10 Side Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse has become a nationwide epidemic. Abusing prescription medication is defined as taking it in a manner other than what a physician prescribed or taking it to feel euphoria. Misusing prescription medication has severe medical consequences. It is one of the leading causes for emergency room visits, treatment admissions, and overdose deaths. Early detection of prescription drug abuse and early intervention can help prevent it from becoming an addiction. Prescription drug abuse affects all age groups including teenagers. Individuals typically misuse prescriptions drugs for several reasons including:

  • To get a high
  • To relieve tension and feel relaxed
  • To improve concentration
  • To prevent withdrawal
  • To be social
  • To reduce appetite

The three classes of medication most commonly misused are opiates, depressants, and stimulants. Their many trade names are Percocet, Oxycontin, Norco, morphine, Ritalin, Phentermine, Xanax, Valium, and clonazepam. Each has different side effects, and many abusers dangerously combine their medications with illegal drugs or alcohol. This only leads to more abuse and an increase in side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Prescription drug abuse has severe risks on the user’s health. Recognizing the following side effects can potentially avoid health risks.

Alterations In Mood

The alterations in an abuser’s mood are one of the most noticeable side effects. When the brain chemistry is altered, it puts their mental stability out of balance and affects mood. Opioids stimulate brain cell sites increasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine creating a feeling of pain relief and euphoria. However, these effects are only short-lived, and when the medication wears off, the neurotransmitters are depleted. This depletion leads to symptoms of depression, anxiety, irritability, and sadness. One moment the user might seem very relaxed and calm, and the next very agitated and short-tempered.

Erratic Behavior

Newly developed erratic behavior is another tell-tale sign of prescription drug abuse and the most noticeable. Typically, it seems to come out of nowhere and is out of character. It can be in the form of excessive giddiness or excitability from someone who is ordinarily reclusive or calm. Most behaviors are magnified by prescription drug abuse and can turn dangerous.

Mental Cloudiness

Most prescription drugs cause a “brain fog” or mental cloudiness. The person might seem to be slow at performing tasks, answering questions, exhibit poor concentration, unable to focus, and have a lack of mental clarity. Drug addicts have described it as mental fatigue that interferes with their school or work life.


Prescription medication often causes confusion in its users. Confusion can affect short-term users and become worse in those who abuse their medication frequently. Sudden confusion is also called delirium, and comes on quickly within hours. Sudden mental confusion is not normal. If you are noticing this behavior in a loved one, it’s likely they are abusing drugs if they have no other underlying medical condition. Symptoms of confusion include:

  • Grogginess
  • Not making sense
  • Struggling to focus
  • Not knowing where they are
  • Getting upset for no reason

Inability To Sleep Or Excess Sleep

Certain drugs may cause a person to sleep for extended periods of time, while others will cause them to stay up at all hours of the night. The downside of this side effect is that it usually causes the person to take other drugs to counteract the unwanted sleep side effects from prescription drugs.


Anxiety is a common side effect of any type of drug or alcohol abuse during detox. It causes the user to seem worried, nervous, or uneasy and at its worst can lead to panic attacks. It’s vital that anyone who’s been on prescription medication long-term seek medical supervision during detoxification. Severe anxiety is debilitating and can increase the heart rate, cause muscle tremors, rapid breathing, restlessness, and gastrointestinal distress.


Prescription stimulants, especially, cause most people to become extremely hyperactive. Side effects include the inability to stay still in one place, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, wandering, talking too much, and difficulty participating in quiet activities.

Hygiene And Appearance

When someone abuses drugs including prescription medication, they tend not to make their hygiene or appearance a priority. You might notice that they once went from being well dressed to very disheveled suddenly. Drugs take precedence over everything else in the eyes of the addict. They just don’t care and are unmotivated to spend the time on their looks. The biggest concern to them is when they will get their next high. Addiction strips away personal confidence, and lack of self-esteem plays a primary reason why hygiene and appearance suffers.

Suicidal Tendencies

Even with responsible and monitored use, suicidal tendencies is a common side effect of prescription medication. One is exceptionally vulnerable to this if they abruptly stop taking their medication.


Once a drug addict begins taking and combining medications long-term, their tolerance for the drug increases causing them to take excessive doses. Overdose is a common side effect of all drug abuse and is not only dangerous but fatal.

Getting Help

It’s easy to get addicted to any of these three classes of prescription medications, and too difficult to stop using. For those who want to quit they’ll likely experience painful withdrawal symptoms. A detox and rehabilitation center can help. There are also non-addictive medications available to treat addiction at a Canadian pharmacy online.

Along with the mentioned side effects, abusing prescription drugs has other negative effects including job loss, problems with personal relationships, legal issues, psychological problems, and financial difficulties. Red flags that your loved one is likely abusing drugs are:

  • Going to multiple doctors or pharmacies
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Buying illegally online
  • Burglary or theft
  • Asking doctors to overprescribe

If you are abusing prescription medication, don’t feel embarrassed about talking to your doctor or medical professional. It’s a lot easier to handle the problem in the early stages of the addiction.