Drug and Alcohol

How Dangerous is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Many prescription drugs are dangerous when abused. Prescription drug abuse is one of the most common – and dangerous – forms of drug abuse.

How Dangerous is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

January 5, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Prescription drug abuse and addiction is a serious issue which is prevalent mainly among the youth. When used appropriately, they help in relieving the symptoms of the disease and reduce suffering. However, since it is easy to get prescription drugs, the chances of abuse and addiction are higher.

There are many risks of prescription drug addiction, and individuals must be well-informed about its complications. Please read the below write-up to understand this drug abuse and how to avoid or treat it.

What Is Prescription Drug Addiction?

Prescription drug addiction, also known as prescription drug misuse, is when an individual consumes medicines for a reason other than what a medical practitioner prescribes. It can include anything, from using a friend's prescription to purchasing a prescription painkiller to snorting or injecting the drug to get high on it. There are chances that these prescribed drugs might become an ongoing and compulsive process.

One of the most significant aspects is that misuse of this drug can target and affect all age –groups, influencing teens primarily. This teen drug abuse, changes the way a brain functions. A person loses self-control and his/her decision-making ability. As this self-medication continues for a prolonged time period, they have extreme urges to consume more drugs than required, often leading to a drug overdose.

What are the Most Misused Prescription Drugs?

The most misused prescription drugs include.


  • Examples: Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Meperidine (Demerol), Oxycodone (OxyContin)

  • Medical Usage: Treat aches and relieves coughs or diarrhea.

Tranquilizers/Central Nervous System Depressants (CNS)

  • Examples: Diazepam (Valium), Alprazolam (Xanax), Phenobarbital (Luminal)

  • Medical Usage: Treat anxiety attacks, panic attacks, depression, and sleep problems.

Prescription Stimulants

  • Examples: Amphetamine or Dextroamphetamine (Adderall), Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

  • Medical Usage: Treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy

How is Prescription Drug Addiction Dangerous?

Prescription drug addiction and abuse can cause severe consequences, often leading to the death of an individual due to drug overdose. Furthermore, when individuals combine it with other drugs or substances such as alcohol or other recreational drugs, it leads to risks and dangers. Some of the serious consequences or effects of drug abuse are:

Medical Consequences

Some of the medical consequences of prescription drug overdose include:

  • Anti-anxiety medications or sedatives: The doctor prescribes these medicines to help treat individuals with severe anxiety issues and mental illnesses that trigger anxiety. Overdose of the same can cause memory problems or decrease cognitive functioning, affect breathing, and cause low blood pressure and cardiac arrests.

  • Opioids: Opioid overdose can cause extreme mood shifts, difficulty in thinking, slow breathing rate, and can cease breathing. Overdose from opioids can also lead to a person going into a coma! The risk is higher when people take these drugs along with alcohol, CNS depressants, and antihistamines. Since 2003, drug overdose deaths from prescription opioids have been higher than cocaine and heroin combined.

  • Stimulants: Overdose of stimulants can cause dangerous overheating of an individual's body temperature, increasing heart problems, irregular heartbeats, and sudden blood pressure. This is followed by seizures, tremors, aggressive behaviors, hallucinations or delusions, and even paranoia. The risk of this form of a prescription drug overdose is enhanced when combined with other medications.

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Addiction and Abuse

Since prescription drug addiction affects the brain massively, there are higher chances of the development of addiction:

Drug Tolerance

Commonly known as physical dependence, this is how an individual's body adapts to prolonged drug usage. Therefore, people who are dependent on a drug require higher dosages so that they continue to get the same effects. Additionally, they might also experience withdrawal signs when they suddenly stop their drug intake.


Individuals who are highly addicted to a drug might experience drug tolerance. However, they are adamant about seeking a drug and continue taking it even when they know it might cause severe consequences.

Other Consequences

Other dangerous consequences due to such drug and alcohol abuse include:

Crimes and Accidents: Addicted individuals tend to get involved in crime and violence since they become aggressive due to prescription drug addiction. According to research, in 2018, about 12 million people aged 16 and older drove under the influence of illicit drugs, and 20 million were under the influence of alcohol, causing severe accidents and crashes.

  • Inappropriate Behavior:: One of the significant consequences of prescription misuse is inappropriate or risky behavior. The person cannot express or interact with peers and is always confused, which is undoubtedly an alarming sign.

  • Trouble in Relationships: Due to high doses of prescription drugs, individuals cannot express their feelings to their loved ones. In addition, prescription drug addiction or other substance abuse makes it tough to maintain trust and respect with peers or family, leading to trouble in relationships.

Now that the details of dangerous consequences are provided above, individuals must keep themselves informed about the triggers of drug abuse. This will allow them to maintain a healthy life by following the prescription suggested by the medical practitioner.

What are the Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse?

As per results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 2.4 million people use prescription drugs illegally. The signs of drug abuse totally depend upon the type of drug used by an individual. These include:

Prescription Opioid Abuse Symptoms

  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Euphoric feelings

  • Slow breathing rate

  • Lack of coordination

  • Increase doses needed for pain relief

  • Worsening of pain and aches due to higher doses

Prescription Anti-anxiety Sedative Symptoms

  • Drowsiness and confusion

  • Blurred vision and improper speech

  • Lack of concentration

  • Loss of memory

  • Slow breathing rate

  • Unsteady walking

Prescription Stimulant Abuse Symptoms

  • Irregular heartbeat and inappropriate heart rhythm

  • High blood pressure and high body temperature

  • Insomnia, anxiety attacks

  • Aggressive and enhanced alertness

  • Loss of weight, reduced appetite

  • Paranoia and other mental health disorders

  • Sudden mood shifts

Additional Symptoms of Prescription Abuse

  • Making poor decisions

  • Forging and stealing money to buy medicines

  • Being suddenly energetic or high

  • Trying to obtain prescriptions from more than one medical practitioner

What are the Risk Factors for Prescription Drug Addiction?

According to research, almost 16.1 million people aged 12 years are prone to drug abuse and addiction. This is more than 6% of the US population. However, the risk factors of drug abuse include the following:

  • Genetics: According to research by NIH, genetics plays a pivotal role when picking up any addiction. If a family member or a near one is prone to drug and alcohol abuse or has any mental illness triggering them to use medicines more than prescribed, the teens or children tend to follow the pattern.

  • Environment: A primary reason for using drugs not prescribed is when an individual is surrounded by such an environment. Peer pressure plays a massive role when people share and sell each other's prescriptions, triggering others into prescription drug addiction.

  • Past or Present Addictions: If a person was addicted to any other substance, such as alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco, earlier, there is a tendency to adapt to more addictions, including prescription drug addiction.

  • Mental Illness: As per NIH, people suffering from serious mental health issues tend to self-medicate, causing drug overdose. In order to gain instant relief from the pain, they consume or inject, or snort the drug by crushing the pills and combining it with other substances.

  • Trauma: A significant reason that triggers such issues is because of a trauma that happened due to any particular incident in life. This life-changing event might trigger and compel the person to use the drugs more than required.

  • Easy Access to Drugs: When an individual has more accessible access to prescription drugs, meaning they have that in stock always at home, it is a risk. Additionally, lack of knowledge of the drugs and their proper usage is another reason causing misuse of drugs.

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Triggers of Prescription Drug Abuse and How to Avoid Them

People can handle their drug abuse problems better when they know the instances that trigger such abuses. Some of the common ones include:

Mental or Physical Illness

  • Trigger: When people are aware of their mental health issues, and the medication doctors prescribe, they tend to self-medicate to get quicker results.

  • How to Avoid: A caregiver must keep these medicines out of an individual's reach so they are not easily accessible.

Stress and Anxiety

  • Trigger: Stress and anxiety can be the primary reasons behind people indulging in a prescription drug overdose. As soon as they start feeling irritated, they start consuming the medicines.

  • How to Avoid: An ideal way to avoid stress and anxiety is by avoiding people, places, and events associated with the same.

Overconfidence During Recovery

  • Trigger: Overconfidence during drug abuse treatment, where one believes that simple self-medication will not make any difference, can lead to prescription drug abuse.

  • How to Avoid: Individuals can contact drug abuse treatment centers that teach people ways to control their emotions and the urge to consume drugs.


  • Trigger: People, places, and events often trigger an individual to consume a prescription drug as they are reminded of the same. Also, if an addicted person interacts with the same people and visits the same place that led to the abuse, it will likely trigger drug usage.

  • How to Avoid: Trying to avoid such people, places, and events that can instigate such incidents helps drug abuse prevention.

Celebrations and Special Occasions

  • Trigger: Special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and events can trigger special memories leading to substance abuse.

  • How to Avoid: One must consult an expert caregiver on such an occasion who can help handle such cases as they are aware of the signs of overdosage of the addict.

How to Prevent Prescription Drug Addiction?

Following are the ways that can help in recovery from drug abuse:

  • Getting the Right Medicine: One must ensure that the doctor knows about all their illnesses while prescribing any medicine. This will help in getting the right medicine as per need.

  • Discuss the Problems: If a medicine is causing side effects, one must discuss the same with their medical practitioner.

  • Follow Directions Exactly: One must follow the directions precisely as mentioned by the doctor. Stopping or reducing the dosage without a doctor's consultation is risky.

  • Knowledge of Medicine: Individuals must have explicit knowledge of the drug they are consuming. Additionally, one must avoid alcohol consumption as it can cause adverse effects.

  • Avoid Others’ Prescriptions: One must not use any other person's prescription, even if they are prescribed for similar medical reasons. Also, opting for it from a trustworthy pharmacy is a mandatory option.

Here are all the details about prescription drug addiction and how to treat it. Individuals must therefore ensure that they and their children are not ordering medicines online as it increases the chances of addiction. Instead, they must immediately consult a medical practitioner if they notice any such sign or symptom.

Get Treated Today for Prescription Drug Addiction at The Forge Recovery Center

The Forge Recovery Center provides expert care for prescription drug addiction and dual diagnosis. We do this through individualized treatment plans, evidence-based care, and building a sense of community. We also use frequent outside trips and adventures to strengthen bonds, create new healthy relationships, and prove recovery can (and should be!) fun.

Contact The Forge Recovery Center today to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a shift in the mood be a trigger to prescription drug abuse?

Certain situations and occurrences in life can cause mood shifts and hence trigger self-medication following prescription drug abuse. The best way to avoid such instances is by practicing yoga and meditation, which releases negative energy and boosts positivity.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and on the type of drug usage and the circumstance in which one uses it. However, the common symptoms include delirium, depression, sweating, pains and aches, nausea, and irritation.

How to prevent prescription drug abuse in teens?

Since teens and children commonly misuse prescription drugs, individuals must find ways to prevent such abuse by warning them about the results and consequences. Additionally, they must keep the medicines away from the reach of their children.

How does creativity help in fighting against drug abuse?

Creativity plays a significant role in fighting against substance abuse. Since the mind is occupied with positivity and creative skills such as painting, singing, etc., it polishes the skills and talents and tries to focus more on them.

What are the five treatment phases ideal rehab centers follow to treat drug addiction?

A good rehab center will follow five phases of a recovery program. This includes – detoxification, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient (OP) programs, respectively.

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