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Signs Someone Is Abusing Prescription Drugs

The act of abusing prescription drugs is when the medication is used in a way not directed by the prescribing professional. This can mean taking more than prescribed, crushing, snorting, or injecting the medication, or taking a friend’s medication. Prescription drug abuse often leads to addiction, and sometimes can lead to both fatal and nonfatal overdose. Identifying signs that a loved one is abusing prescription drugs can help them get proper help to end addiction.

Most Abused Prescription Drugs

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are four categories of commonly abused prescriptions. Within these four categories, there are different types that are abused. Abusing prescription drugs can lead to fatal consequences, even if they aren’t used very often. It is often seen in people who are prescribed these medications long term in order to treat chronic pain or anxiety that become dependent upon them. 


Prescription depressant drugs like benzodiazepines are among the most abused prescription drugs. This includes medications like Ativan, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Phenobarbital, and sleep medications like Ambien. The effects of abusing prescription drugs like these depressants can lead to physical dependence and addiction, and someone’s body may not be able to process the amount taken, leading to an overdose.


Codeine, Methadone, Fentanyl, Oxycontin, Percocet, Dilaudid, and Vicodin are among the most commonly abused prescription opioid drugs. The effects produced by these medications can lead users to seek these drugs for the purpose of feeling those effects. 


Because stimulants like Adderall cause some people to have elevated energy levels among other effects, it adds to the desire for these drugs. Abusing prescription drugs like Adderall can be dangerous. These medications have side effects that should be monitored and discussed with a medical professional when taking them.

Signs Someone is Abusing Them

As previously stated, abusing prescription drugs often stems from tolerance to the prescribed level of the drugs. People with chronic pain that are prescribed opioid pain medications, for example, can begin to feel continued pain after taking the medications and then take more of the prescription. Doing this only leads to a higher tolerance. A sign to watch out for is whether the person taking the prescriptions runs out of the medications prior to the refill date.

Another sign that could be indicative of abusing prescription drugs is using these drugs in combination with alcohol. The warning labels on most prescriptions state to not combine the medication with alcohol. This is often done in an attempt to heighten the effects of the prescriptions. 

If someone tries to stop taking the medication and ultimately cannot stop, this could be a sign they are abusing prescription drugs. This goes back to the tolerance and dependence that leads to addiction. When the body is accustomed to something being used daily and then the person stops using,  the body then begins to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable for those experiencing them, which often leads to returning to use the drugs.

Physically, these withdrawal symptoms are often a sign that someone is abusing prescription drugs. Other physical signs include lying and deceiving to gain more of the prescription drugs, sedation or being overly hyperactive, and financial difficulty stemming from the medications. Emotionally, there may be mood and behavior changes that can be indicative of prescription drug abuse. Psychological signs that someone is abusing prescription drugs can include depression and anxiety.

Doctor Shopping and Prescription Drug Addiction

When it comes to doctor shopping, it is a sign of prescription drug abuse. Going to different doctors to receive the same or similar prescriptions in order to have excess amounts of medications is a major sign to look out for. This could be an indication that a loved one may be addicted to the drugs the doctors are prescribing. In order to prevent withdrawal symptoms while simultaneously achieving the desired euphoric high that the drugs often produce often leads someone to receive more than one prescription or illegally obtain them.

How and Why Treatment and Detox Work

When abusing prescription drugs leads to addiction, it is best to seek professional help to detox and learn how to manage withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms associated with dependence and addiction are uncomfortable and going through the withdrawal process comfortably increases the success rate of recovery. In addition, the person learns the tools needed to fight the cravings and urges that might lead back to addiction.

End Prescription Drug Abuse Now

Prescription drug abuse can be extremely dangerous and life-threatening. Getting better begins when the decision to stop the abuse of these drugs. If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription drug addiction, Louisville Addiction Center can help. We offer a safe and healing environment to begin a life of recovery. Our team of professionals is standing by to help guide you to the next chapter of life. Contact us today.