Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Abuse SignsPrescription abuse

This is the misuse of drugs for other reasons other than treating the ailments they are prescribed for. The following also comprise abuse

  • Administering the drug in a different manner than prescribed; this is usually done by first altering the original form of the drug and administering it in a means that delivers it to the blood stream faster than intended
  • Taking too much of the drug
  • Taking the drug more frequently than prescribed
  • Combining several drugs with other substances for intake which alter the effects the drug is supposed to have in the body and mind

Prescription abuse symptoms

There are general symptoms and signs exhibited by people who are abusing prescription drugs. While some may be signs of short term abuse, others are symptoms are observed after a long time

General signs that someone is abusing drugs

  • Uncoordinated bodily movements such as twitching of muscles, uncoordinated reflex actions
  • Disturbed and uncontrollable thoughts
  • Some compulsive disorders
  • Unstable heart rate, breathing, respiration etc.
  • Digestion complications
  • General poor health – caused by the effects of the drugs or the fact their appetite is comprised by prescription abuse
  • Inability to concentrate, think fast or even control one’s balance
  • Extreme emotions such as excitement or depression

There are a number of common behavioral signs and symptoms that can be detected in someone who is potentially abusing drugs. Primarily, they will seem a different person in a number of possible ways that will vary with each individual, and yet there are almost always some detectable differences in the person, some of which may be subtle, though they can usually be detected by someone who is close knows the individual well.

Various changes may involve:

  • Changes in activities of interest
  • Changes in friends
  • Attitudinal changes, from being anything from more aggressive, to more withdrawn
  • Changes in physical appearance, including a disheveled appearance and visible signs of poor health
  • Changes in work or school appearance, potentially causing them to get fired or expelled
  • Sudden problems in areas such as with the law, interpersonally or maintaining their responsibilities

In essence, if one even suspects they are seeing some or even one sign of substance abuse, it is worth looking into, especially with prescription drugs, and in the case of a teenager, because this can have very serious dangers and potentially lead to death.

If you suspect a loved one may have a problem, or that you are wondering avout yourself, or anyone you know, please give us a call at 800-281-9728, and one of our drug abuse counselors will be happy to assist you any time you call, in any way they can, even if you just need someone to talk to.


Drugs are chemical substances which change the chemical composition of cells in the body and mind. In effect, drugs alter the functioning of theses cells and this can have positive or adverse effects.

Drugs classification

Drugs are classified into different categories which have the ones having similar characteristics placed under the same category

The different classifications are based on:

  • The means of drug administration

Different drugs forms are administered into the body via different means. The different means of drug administration are:

Oral – oral administration involves swallowing the drugs tablets, pills, syrup etc; which takes the drug through the normal digestion process. Enzymes work on the drugs while in the stomach to break them down and once in the small intestines, the drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream

Injection – injection involves administering the liquid drug directly into the veins (called intravenous injection) or into muscles (called intramuscular injection) through the use of a syringe and needle

Sublingual – this is done by placing the drug (usually in tablet, saliva soluble crystals or powder form) under the tongue to get absorbed into the blood stream via the thin tissues

Smoking – smoking involves burning the drugs and inhaling the smoke or fumes into the lungs to be absorbed from the thin tissues into the blood stream

Snorting/ Insufflation – this is the inhalation of thin powdered drugs into the nostrils because the thin nasal tissues allows for the drug to be absorbed fast into the blood stream

Suppository – this is the placement of drugs (regardless of the form the drug is in) into the vagina or anus from where the drug is absorbed into the blood stream from the anal and vaginal tissues as they are thin and full of blood capillaries

  • The effects the drugs have on the body and mind:

Categories that fall under this classification are: depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. Depressants generally slow brain and CNS activities, stimulants speed those functions up, while hallucinogens alter thinking

  • Their medicinal versus recreational value:

Drugs can either fall under the category of prescription drugs which are used for their medicinal value to treat diseases and are issued with instructions on how to use them, or they can fall under recreational drugs which are only used for leisure and do not have any usage instructions (except for the few legal ones that are used recreationally).

DrugsPrescription drugs

These are drugs which are purely used for their medicinal value. They are given out with use instruction to treat disease. Prescription drugs are commonly referred to as medications and they can be mild or very strong depending on their chemical composition and the illnesses they are made to treat.

Some of these drugs are made from a combination of drugs (for example suboxone which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone) which in effect increases the effects of one of the components or reduces toxicity. Other prescription drugs are only made from one component.

Prescription drugs can be said to be generally grouped into depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens; these also happen to be a major general categorization of drugs in general.


These are drugs whose working mechanism slows the central nervous system and the brain.

Effects of depressants

 Slowed heart beat
 Slowed breathing
 Lowered concentration and alertness
 Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
 Reduced respiration rate

As a result, they are used to treat any over activity in the body and mind a well as numbing pain. Depressants are prescribed for pain management because they attach onto the CNS and brain receptacles to block or distort pain signal transmission to the brain from the hurting body part.

They also induce an increased production of endorphins – which are the natural chemical substances for managing pain. Endorphins also induce a sense of well being in addition to numbing pain.

Examples of prescription depressants drugs are:

  • Lortab
  • Tramadol
  • suboxone
  • subutex
  • morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • oxycodone
  • Fentanyl
  • acetaminophen

Some depressants are used to treat minor/ mild ailments such as managing mild pain and suppressing coughs etc., while others such a buprenorphine, hydrocodone and morphine are prescribed for very severe pain or managing long term illnesses and sometimes withdrawal symptoms from an addiction, as is the case with buprenorphine for opiate dependency.

Prescription drugs are also used to depress the mind and induce sleep/ drowsiness for victims of trauma/ stress so that they can get some rest and relax the mind.


These drugs speed up body and mind’s functions. They are used to treat under activities in the body and mind such as: slow breathing, malfunctioning heart, kidney, liver and other organs. They are used to treat asthma, attention deficit disorders, obesity etc.

Effects of prescription stimulants

  • Raised heart beat and high blood pressure
  • Raised respiration rate
  • Increased body temperature and sweating
  • Raised breathing rate
  • Surge in body energy
  • Increased concentration and self awareness
  • Boosted sense of well being such as self esteem, grandiosity, invincibility

Hallucinogenic prescription drugs

Hallucinogens alter thinking and prescription drugs under this category are used to divert people’s mind from many traumatizing things they have in their minds.

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