7 Telltale Signs of Prescription Drug Misuse You Should Know

Two million Americans face a silent crisis: the misuse of prescription drugs. Imagine watching someone you care about start using their medication differently; not to feel better, but just to get through the day.

It’s not only a deviation from the prescription. It’s the first step down a perilous path toward dependency. This problem, often hidden in plain sight within our homes and communities, is what we’re here to confront.

This article will help you recognize the early, subtle signs of prescription drug misuse. By understanding these indicators, you’re equipped to intervene before it escalates into addiction. Keep reading to arm yourself with knowledge and tools that could be crucial in protecting someone you love.

1. Increased Dosage and Frequency

One of the earliest and most telling signs of heavy prescription drug use is when an individual starts taking their medication in ways or amounts not prescribed by a healthcare provider.

It might begin subtly. A person believes they require a stronger effect, so they take an extra dose for what seems like valid reasons, such as not feeling enough pain relief. However, this can quickly escalate into taking the medication more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed, which is a serious red flag.

This behavior not only jeopardizes their health due to the increased risk of adverse effects and dependency but also significantly alters the intended impact of the medication.

The escalation in dosage and frequency can have dire consequences. For instance, the National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights that such misuse can lead to overdose. Opioids are particularly dangerous due to their addictive nature and impact on respiratory health.

The misuse of prescription drugs like stimulants, which are often prescribed for attention deficit disorders, can lead to psychological dependency and severe side effects like increased heart rate and high blood pressure.

2. Doctor Shopping

Doctor shopping is a tactic frequently employed by individuals engaged in heavy prescription drug use. This involves visiting multiple healthcare providers to obtain new prescriptions under the guise of various ailments. Such individuals may fabricate or exaggerate symptoms to acquire additional medication.

This deceptive practice not only fuels their habit but also complicates medical records and treatment plans. It is a small but significant contributor to the opioid crisis. Out of a survey of 3 million individuals who received an opioid prescription during an 8-year period, nearly 40,000 met the doctor shopper definition.

Recognizing this behavior is crucial, as it not only affects the individual but also strains the healthcare system and poses a risk to public health. Warning signs include:

  • Frequent changes in healthcare providers
  • Reluctance to release medical records
  • Inconsistent patient history

3. Changes in Behavior and Mood

People misusing prescription drugs often exhibit noticeable changes in their behavior and mood. These changes can be sudden and dramatic.

For example, a person might become unusually secretive about their activities or whereabouts. They may also exhibit irritability, mood swings, or signs of depression.

Behavioral shifts are among the most common drug addiction symptoms. Friends and family might notice that the person no longer engages in activities they once enjoyed or starts neglecting their responsibilities. This withdrawal from normal life can be a strong misuse indicator.

4. Physical Signs

Physical symptoms can provide clear evidence of prescription drug misuse. Common physical signs include weight loss or gain, drowsiness, poor coordination, and frequent flu-like symptoms.

These physical changes can be more telling than any verbal admission. For instance, opioids can cause constricted pupils, while stimulants might lead to hyperactivity or insomnia. Benzodiazepines might cause dizziness or slurred speech.

Recognizing these physical symptoms is crucial in identifying drug misuse early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that physical symptoms often accompany and highlight the misuse of prescription drugs.

5. Financial Problems

Overuse of prescription drugs often leads to financial difficulties. People might spend excessive amounts of money to obtain their drugs, especially if they are getting them off the streets, which can quickly deplete their finances. This financial strain might lead to borrowing money frequently, selling personal items, or even engaging in illegal activities to fund their addiction.

According to the CDC, the economic burden of prescription drug misuse in the U.S. is estimated at over $78.5 billion annually, which includes costs related to healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Noticing unexplained financial problems can be a key indicator of deeper issues related to drug misuse.

6. Neglecting Responsibilities

When prescription drug misuse takes hold, it often leads to neglect of responsibilities. This might include missing work or school, failing to fulfill family obligations, or neglecting household chores. People may lose interest in hobbies and activities they once enjoyed.

This neglect is not just a sign of falling behind. It indicates that the person’s life is being overshadowed by their need for the drug. This is one of the more obvious misuse indicators. Recognizing this pattern can be a call to seek substance use disorder help.

7. Social Withdrawal

Social withdrawal is another significant sign of prescription drug misuse. People might start isolating themselves from friends and family, avoiding social gatherings, and spending more time alone. They might also show a lack of interest in activities they once found enjoyable.

This isolation can further deepen their dependency on the drug, as they have fewer distractions and less social support. The National Institute on Drug Abuse emphasizes that social withdrawal is a common symptom among those struggling with drug addiction. It’s a critical sign that intervention is needed to help the individual reconnect with their support network and begin recovery.

Reach Out for Help From the Misuse of Prescription Drugs Today

Every section of this article highlights critical aspects of the misuse of prescription drugs, from behavioral shifts to the physical signs that often go unnoticed. We’re committed to turning the tide against substance use disorders. With over 57 years of expertise and a passionate team, we offer personalized, compassionate care.

If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t wait. Check out our programs and take the first step towards a healthier, more fulfilled life. Your recovery journey starts here.

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