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What are the signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction?

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Niall Campbell (MBBS, MRCPsych) in June 2020.

The symptoms of prescription drug addiction can vary from person to person and depend upon the type of prescription drug that you have been misusing, the frequency of your prescription drug use, and the amount of the prescription drug that you are consuming.

At Priory, we are able to offer comprehensive treatment for anyone struggling with a prescription drug addiction, and our world class addiction treatment teams are dedicated to empowering you to tackle your symptoms, and take steps towards a healthy, happy and positive way of life.

The following are signs that you, or someone that you know, may have a problem with prescription drug use:

Psychological symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Chronic low mood or flat affect (reduced emotional reactivity)
  • Mood swings and hostility
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Confusion and paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Consuming prescription drugs in order to relax or relieve stress
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or stress

Behavioural and social symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

  • Visiting multiple doctors for the same condition, to try and obtain multiple prescriptions
  • Consuming prescription medication faster than indicated
  • Ordering prescription medication over the internet
  • ‘Losing’ prescriptions and frequently requesting replacements
  • Stealing or forging prescriptions
  • Prioritising obtaining and taking prescription drugs over activities that you once enjoyed
  • Feeling as though you want to stop taking prescription drugs, but finding that you are unable to
  • Inability to stop thinking about when, where and how you will obtain prescription drugs, and feeling as though this is taking over your life
  • Being secretive and defensive about your prescription drug use
  • Avoiding contact with loved ones, leading to social isolation
  • Neglecting your responsibilities
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Continuing to take prescription drugs even after suffering negative consequences as a result e.g. social isolation, impaired work performance
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Physical symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

  • Intense cravings for the prescription drug
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Heart palpitations
  • Coordination problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Catatonia (periods of immobility and unresponsiveness)
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia
  • Diminished or increased appetite, leading to weight changes
  • Finding that you have built a tolerance to the prescription drug, meaning that you need to consume this more frequently and in higher doses, in order to experience the desired ‘high’
  • The appearance of prescription drug withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking or are unable to obtain the prescription drug

What are the long-term effects of prescription drug addiction?

Prescription drug misuse can result in a wide range of long-term problems that can have a devastating impact on all areas of your life. These may include:

  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Family breakdowns
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment

Prescription drug addiction withdrawal symptoms

One of the most difficult aspects of prescription drug addiction is the series of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that are experienced when you stop taking, or do not have access to the drug in question. Some of the most common prescription drug addiction withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or fatigue
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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