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How to Know if a Loved One is Abusing Prescription Drugs

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The abuse of prescription drugs is a serious health problem plaguing the United States. According to data published by the CDC, there were 70,630 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019. Of those deaths, nearly 73 percent were from synthetic opioids such as prescription painkillers and fentanyl. It is also estimated that 18 million people have misused prescription drugs in the United States in the past year. Prescription medication abuse and addiction have devastating effects on those who misuse them, and this may include your loved ones.

The question of how to know if a loved one is abusing prescription drugs can be difficult. Many addicted to medications learn to be discreet in their use or deny they have issues when confronted about their use of medications. This article will give you the knowledge you need to seek professional help if a loved one is in trouble with prescription drugs.

Why Are Prescription Drugs Addictive?

Many people are under the assumption that prescription drugs are “safe” because they are prescribed by trusted medical professionals. The truth is that they are strong medications that mimic the action of neurotransmitters that are naturally created in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical “messengers” that relay information to other neurons throughout the body. 

One area that neurotransmitters target is the striatum which is the brain’s “reward hub.” Certain neurotransmitters will reach the striatum and create calm, pleasure, or excitation depending on the medication taken. Prescription medications flood the striatum with high concentrations of neurotransmitters. When people misuse prescription drugs, they flood the reward center with even greater concentrations of neurotransmitters to achieve the desired effects.

Over time, the drug itself will take over the production of neurotransmitters from the brain. As a result, people will become more dependent on the drug in order to function on a daily basis. When people become totally dependent on drugs, finding professional help is critical.

What Prescription Drugs are Commonly Abused?

There are many prescription drugs that are being abused by people all across the United States. The following are the most commonly abused drugs by type:


  • Oxycodone (the active ingredient in Oxycontin, Percocet, and Percodan)
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone (the active ingredient in Vicodin)
  • Morphine
  • Methadone


  • Barbiturates (Nebutal)
  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin)


  • Amphetamines (Adderall)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

How to Know if a Loved One is Abusing Prescription Drugs

Learning how to know if a loved one is abusing prescription drugs centers on knowing the signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms depend on the type of medication used. For example, opioid-based medications like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Fentanyl have the following signs of abuse:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Slowed breathing
  • Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity or worsening of pain with higher doses)

If your loved one is abusing anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax or Valium, you may see the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble with speaking
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems

If someone you love is abusing stimulant-based medications such as Adderall and Ritalin, they may exhibit the following signs and symptoms of abuse:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Agitation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Paranoia

In addition to the physical and psychological symptoms, there are behavioral signs of prescription abuse that are present. One tell-tale sign is doctor shopping, which is visiting multiple doctors in attempting to obtain prescriptions. Your loved one may also be going through your medicine cabinet looking for medications. Other behavioral signs include stealing or forging prescriptions, ordering medications online, neglecting work and family, and poor self-care.

Finding Prescription Drug Treatment in Nashville, Tennessee

If you know that a loved one is abusing prescription drugs, now is the time to act. If you are looking for prescription drug treatment in Nashville, call Nashville Treatment Solutions toll-free today. Our experienced team of addiction professionals understands that your loved one is unique and will tailor a treatment plan that fits those needs. Our facility is state of the art with the best amenities, and our staff will treat you and your loved one with empathy and compassion. No matter the severity of your loved one’s addiction, Nashville Treatment Solutions can help. Help your loved one overcome the burden of prescription drug abuse.