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Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse

Healthcare providers issue millions of prescriptions for the treatment of legitimate health concerns. However, prescription drug abuse can occur when patients misuse their medications over time. The dangers of prescription drug abuse can adversely affect mental and physical health, and the development of addiction is often unintentional. The simple act of taking a friend’s prescription medication can negatively impact well-being and lead to abuse.

In other cases, illicit prescription drug abuse begins with a desire for recreational use to get high. Misuse includes taking drugs to achieve euphoric or depressant effects they can induce. The misconception that more is better leads to abuse and can quickly result in addiction. The public must understand the dangers of prescription drug abuse before misusing their medication.

The Most Commonly Misused Prescription Drugs

Prescription medications are effective for their intended purpose when used correctly. Moreover, prescription drug abuse can quickly develop with unintentional misuse. Prescription drug use for non-medical reasons can produce significant adverse symptoms even including trauma.

The dangers of prescription drug abuse typically include 3 types of medications. The most commonly misused prescription drugs include:

  • Stimulant prescriptions for treating ADHD and narcolepsy, like Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin, speed up brain activity to increase focus, energy, and attention span.
  • Sedative or depressant prescriptions for treating anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep disorders, like Valium, Xanax, and Ambien, work to slow down brain and central nervous system functions.
  • Opioid prescriptions for treating moderate to severe pain, like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet, block the pain messages to the brain and produce euphoric feelings.

Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse: Statistics

Prescription drug abuse develops for various reasons, including misusing a prescription from a healthcare provider by not following prescription advice. Taking a friend’s pain pills instead of going to the doctor also misuses prescription medications. Recreational drug use to achieve the desired effect is abusing medications. The dangers of prescription drug abuse can affect all demographics for many reasons.

Learning the signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse can prevent an addiction. Teens and young adults use prescription medications at alarming levels. Without education, parents may miss the signs of prescription drug misuse. Teens and young adults are experiencing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, taking Adderall, and their counterparts can quickly develop an addiction if abuse is present. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics states that in 2020, 614,000 aged 12-17 admitted to using Adderall for non-medical reasons at some point in time.   

Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse

The following are signs and symptoms of addiction in connection with the type of prescription drug. The dangers of prescription drug abuse are apparent with the drugs’ effects on breathing, the heart, and cognitive thinking. Furthermore, risky behaviors come into play, leading to severe problems with lifestyle and relationships. Finally, overdose and dangerous drug combinations could lead to death.

Opioid prescription medications:

  • Constipation and nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Feeling high
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Drowsiness and confusion
  • A higher dosage to acquire pain relief
  • Worsening or increased sensitivity to pain with higher doses

Anti-anxiety medicines and sedatives:

  • Drowsiness and confusion
  • Unsteady walking and dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration and memory problems
  • Slowed breathing

Stimulant prescription medications:

  • Increased alertness
  • Feeling high
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure and body temperature
  • Reduced appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Paranoia

Other general signs of prescription drug abuse can include:

  • Forging, stealing, or selling prescriptions and doctor shopping
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Drastic mood swings with periods of hostility
  • Sleeping less or more and periods of drowsiness
  • Making poor decisions
  • Periods of unusual energy
  • Requesting early refills or continually “losing” prescriptions to qualify for additional medications.

Severe Effects of Prescription Drugs

The dangers of prescription drug abuse can be deadly. High-dose addiction, polydrug use, and the addition of alcohol consumption have severe physical consequences. Prolonged prescription drug abuse can adversely affect relationships, lifestyle, occupation, and education. Psychological symptoms are pervasive as well.

Long-term prescription drug abuse leads to physical dependence and addiction. As tolerance builds, the individual needs higher dosages to achieve the same results. It is difficult to stop using the drugs without treatment help when physical dependence occurs. Often, the withdrawal symptoms are intolerable, and the use continues.

Other consequences and effects of prescription drug abuse include:

  • Drastic mood swings
  • Erratic and risky behavior
  • Extreme confusion
  • Sleep dysfunction
  • Hyperactivity and anxiety, or hypotension
  • Negative change in hygiene and appearance
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Overdose, coma, and death
  • Incarceration from risky behavior
  • Deterioration of relationships and divorce

Effects of Mixing Multiple Prescription Drugs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, nearly half of deaths due to drug use involved more than 1 substance. Polysubstance abuse involves ingesting more than 1 substance, including using multiple prescription drugs.

It is essential to give the doctor a list of all medications to avoid adverse reactions because of drug interactions. Mixing different stimulant prescription drugs can increase the risk of brain injury, liver damage, heart attack, and stroke. Additionally, mixing depressant prescription drugs can cause damage to the brain and organs, induce overdose through breathing difficulties, and death.

Combining stimulants and depressants can be unpredictable and trick individuals into thinking the drugs are ineffective. This thinking can lead to an overdose. Finally, mixing alcohol with prescription drugs can damage the brain, heart, and other organs and increase the risk of overdose.


Prescription drug abuse is treatable. Once an individual seeks treatment, a healthcare provider assesses and evaluates, and medical detox plans follow. To avoid complications, a medically monitored detox in a safe environment, usually a professional treatment center, is the best option for prescription drug detox. Medication-assisted treatment may be beneficial in lessening withdrawal intensity. Treatment, including counseling and behavioral therapies, needs to follow to avoid relapse.

Find Treatment in Tennessee

Choosing the ideal treatment center for prescription drug addiction can be challenging, but Freeman Recovery Center in Tennessee stands out amongst the best. The center offers various treatment options to provide customizable treatment plans. From assessment to sober living options after treatment, the center’s goal is to see continued sobriety in their patients.

We offer comprehensive rehabilitation services meticulously tailored to address a wide spectrum of substance use disorders. Our specialized programs cater to individuals battling alcohol addiction, drug addiction, opioid addiction, cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, meth addiction, benzo addiction, and prescription drug addiction. By combining evidence-based practices with holistic care, we deliver empathetic and professional support that focuses on the unique needs of each patient. Our goal is to create a nurturing environment where teenagers and their parents feel encouraged and empowered to overcome addiction, achieve lasting recovery, and rebuild their lives with confidence and resilience.

Contact Freeman Recovery Center to speak to their understanding and compassionate staff.


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