Prescription Medication Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Understanding Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

While prescription medication is intended to help those who are suffering from various medical conditions, prescription drug abuse is an increasing problem, especially among young people. Many young people abuse various types of prescription medication in an attempt to achieve mood-altering and/or mind-altering effects, such as the onset of pleasurable feelings, relaxation, and detachment from one’s surrounding. The prescription medications most often abused include painkillers, sedatives, antianxiety medication, and stimulants. However, any medication can be abused.

When prescription medications are not taken as intended by the prescribing physician, a number of negative consequences including the development of an addiction can occur. Once an addiction has developed, it can become extremely difficult for people to overcome it. Professional treatment for prescription medication abuse is highly recommended.



Studies have shown that an estimated 52 million people in the United States alone have abused some type of prescription medication. Furthermore, research that has been conducted on the rates of drug overdose in the U.S. have concluded that prescription drug overdoses take more lives than do car accidents, gunshot wounds, or suicides.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Abuse

There are a number of different components that come into play when talking about why some individuals will develop an addiction to prescription to medications while others do not. Some of these components are discussed in more detail below:

Genetic: Many years of research have indicated that there is in fact a strong genetic link to the onset of substance abuse and addiction. A young person who has a family history of chemical dependency is at a higher risk for struggling with addiction themselves at some point in life.

Environmental: In addition to genetic vulnerability there are a number of environmental factors that can contribute to a person’s susceptibility to developing a prescription drug abuse problem. For example, a young person who grows up exposed to drug abuse is more likely to begin abusing substances themselves.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Family history of chemical dependency
  • Experiencing a trauma
  • Being the victim of abuse or neglect
  • Suffering from a condition that requires the use of prescription drugs for symptom relief
  • Easy access to prescription drugs
  • Peer pressure

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

The signs and symptoms exhibited by a young person who is abusing prescription medication are going to depend heavily on the specific drug or drugs being abused. Other factors that can affect which symptoms are displayed include the length of time of abuse and the amount of the substance that is being ingested at any given time. Examples of various symptoms that may indicate that someone is struggling with a prescription drug abuse problem may include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Change in peer group
  • Decline in academic performance
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Social withdrawal
  • Behaving in an aggressive manner
  • Lying or other deceitful behavior
  • Stealing
  • Skipping school
  • Breaking curfew
  • Frequently gets in trouble

Physical symptoms:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Deterioration of physical appearance
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Tremors / shakes
  • Lack of good hygiene
  • Lethargic

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Unable to concentrate
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Altered perceptions of reality
  • Lack of judgment
  • Unable to make good decisions
  • Delayed thought processes

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Changes in personality
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Irritability or anger outbursts
  • Lack of motivation
  • Appears fearful or paranoid for no reason
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Abusing any drug, even prescription medication, is going to cause a young person to experience a number of negative consequences that can ultimately disrupt all areas of his or her life. Some ways in which prescription drug abuse can impact a young person’s life may include:

  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Poor academic performance
  • Increased risk for accidents
  • Physical harm as a result of accidents or engagement in risky behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Destroyed interpersonal relationships
  • Family discord
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health conditions
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Organ damage and failure
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

The presence of additional mental health conditions have been known to occur in individuals who are struggling with an addiction to prescription medications. The following mental health conditions have been known to co-occur in individuals who are battling an addiction to prescription medications:

  • Additional substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal: Ongoing prescription drug abuse will often result in the onset of withdrawal symptom when an individual stop using. The specific symptoms an individual will experience are going to depend upon the actual drug he or she has been abusing, but they may include:

  • Vivid dreams
  • Sleep problems
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Tremors / shakes
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation

Effects of prescription drug overdose: Whenever a child or adolescent consumes more of a substance than his or her body is able to metabolize and overdose occurs. If an overdose should occur medical attention should be sought immediately. Some signs that may indicate that someone has overdosed on prescription medication may include the following:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Breathing problems
  • Respiratory failure
  • Brain damage
  • Coma
  • Death

SUWS of the Carolinas is a solid program for teens with behavioral & substance abuse issues. Our son benefited greatly while there.

– Anonymous Parent