Most people don’t begin taking prescription drugs with the intention of abusing them or becoming an addict. But heroin and opioid addiction is becoming endemic across the United States and many parts of Europe. This could be due in part to their increased availability, lower prices, and the fact that a high tolerance can be quickly developed, resulting in the person needing to take higher and higher doses. In America in particular, prescription drugs like opioids, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants are the top drugs being abused. National surveys distributed in the United States are showing that people are abusing drugs that are intended to soothe severe pain, difficulty focusing, insomnia and anxiety. Tranquilizers and sedatives are typically prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Stimulants are usually prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders. Commonly, many people start using opioids with legitimate prescriptions, but it can often progress quickly into full-blown addiction.
The signs of addiction will naturally vary depending on what type of prescription drug is being abused. For example, someone who is abusing opiates (pain relievers) will often be drowsy, nauseous, confused and constipated, along with constricted pupils. “Nodding off,” where they lose consciousness and start breathing unnaturally slowly, is also a common sign of an opioid addiction. Withdrawals from opiates typically include insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, chills and muscle and bone pain for at least several days.
Other common symptoms that come along with prescription drug abuse include:
- Poor memory
- Slurred speech
- Weak physical coordination
- Dilated pupils
- Chronic exhaustion
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic dizziness
- Flushed skin
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Reduced appetite
- Slurred speech
Behaviors that can Indicate Someone has an Addiction
- Taking higher doses than the prescription calls for
- “Losing” prescriptions so more have to be written
- Getting prescriptions from more than one doctor
- Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
- Crushing or breaking pills
- Vague and inconsistent answers to questions about how much they’re taking
- Consuming over-the-counter drugs that treat conditions that a doctor has already written them a prescription for
- Ordering prescription medications over the internet
When young people start developing a heroin or opioid addiction, there will likely be distinct changes as well. Oftentimes parents mistakenly attribute these changes to the normal attitude of a teenager, but it’s always worth a closer look.
- Young person withdraws from spending time with family and friends and wants to be alone
- They lose interest in their hobbies and schoolwork
- They become aggressive, disrespectful, angry and hostile if anyone tries to control them or ask what’s wrong
- They cry for no reason and are often irritable
- They lose interest in hygiene, cleanliness and a decent appearance
- They usually end up sleeping during the day and staying up all night, or not sleeping for several days at a time
Ultimately, the abuse of prescription drugs results in problems in personal relationships and the workplace. Financial difficulties, health problems, legal issues and psychological problems are also common consequences of addiction.
Fortunately, even if someone has developed a serious prescription drug addiction, addiction treatment can be highly effective and yield great results. But it is important that someone suffering from a prescription drug addiction seek medical assistance for detoxification and addiction treatment. The withdrawals from reducing or completely quitting the use of prescription pills can end in serious medical complications like convulsions and seizures, and even death.