Prescription Drug Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Prescription drugs that feel like miraculous cures for some can become nightmares for others. With drugs such as opiates, there’s a thin line between a functional routine and a descent into addiction. 

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Side Effects and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Use

To get prescription drugs, you need a doctor’s signature. This is because your GP will consider factors unique to you before choosing suitable drugs and dosages. An ethical doctor will do this to keep you safe from a drug’s negative effects. Ignore these guidelines, and you gamble with your life.

This is something that many patients and their loved ones don’t realize.  Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs. The biggest difference is that they’re produced under regulated conditions. They’re not made in impure environments. And they don’t contain unknown and potentially harmful filler substances like street drugs do.

Access to strong meds isn’t a green light to take larger and/or more frequent doses than suggested. Take note if a friend or family member misuses prescription drugs in this way. It’s one of the first indications that something is wrong.

Mixing Substances Can Be Lethal

Combining stimulants with decongestant cold medicines can cause irregular heartbeats and seizures. Alcohol can worsen the side effects of ‘downers’ or depressants. It can also bring about new side effects. If you drink and take sedative pills within a short period, there is a real risk of alcohol poisoning or a fatal overdose.

Make sure you read the package insert that comes with your meds or call your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure about the precautions you should be taking.

Physical Symptoms of Prescription Drug Misuse

There’s an important distinction between chemical dependence and addiction. If you stick to usage guidelines, you can still develop a dependence on your prescription drugs. This is because your brain adapts to your medication. If you stop using your meds, you will experience serious withdrawal symptoms.

To prevent this, your doctor will provide a tapering schedule. This way you can gradually reduce your dosage over time without severe discomfort.

Symptoms of misuse differ according to the primary drug. The side effects of drugs in the same class are similar. Symptoms can overlap across drug classes too.


  • Insomnia
  • Appetite and weight loss
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperatures
  • Paranoia
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Aggression


  • Sleepiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

Sleeping Pills and Anti-Anxiety Drugs (Benzos, Hypnotics and Barbiturates)

  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Poor coordination
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired mental functioning

The Long Term Effects of Prescription Drug Misuse

Some of the effects of prescription drug misuse are reversible and some will affect you for the rest of your life. If you inject drugs, there’s a chance that you will contract HIV and hepatitis. Veins can collapse and blood vessels can become blocked. Misusing prescription drugs also injures the brain and nervous system. This comes with a host of risks.


  • Psychosis
  • Fatigue
  • Snorting leads to nose tissue damage
  • Possible strokes and epilepsy


  • Mood disorders
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Organ damage


  • Amnesia
  • Impaired coordination
  • An increased risk of hip fractures in adults over 65

Signs That You Have A Substance Use Disorder

Some behaviors are signs that you have a major problem. Prescription drug monitoring programs have curbed doctor shopping. But it’s still possible to see many doctors to get more prescriptions. Some individuals try to steal and forge prescriptions too. Failing that, people buy drugs illegally.

A doctor will be able to diagnose a substance use disorder (SUD) if you report the following behaviors:

  • You have become tolerant to a drug and require more of it to feel its effects.
  • You find yourself craving prescription drugs.
  • You are unable to control your use.
  • Drug-seeking and use occupy your thoughts and time.
  • You misuse prescription drugs even though doing so causes problems in your life.
  • Abstinence leads to withdrawal symptoms.

The more symptoms you present with, the worse your condition. A severe SUD requires an intensive detox and treatment process.

Get Help for Prescription Drug Addiction

The side effects mentioned above can be life-threatening. If you or someone you know are struggling to escape the cycle of addiction, Bedrock Recovery Center can help. We use evidence-based methods to ensure you get optimal treatment and the best chance at a new life. Contact us for more information about the services we offer.

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2023 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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