Symptoms of prescription drug addiction?

What are the symptoms of prescription drug addiction? I fear that a family member may be addicted to prescription drugs, how can I tell?

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Drug Addiction

More often than not, prescription drugs are addictive and can cause long-term dependencies if mis-used.


Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs kill thousands of people a year because of mis-use and abuse.

Addiction begins when changes in the brain's receptor sites cause the person to need greater amounts of the drug in order to get the same relief (tolerance increase). It is well established when the drug must be in the person's system in order for them to feel relatively normal. When the drug is removed, discomfort increases, first with emotional and then physical symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the drug. With painkillers they usually include increased sensitivity to pain, muscle aches, jitteriness, depression, chills, nausea and diarrhea, among others.

Signs of addiction can include an increase in drug use, needing the drug more often, using up prescriptions faster than normal, continuing to use after the condition has improved, making excuses to continue use, engaging multiple physicians, preoccupation with obtaining drugs, agitation and discomfort when drugs are unavailable, increased sensitivity to light and sound, secretive behavior, personality changes, defensiveness when drug use is mentioned, avoiding social situations, uncharacteristic failure to meet responsibilities, changes in behavior and appearance, unexplained shortage of funds, disappearance of cherished items that can be exchanged for drugs or sold, indications of theft, loss of interest in favorite activities, and general overall changes in the individual that have no obvious cause.


answered 28 Jul '12, 21:54

whatmesober's gravatar image

accept rate: 33%

Physicians will quite often prescribe pain killers to be taken for a few days after a patient is released from hospital or has had a procedure. The physician has determined by whatever protocol just how long the patient "should" need this support. If you find you are asking for a refill several times after the original script runs out and you are not taking it for the original purpose (Pain is gone but the effects of the drug make you feel better.) you probably have developed an addiction or are moving in that direction.


answered 02 May '12, 16:24

msakaijames's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

"Prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed. Abuse of prescription drugs can produce serious health effects, including addiction. Commonly abused classes of prescription medications include opioids (for pain), central nervous system depressants (for anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (for ADHD and narcolepsy)," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Some signs that drug use may be an addiction problem:

very strong dependency on the
prescription drugs, not just taking
them "on schedule" or "when needed"
but having to take them (tough to tell the difference if you're not the one in pain or sick or whatever) stealing other peoples drugs not prescribed to you, selling anything
you can for cash or to trade for
drugs willing to lie/deceive/hurt people around you, as long as it
results in you getting drugs you
need can't leave the house without a lot of anxiety about taking enough
drugs along, having access to a stash of drugs, even getting so anxious
about the possibility of being
without access that you prefer to
just stay home and not take the risk drug dependency can get so bad that nearly 100% of the day is
dedicated to taking drugs and making sure you have a continuing supply

That's just a few from personal experience.


answered 02 May '12, 16:08

CleanAndSober's gravatar image

accept rate: 6%

The signs and symptoms of prescription medication abuse varies, depending on the drug. For example, some psychiatric medications are not mood altering, but can affect a person's mood, or can be dangerous if they suddenly just stop taking them. On the other hand, narcotics and pain killers are very addictive and can be lethal if are taken or abused in combination with drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana.

Any prescription that is given by a physician or nurse practitioner that is not taken as directed is considered abuse. Signs and symptoms for family members include sudden drastic shifts in mood or appearance, changing doctors (doctor shopping for more), lack of interest in daily activities, sleep disturbances, nodding out, and forgetfulness are among the behaviors to look out for.

Family members should tell the person what they are noticing and ask if they are ok first, instead of accusing. We are always interested in safety and concern for the person first.


answered 21 Mar '13, 14:01

drkathy's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

What has not been addressed so far in the input submitted is the predicament of a person who HAS (is prescribed) to take a narcotic for Chronic Pain. This person has only 2 choices: 1) live in pain 24 hrs a day, seven days a week or 2) take a Rx narcotic and be pain free. For me the choice is a given. If i stop taking the RX i go into withdrawal, ergo i am addicted to the Rx. However - my dosage has not changed in 6 years so i do not fit the addict profile in that sense.


answered 04 Jun '13, 14:44

T%20James's gravatar image

T James
accept rate: 4%

Sometimes you've gotta do what you've gotta do. But unless you've explored all other options such as non-narcotic pain relievers, physical therapy, meditation and so forth, and still found your pain to be intolerable, then you haven't yet determined that you've gotta.


answered 04 Jun '13, 21:30

whatmesober's gravatar image

accept rate: 33%

This is a challenge for people with long sobriety (total abstinence) and are diagnosed and treated for Cancer (for example tongue Cancer). As long as the person is following what the doctor is advising, and working in therapy and continuing their work in a 12 step program they are still in recovery.

However, if family members notice sudden shifts in moods and changes in normal daily activities after seeing a dentist for dental work (hiding scripts?) then there may be a relapse going on. When people start changing routines and lying about or not discussing how the use of pain medication may cause a full blown relapse then there could be problems.


answered 05 Jun '13, 09:04

drkathy's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

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Asked: 15 Nov '11, 15:35

Seen: 20,282 times

Last updated: 05 Jun '13, 09:04