Prescription Drug Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Learn about the signs of prescription drug addiction and the types of treatments available.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Addiction

Prescription drug addiction is when a person becomes dependent on prescription medication and does not consume the drug in the intended way. There are key signs and symptoms that will arise when a person is suffering from prescription drug addiction. Keep an eye out for these physical and behavioral changes when identifying prescription drug addiction:1

Signs of Prescription Drug Addiction


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Physical Changes


The inability to make consistent bowel movements—three or less per week—is a sign of prescription drug addiction. Discomfort during bowel movements is also common.


Stomach discomfort and nausea are common symptoms of prescription drug addiction.


Struggling to stay awake and “nodding off” are typical signs of prescription drug addiction.


A person experiencing prescription drug addiction may find themselves confused and unable to think clearly.

Behavioral Changes

Requesting Early Refills

If a person is frequently requesting early refills, this is a sign of potential addiction to pills or prescription drugs.

Seeing Multiple Doctors for the Same Issue

If a person has a record of seeing several different doctors for the same issue, this could indicate they are abusing their prescription drugs.

Frequent Bathroom Breaks

Taking frequent bathroom breaks could be a warning sign of prescription drug abuse.

Constantly Changing Work Schedules

A person that is constantly changing work schedules at the last minute could possibly be struggling with prescription drug addiction.

Additional Issues Caused by Prescription Drug Abuse

Here are some additional symptoms of prescription drug addiction:

Relationship Problems

A sudden rise in relationship problems, whether they are romantic, platonic, or familial, could be a sign of prescription drug abuse.

Financial Issues

Experiencing unexplainable financial issues is typical behavior of somebody abusing prescription drugs. This takes place because a person’s priorities can become misaligned, with substance consumption becoming the top priority. Thus, most of their money goes towards the substance.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person stops consuming prescription drugs after struggling with addiction, they will experience adverse withdrawal symptoms as the substance leaves their body.


Vomiting and nausea are common physical symptoms of withdrawal as the body purges itself from the substances it had become dependent on.

Feeling Tired

Severe tiredness and fatigue are a sign of withdrawal that can last for several days as the body recuperates after detox.


Excessive sweating is another physical symptom of withdrawal from prescription drug addiction.

Body Aches

Experiencing body aches is a common sign of the withdrawal process. This symptom typically lasts for a few days and can sometimes be accompanied by a fever.


Seizures are one of the most severe physical side effects of overdose or withdrawal from prescription medication addiction. A person should always seek medical attention if experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription Drug Addiction Phases

Four different drug addiction phases can occur when a person becomes dependent on these substances. Note that not every person will go through these phases when dealing with prescription drug addiction.

Non-Medical Use

This phase involves the non-medical use of a prescription medication. If a person is taking a drug that has not been prescribed by a doctor, this can lead to addiction and drug abuse.


Misuse of a prescription medication is a phase that involves not following the doctor’s instructions with how the drug is supposed to be taken.


If a person is taking a prescription drug in a way that it was not prescribed, they are abusing that drug and can face adverse reactions.


Addiction is often caused by abuse or misuse of prescription medications. If a person is suffering from addiction, they should seek help from a medical professional.

Effects of Prescriptions Drugs

Prescription Drugs


Here are some of the short-term effects of the abuse of prescription drugs:2
  • Anxiety: One of the first signs of addiction is anxiety. Becoming overly anxious is a short-term effect caused by abusing prescription drugs.
  • Confusion: Feeling confused and unaware of one’s surroundings is another short-term side effect of prescription drug abuse.
  • Dizziness: Instability, vertigo, and dizziness are other common side effects of addiction to prescription drugs.
  • Drowsiness: The inability to stay awake and excessive drowsiness are the first signs of prescription drug addiction.
  • Euphoria: Experiencing euphoria and heightened emotions is another short-term symptom of prescription drug abuse.


Here are some of the long-term adverse side effects of the abuse of prescription drugs:
  • Damage to the Heart, Kidneys, Liver, and Brain: A person addicted to prescription medication may experience permanent damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, and brain.3
  • Depression: After detoxing from prescription drugs, a person may experience long-term depression as a symptom of withdrawal.
  • Drug Addiction: Long-term drug addiction can take place if a person abuses prescription drugs without any intervention.
  • Drug Dependence: Physical or psychological dependence on prescription medication may occur if a person abuses a substance.
  • Mental Health Decline: A person abusing prescription drugs may experience a long-term mental health decline if their addiction is left untreated.

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

There are several actions a person can take to begin prescription drug addiction treatment:


The most important thing to do when treating addiction is to detox from the substance the person is addicted to. This allows the person to clear their body of any addictive substances. It is important to detox at a rehab or medical facility due to the possibility of experiencing severe withdrawal effects.

Psychological Treatment

Psychological treatment can be beneficial to support a person’s mental health as they experience withdrawal after recovering from the detox process.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If a person is experiencing mental illness in addition to their addiction, they will need to receive specialized dual diagnosis treatment to create an effective recovery plan.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be effective in helping a person’s body recover after experiencing drug addiction. The body can suffer greatly from drug addiction, so it is important to go easy on the body at first after detox.


Participating in counseling can help a recovering person gain the tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle without abusing prescription medication.


Meditation can help a person to become more present and at peace within their mind as a coping mechanism when experiencing negative withdrawal symptoms.