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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Curtis

Prescription Medication Abuse

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. Prescription drug abuse or problematic use includes everything from taking a friend's prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. Drug abuse may become ongoing and compulsive, despite the negative consequences.

An increasing problem, prescription drug abuse can affect all age groups, including teens. The prescription drugs most often abused include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressant medications, sedatives and stimulants.

Early identification of prescription drug abuse and early intervention may prevent the problem from turning into an addiction.


Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the specific drug. Because of their mind-altering properties, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are:

  • Opioids used to treat pain, for example medications containing oxycodone — such as Oxycontin and Percocet — and those containing hydrocodone — such as Norco

  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and hypnotics, such as zolpidem (Ambien), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders

  • Stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others), dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall XR, Mydayis), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorders

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse, Opioids, Anti-anxiety medications, Anti-depressants, sedatives and Stimulants.

  • Constipation

  • Nausea

  • Feeling high (euphoria)

  • Slowed breathing rate

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Poor coordination

  • Increased dose required for pain relief

  • Worsening or increased sensitivity to pain with higher doses (hyperalgesia)

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Unsteady walking

  • Slurred speech

  • Poor concentration

  • Dizziness

  • Problems with memory

  • Slowed breathing

  • Increased alertness

  • Feeling high

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • High blood pressure

  • High body temperature

  • Reduced appetite

  • Insomnia

  • Agitation

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

Other signs include:

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