Prescription drug addiction is one of the harder addictions to recognize because the drugs are most commonly prescribed by a person’s doctor. However, once a person begins abusing their prescription, often they will learn how to acquire their prescription drugs from dealers. The illegal prescription drug culture may not resemble your typical cocaine or heroin drug dealing, but in the eyes of the law, it is still considered a serious crime, usually a felony. There are signs that a person can look for to determine if they or their loved one is addicted to prescription drugs.
What Are Some Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction?
The biggest sign is most certainly whether a person is taking their prescription medication as prescribed. If they are not and run out of it frequently, it is likely that they have become addicted to it and have lost control of their intake. Another definitive sign is if the person has begun to see more than one doctor for the same prescription – this is known as doctor shopping. Although there are state agencies who monitor prescriptions to prevent a person from getting the same prescription from multiple providers, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
As well, if you or your loved one is exhibiting other signs of addiction, such as financial hardships, encounters with the police, or a difference in physical appearance or routine, these are signs that an addiction is likely occurring. Most prescription drug addicts over time begin to use other drugs, legal and illegal or begin drinking alcohol heavier than normal. Once a person becomes addicted to any drug, their motivation is fixated on getting and staying high.
According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the difference between a person who is addicted to illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine lies in the fact that for most prescription drug addicts there exists a sincere medical need for the drug. A medical condition may be present that requires a prescription for an opioid pain reliever (i.e., Vicodin, Norco, Percocet, Oxycontin), central nervous system depressant (i.e., anti-anxiety meds Xanax, Ativan, Valium), or a stimulant (i.e., Adderall).
“Prescription drugs can be obtained legally and are almost universally present in households, and thus are different in meaningful ways…Accordingly, there appear to be meaningful differences between prescription and illicit drugs of the same class. For example, cue-induced craving appears to be less robust among those abusing prescription opioids relative to those abusing heroin…Defining and assessing prescription drug abuse is complicated by unclear boundaries between “appropriate” use of these medications and inappropriate use or abuse. Research on motives for the use of prescription drugs suggests that although motives to feel high and to enhance social experiences are common, this population also uses these medications to manage symptoms of pain, anxiety, sleep disruption, and other conditions that are receiving inadequate treatment or no treatment at all…” (NCBI)
Generally speaking, for people who require a prescription medication to manage their symptoms from a serious medical condition, may only develop an addiction if other contributing factors are present. There are factors that will increase the likelihood as to whether or not a person can become an addict. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA), these factors include, a family history of drug abuse /addiction, peer pressure- friends who do drugs at a young age, where one grows up (i.e., poorer communities or drug neighborhoods), and not mentioned by NIDA, but a well-known attribute most addicts share is a history of trauma or abuse.
“Scientists have proposed various explanations of why some individuals become involved with drugs and then escalate to abuse. One explanation points to a biological cause, such as having a family history of drug or alcohol abuse. Another explanation is that abusing drugs can lead to affiliation with drug-abusing peers, which, in turn, exposes the individual to other drugs. Researchers have found that youth who rapidly increase their substance abuse have high levels of risk factors with low levels of protective factors. Gender, race, and geographic location can also play a role in how and when children begin abusing drugs” (NIDA).
The most important step a family member can take if they suspect that their loved one or friend has become addicted to their prescription medication is to speak with a professional substance abuse counselor or a drug treatment program administrator. The staff at our Garden State Treatment Center is available to help you determine if you or your relative needs professional help. We offer specific drug treatment programs for prescription medication addiction.