concentration at work, to relax or relieve tension and to increase alertness.

How is Prescription Drug Abuse Treated?

Treatment for prescription drug addicts is possible but very difficult. It is a lot easier if the addict wants to stop taking the drugs. Treatment is for any other addict which begins with a talk to a doctor for help. Addicts may need medication to help with withdrawal symptoms, counseling and addiction recovery programs where addicts can share their stories with each other.

WARNING: Do not quit cold turkey or suddenly. These can cause dangerous side effects from withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Prescription drug abuse can be prevented by taking the following steps: following the directions of the medications carefully, using only medications prescribed to you, knowing what your medication does and any effects it may have on you, and only ordering prescription medications from trustworthy pharmacies.

If you have a teenager that you’re worried might be taking prescription drugs, talk to them about it and discuss the dangers of prescription drug abuse with them, putting emphasis on the fact that just because a medication is prescribed doesn’t mean it’s safe, especially not to take casually. If you have any unused medication lying around the house, get rid of it immediately. Keep any current medications you may be taking safe and locked up, and out of reach of your children.

Make sure to set some ground rules to let your children know that it’s not okay to share their medications with others. Also, be sure to discuss the dangers of mixing prescription medication with alcohol. Inform them of the dangers of accidental overdose. Make sure your child isn’t ordering prescription medication online, and if they are, talk to them about the dangers of counterfeit drugs.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
January 11, 2018