9 Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse You Can’t Afford to Ignore

It can sometimes seem like we’re all on drugs for one condition or another.

Taking drugs to manage conditions is a daily reality for over 50% of the population. But it’s important to distinguish between the people who take drugs to improve their health and those who abuse prescription drugs.

If you’re worried that someone close to you is abusing prescription drugs, then you need to look for the signs.

Here are 9 signs of prescription drug abuse you can’t afford to ignore.

1. Learning From History

Psychologists have found that certain types of people are more prone to addictive behavior. The practical impact of this is that the kinds of people who become addicted are also the kind of people to relapse again later.

If someone you know has a history of drug abuse and begins to exhibit other signs on this list, then there’s a high chance they’re experiencing a renewed addiction.

Individuals may also be more at risk of addictive behavior if they struggle with other mental health issues or have experienced a recent trauma. Drugs can become a coping mechanism — even for those without a history of drug abuse.

2. Going Off Course

One of the earliest signs of prescription drug abuse is the prolonged use of said drugs. This is usually the first step, with the drug user developing an addiction to their prescribed drugs and then taking them beyond their recommended course.

Of course, this supply of drugs will eventually run out. This is when addicts will move to other methods to get hold of a secondary supply of drugs.

3. Chasing the Hit

Once a supply of prescription drugs runs out, the addict has to face the reality of securing another supply.

This usually results in a set of pursuit behaviors. These behaviors all center around finding ways to obtain more drugs. This usually takes the form of either securing money for drugs or the drugs themselves.

For instance, stealing another person’s prescription may be one way to obtain a supply. Drug addicts may also steal cash or valuables to give them more opportunity to buy drugs.

4. Going Through Changes

It’s rare that severe addiction comes without emotional changes. These usually result from the individual trying to deal with the mingled emotions of shame, anxiety, and frustration, among others.

Friends and family are usually the first to notice these emotional changes. Left unchecked, they can also impact professional life. This can lead to losing a job, in turn causing a downward spiral.

Addicts may be short-tempered, hostile, or develop a negative and nihilistic worldview. Dramatic emotional changes can also take the form of manic upswings, particularly in the abuse of stimulants.

5. The Wrong Decision

Many drugs can interfere with cognitive function. Drug abuse can cause sleep deprivation and fatigue. And the promise of acquiring more subscription drugs can promote risk-taking behavior.

Taken together, these all add up to the inevitability of poor decision making. As the effects of the drug compound with sleep deprivation (itself a cause of poor decision making) and pursuit of a “fix”, the addict may fail to think their actions through. 

6. Neglecting Reality

Drug addiction is like a slowly increasing noise. As it becomes more severe, it begins to drown out all other things around it. For the addict, this means neglecting vital responsibilities.

Through neglect, an addict can lose their job and their relationships. As the addiction gets worse, this can cause a snowballing chain of life-changing consequences, like the loss of access to their children, homelessness, or poor health.

These neglected responsibilities can even spread to basic things like hygiene and basic home maintenance. 

7. Evading the Truth

Addiction brings out the naughty child in us. Addicts will often fail to provide a straight answer to questions when asked to account for their own actions.

These evasions can also become more complex with time. The addict may begin to contradict themselves or lose track of things they’ve said as lies pile up.

Asking an addict straight questions can quickly expose addictive behaviors. Look for signs that the potential addict is lying or evading the question.  They may also grow hostile when confronted with these questions, particularly if they perceive them as an accusation.

8. Isolation and Avoidance

Social withdrawal is a common sign of addiction. Addicts will often want to spend more time indulging in drug use. And as drug use becomes chronic, addicts come under more pressure to hide their addiction from friends and family.

This often results in avoidant, isolationist behavior. These behaviors may weaken relationships through negligence or even hostility. Addicts often start spending more time alone as they fail to maintain their relationships.

The natural result of this is that there will have no support systems in place to pull them out of their spiral. If you know someone who has reached this point, it can be difficult to break through their defenses to reach them.

9. The Many Physical Symptoms

Prescription drug addiction also comes with a wealth of physical symptoms. We won’t cover these in detail here, as they can vary by the type of drug.

The three most common drug groups for prescription addictions are opiates, stimulants, and sedatives. Opiates and stimulants share many symptoms, such as drowsiness and confusion.

By contrast, stimulants tend to have the opposite effect. Addicts may become agitated and alert at inappropriate times.

By looking out for physical signs that a drug is taking a toll on a friend’s health, you can spot the early signs of prescription drug addiction. This is particularly the case if there seems to be a consistent downward trend in their health that you can’t attribute to illness.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Knowing these signs of prescription drug abuse could be enough to save someone you love from going down a self-destructive road. While there’s no guarantee of a successful intervention, this knowledge will help you understand when to step in.

You can support someone through their drug addiction by referring them to rehab to get them the help they need.

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