Skip to content

The Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction in Adults

It can feel like the ultimate betrayal when something that’s meant to help you turns into what hurts you. That’s the case with prescription drug addiction, a substance that’s supposed to be the solution is now the problem. The hero becomes the villain.

Because prescription drugs are, by definition, prescribed by a doctor we can be lulled into a false sense of security that these drugs aren’t necessarily as dangerous as their illegal counterparts. However, our current reality plainly shows that this isn’t the case.

The clearest and starkest example of prescription drugs being misused is opioids. In 2018 alone, 41 people died per day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Not to mention the people that turned to substances like heroin after being prescribed opioids.

It doesn’t stop with opioids though, that’s just one class of drugs. Worse yet, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States for teenagers isn’t cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. It’s prescription drugs. In other words, while this is already an issue for adults today, the next generation looks to be in dire straits as well.

As far as adults go, abuse of prescriptions knows no age limit with nearly 1 million Americans older than 65 living with a substance abuse disorder. That’s not all prescription drugs but naturally, those who are older tend to have dramatically more prescriptions with more than 80% of the participants in one study using at least one prescription daily.

Are Prescription Pills Addictive?

They are indeed, yes. Now that doesn’t mean that all pills are addictive but there is the potential for addiction to any substance or drug that alters how the brain works. It’s really the misuse of a prescription that unleashes the addictive fury of these drugs.

What constitutes misuse?

Taking a medicine different from how it’s prescribed, be that larger doses or ingesting it in ways other than you’re supposed to i.e., snorting them. Or if you switch to taking your medication just to experience an associated high.

A 2012 study showed some startling numbers:

“…more than 16.7 million people ages 12 and older in the United States abused prescription drugs in 2012, with approximately 2.1 million people meeting criteria for a diagnosis of a substance use disorder related to prescription drugs. This reflects an increase of 250% in prescription drug abuse over the previous 20 years. Treatment admissions for substance use disorder services for prescription opioids alone increased more than 5-fold from 2000-2010 in the U.S….”

What Are the Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction in Adults?

Given that, it’s more important than ever to know and understand the signs of prescription drug addiction in adults.

The most commonly abused prescriptions are sedatives/anti-anxiety medications, stimulants and the infamous opioids. The signs of what abuse looks like therefore varies by the type of drug but here’s an overview of the common symptoms for each:


  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech and slowed breathing


  • Overly alert
  • Feeling high
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • High blood pressure and temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Easily agitated
  • Anxiety and paranoia 


  • Euphoria or feeling high
  • Slower breathing
  • Drowsy and confused
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritable

In addition to that there are some general behavioral signs of addiction to be aware of as well:

  • Stealing prescriptions or forging prescriptions
  • Pretending to lose prescriptions so another can be written
  • Seeing multiple doctors to get additional prescriptions
  • Poor judgment and decision making 
  • Drastic changes to sleep patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Developing a tolerance and taking ever larger doses

Beat Addiction At VCR Agua Dulce

It’s no doubt a scary thing to see something that’s supposed to help, start to hurt you or a loved one. Keeping a vigilant eye out for the warning signs of addiction can make all the difference in catching a problem before it spirals out of control.

At Valley Recovery Center in Agua Dulce we understand the burden of drug addiction, be it to prescription meds or otherwise. If you’re struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Call Now Button