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, such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco), used to treat pain
  • 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) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and certain sleep disorder
Signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse
Opioid painkillers Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications Stimulants
Constipation Drowsiness Reduced appetite
Nausea Confusion Agitation
Feeling high (euphoria) Unsteady walking High body temperature
Slowed breathing rate Slurred speech Insomnia
Drowsiness Poor concentration High blood pressure
Confusion Dizziness Irregular heartbeat
Poor coordination Problems with memory Anxiety
Increased pain with higher doses Slowed breathing Paranoia

Other signs include:

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings or hostility
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision-making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
  • Continually "losing" prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

When to see a doctor

Talk with your doctor if you think you may have a problem with prescription drug use. You may feel embarrassed to talk about it — but remember that medical professionals are trained to help you, not judge you. It's easier to tackle the problem early before it becomes an addiction and leads to more-serious problems.

Sept. 19, 2015