Prescription Drugs Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What are Prescription Drugs?

Prescription drugs are any types of medications which must be authorized by a medical professional. Medical professionals that may distribute prescription drugs include physicians, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. All prescription drugs are regulated by the Federal Government in the United States, which means that each drug must meet a specific criterion before being administered or distributed. For example, safety regulations involving prescription drugs in the United States are supervised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987. The term “prescription drug” is commonly used to differentiate from drugs that can be obtained without a prescription, or over the counter. Other terms that refer to prescription drugs include “Rx”, “Rx-only drugs”, or “legend drugs”. Prescription drugs are typically allotted from pharmacies and pharmacy chains, under the digression of Pharmacists who will dispense the medication.

A father’s story of his son’s battle that he lost with prescription drugs. As Posted By: kyoag

Prescription drugs will be identified with a label that will indicate several things:

  • The name of the drug
  • The strength of the medication
  • The quantity of pills
  • Name of the prescribing doctor or other medical professional
  • Date of prescription
  • Number of refills remaining
  • Expiration date of prescription
  • Instructions on how to taken the medication

There are some prescription medications that have a high risk for abuse, such as Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc. These substances are included in the “controlled” category as they are strictly regulated by the government. Many other prescription drugs can lead to dependency or addiction if not used correctly or as instructed. Examples of drugs that can lead to dependence include Xanax and Valium, or medications from the benzodiazepines class. Many prescription drugs can be fatal in high dosages, which is one of the reasons that prescriptions only contain a certain number quantity. Even when used as directed, prescription drugs can have many unpleasant side effects, and it is important to discuss these risks with a medical professional before consuming any substances.

Prescription drugs are available in several forms, including pills, tablets, liquids, injections, suppositories, patches, and more. Because many prescription drugs contain components that are desirable to drug addicts, they are often obtained through illegal or prohibited means (outside of a doctor’s prescription). If used recreationally, prescription drugs are typically manipulated to achieve a wanted effect, such as crushed and snorted/smoked, or cooked and injected intravenously. These methods will help a prescription drug addict achieve a euphoric reaction or other desired effect. Though prescription drugs can offer pain relief and thus improving the quality of life for someone suffering from physical ailments, they can easily be abused. The three classes of prescription drugs that are most frequently abused include opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants. When prescription drugs are used recreationally or beyond their intended purpose, a prescription drug addiction can quickly develop. An addiction to prescription drugs can destroy the life of any man or woman and negatively impact the many areas of an individual’s life. If you or a loved one is suffering with an addiction to prescription drugs, it is important to enlist the help of loved ones, professionals, and a prescription drug addiction center to find freedom from the substance abuse.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription Drug Statistics

In the United States, there are more than 2,800 drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of various diseases and illness [1]. Statistics on prescription drug abuse are helpful in gaining a perspective about the seriousness of this condition as well as what can be done in treatment and preventative measures of prescription drug addiction. Other statistics about Prescription drugs are as follows:

  • In 2009, 16 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [2].
  • Among adolescents, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the commonly abused illicit drugs by high school seniors [2].
  • Among those who abuse prescription drugs, high rates of other risky behaviors, including abuse of other drugs and alcohol, have also been reported [2].
  • Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. The rise in overdose deaths in the US parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of strong painkillers [3].
  • The misuse and abuse of prescription drugs was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009 [3].
  • About one-half of prescription painkiller deaths involve at least one other drug, including benzodiazepines, cocaine, and heroin. Alcohol is also involved in many overdose deaths [3].

Causes of Prescription Drug Addiction

There are several factors that can be involved in the abuse of prescription drugs. These reasons may be related to biological, psychological or social reasons. Some examples of causes of prescription drug addiction include the following:

  • To maintain an addition or prevent withdrawal
  • To achieve a euphoria, or feeling of being “high”
  • To relieve tension, anxiety, depression, or pain (both physical and psychological)
  • To achieve a social status or to be accepted by taking a certain drug or medication
  • To increase alertness, concentration or work/school performance

A prescription drug addiction can also be co-occurring with other disorders or diseases, such as an eating disorder, alcoholism, mood disorders, or the abuse of other substances. If you or a loved one is struggling with a prescription drug addiction, it will be important to enlist the guidance of a professional to help address the several factors that may have led to this point. Having the help of a professional prescription drug treatment center can be instrumental in identifying any possible root causes associated with the prescription drug addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription drug Addiction

The signs and symptoms of a prescription drug addiction will depend on the drug that is being abused. There are three classes of prescription drugs that are most frequently abused, and understanding ways to recognize a prescription drug addiction can be helpful in intervening. If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, knowing these signs can help identify when the use of prescription drugs has become abusive:

  • Stimulants: Common signs of stimulant abuse include agitation, irritability, high blood pressure, restlessness, impulsive behaviors, unintended weight loss, and irregular heart beat.
  • Opioid painkillers: Symptoms of opioid painkillers include depression, lower blood pressure, decreased breathing rate, imbalance and poor coordination.
  • Sedatives: Abuse of sedatives can lead to dizziness, confusion, poor judgment, and excessive mood swings or hostility.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms as a result of an addition to prescription drugs, please seek the counsel of a health professional, as the addiction can quickly spiral out of control.

“How Prescription Drugs Leads to Heroin” – Click to Enlarge

Prescription Drug Effects

A prescription drug addiction can be devastating to the abuser as the various aspects of their live can begin to unravel. While physical consequences may be the most obvious, the effects of a prescription drug addiction do not stop there. A prescription drug addict will also face damaging effects in every facet of their lives: physically, psychologically, and socially. The following are ways that Prescription drugs can impact the various areas of a user’s life:

Physical Effects – The abuse of prescription drugs can disable the body from functioning normally as organs and systems are slowly destroyed. These are some of the physical consequences resulting from using prescription drugs:

  • Alterations in mood
  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Erratic behavior
  • Sluggishness, fatigue
  • Decreased immunity
  • Death due to overdose or toxicity

Psychological / Mental Effects – Abusing prescription drugs will also lead to the destruction of one’s mental health. These are some of the negative psychological and mental effects from using prescription drugs:

  • Reliance on prescription drugs for feelings of happiness and contentment
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Mental clouding
  • Mood swings or extreme behavior changes
  • Frequent experience of depression and anxiety
  • Distorted perception of reality, disillusioned

Social Effects – The abuse of prescription drugs can result in multiple negative social effects. These can include the following:

  • Withdrawal, isolation from friends and family
  • Loss of interest or decreased participation in activities once enjoyed
  • Alienation from social function
  • Damaged relationships with loved ones
  • Division or brokenness within a family unit

Prescription Drug Withdrawal

The withdrawal process from prescription drugs will varying according to what drug was being consumed, the duration of the drug addiction, the quantity taken, and the frequency of the drug. Withdrawal will occur in any instance where the dosage of the prescription drugs is discontinued suddenly, allowing the body to detoxify from a prescription drug or flush it from its systems. The detoxification process of any prescription drug should be done under medical supervision as the symptoms that can accompany withdrawal are both physically and psychologically demanding and challenging. These symptoms result as the body attempts to stabilize without its regular dosage of prescription drugs within its systems.

Withdrawal from Prescription drugs may cause the following symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Cramps
  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Perspiration
  • Vomiting
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Cravings
  • Suicidal ideations

If you or a loved one is addicted to prescription drugs and attempting to withdraw from the medications, it is recommend that you seek the help of a qualified medical professional or prescription drug treatment center. Having the support of a professional staff can ensure that the detoxification process proceeds with as little discomfort and complications as possible. Having the support of a prescription drug rehabilitation center and treatment team can establish long term success for recovery.

Prescription Drugs Treatment and Help

A prescription drug addiction does not have to take control of your life. In fact, you have the ability to make the decision to seek the help you need to overcome the detrimental prescription drug addiction cycle and live your life in freedom and peace. Finding and utilizing professional help is an important part of the process to effectively approaching the complications that may have resulted from prescription drugs use. Suffering with an addiction to prescription drugs can be overwhelming and an isolating experience, but it is important to remember that you do not have to be alone. Having the help of a professional treatment team or prescription drug rehab center can allow for the best care and treatment, and ultimately, give you the tools you need to overcome this addiction.

Articles Related to Prescription Drugs Abuse

  • Many college athletes may find the requirements burdensome and overwhelming to deal with. For this reason, many college student athletes may turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with the added stress and social pressures they are facing. In fact, college students who participate in athletics will have greater risk for abusing alcohol or other drugs due compared to their non-athlete peers.
  • Everyday 2,500 kids ages 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the first time.1 Prescription medications are fast becoming the new “party” drugs for many teenagers. The new trend among youth is known as “pharming” or, kids using prescription drugs for recreational use. Many parents are not aware that their own medicine cabinets are potential sources of these drugs for teenage abuse. This practice is life-threatening and a kid can die doing it for the first time.
  • Prescription drug addiction and overdose are issues largely hidden from the public. The rates of addiction for prescription drugs are on the rise at alarming rates. According to, an estimated 2.4 million Americans misused prescription medications to change their mood, and not for the intended use. The most vulnerable populations are the young, women, and the elderly, but all are susceptible. Read more to discover the warning signs of prescription drug addiction.
  • Many people would assume that the individuals who abuse prescription drugs are teenagers and college students. However, there is an astounding number of stay-at-home mothers who have also found themselves addicted to these substances. Most of these addictions start out innocently enough, but quickly escalate into a severe problem.
  • You are not alone in your struggle against prescription medication abuse. Hope lies in the recovery journey from prescription medication, and thankfully, many resources exist that can help you overcome your addiction to prescription drugs.
  • The holidays will soon be upon us. It’s time for merriment, joy, and unfortunately a whole lot of stress. Alcohol use in the United States tends to increase during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. For most, alcohol usually represents joy and closeness, raised holiday spirits, and good times. For those struggling with prescription medication dependence, it is a time where life can become very unmanageable.
  • The holiday season is such a time period that for some, may bring out many concerns. While often a joyous occasion, this time period can be overwhelming for many, exposing vulnerabilities in the person recovering from a prescription drug addiction. Sudden urges to use prescription medications can occur through the following possible scenarios during the holiday season.


[1]: “Prescription Drugs”

[2]: “Topics in Brief: Prescription Drug Abuse”. National Institute on Drug Abuse

[3]: “Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention