Prescription Medication

Prescription medication abuse is the use of a medication not prescribed to you, in a way other than prescribed, or to get high. When abused, prescription medications can be as dangerous as “street” drugs, with similar effects on the brain, including the possibility of addiction.

Prescription medication abuse is illegal, even though most people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family. According to results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 2.1 million Americans used prescription medications non-medically for the first time within the past year.*

* From the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Commonly Abused Prescription Medications

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Think you or your loved one may have a problem with drugs or alcohol? Take this quick assessment to find out.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have a problem with abusing prescription medications?

If you think you may have a problem abusing prescription medications, we encourage you to take our brief assessment, above. This assessment is anonymous and is intended to provide insight to your own level of prescription medication use.

What are the signs of prescription medication abuse?

The following are all characteristics of those abusing prescription medications. However, some of these characteristics could also indicate other physical and emotional problems. Signs and symptoms of prescription medication abuse also depend on the particular medication a user is abusing.

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings
  • 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

Physical Characteristics

Opioid Painkillers – Drugs such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and those containing hydrocodone (Vicodin)

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decrease respiratory rate
  • Confusion

Depressants – Sedatives and tranquilizers such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan)

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady walk
  • Poor judgment
  • Involuntary and rapid eye movement

Stimulants – Drugs that are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sleep disorders

  • Weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat

If you think someone is abusing prescription drugs, there is help available. Visit Getting Help to learn more about your options.

Where can I get help for an addiction?

Visit our Getting Help page for more details on how to get into treatment and what options are available.

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Links to additional resources on medication misuse