Prescription Drug Addiction Causes & Effects

The Rose provides prescription drug treatment for women rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier life. Our treatment experience was designed by women for women, so you or your loved one receive a tailored experience.

Understanding Prescription Drug Addiction

Learn about prescription drugs and substance abuse

Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic-level problem in the United States, and the problem shows no signs of abating. Whether done for recreational purposes or in misguided attempts to self-medicate, prescription drug abuse is a dangerous and potentially deadly behavior that has unfortunately become frighteningly commonplace. In years past, men were more likely to abuse prescription medications than women were, but recent rising rates of prescription drug abuse among women have narrowed this gap.

Opioid-based medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin, central nervous system depressants such as Xanax and Valium, and stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are among the most commonly abused types of prescription medications. All three of these types of medications are commonly prescribed in the United States. The prevalence of these drugs increases the likelihood that they will be abused, either by the individuals to whom they were prescribed or by someone who steals or acquires them through other illicit means.

Depending upon the type of prescription medication that a woman is abusing, the amount that she has been abusing, and the length of time she has been engaging in this behavior, she is at risk for a wide range of immediate and long-term effects, including overdose, dependence, and death. It can be extremely difficult to overcome prescription drug abuse without proper professional treatment. At The Rose, we have amassed years of experience working closely with women who struggled with prescription drug abuse, and we have developed specialized programming that has proved to be effective in the effort to help women make the lifestyle changes that will support their pursuit of healthier and happier futures, free from the scourge of prescription drug abuse.


Prescription drug addiction statistics

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 48 percent of adults in the United States will use at least one prescription medication during any 30-day period, and about 6 million people will abuse a prescription drug during that same time period. During the first decade of the 21st century, the death rate from prescription painkiller overdose among women rose by more than 400 percent. By 2010, prescription painkiller overdose killed about 18 women every day, accounting for about half of all drug-related deaths among women. Prescription drug overdoses also send about 200,000 women to emergency rooms every year.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for prescription drug addiction

The abuse of prescription medications and the development of a substance use disorder involving these drugs can be caused by a variety of internal and external factors, including the following:

Genetic: Individuals whose parents or siblings have struggled with substance use disorders are at significantly increased risk for experiencing a similar problem. For example, about 40 percent of the risk variance for a substance use disorder can be attributed to genetics. Also, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that heritable traits such as impulsivity and novelty-seeking may increase an individual’s likelihood for developing an opioid use disorder.

Environmental: Cultural acceptance of substance abuse and access to prescription medications are among the environmental factors that may influence the development of a substance use disorder involving prescription medications. Experiencing stress and suffering from a disease or injury that is treated with a prescription medication can also increase a person’s risk for abusing and becoming dependent upon these drugs.

Risk Factors:

  • Having access to prescription medications
  • Family history of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Age (prescription drug abuse is most common among older teens and younger adults)
  • Experiencing pain that is treated with a prescription opioid
  • Prior substance abuse and/or personal history of mental illness
  • Impulsivity
  • Novelty seeking
  • Insufficient stress-management capabilities

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction

The appearance of prescription drug abuse will depend upon a variety of factors, including the medication being abused and the length of time that an individual has been engaging in this behavior.  However, the following are among the more common signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person has been engaging in prescription drug abuse:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Stealing or altering prescriptions
  • Visiting many doctors to get multiple prescriptions
  • Secrecy or deception regarding whereabouts and activities
  • Using prescription medications when it is dangerous to do so
  • Using prescription drugs even after experiencing negative repercussions related to their use
  • Associating with individuals who abuse prescription drugs

Physical symptoms:

  • Drop or increase in blood pressure
  • Shallow breathing
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Impaired coordination
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Heavy sweating
  • Constipation

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Temporary state of hyper-focus
  • Confusion
  • Racing thoughts and drastically increased motivation
  • Memory problems

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Unexplained anger
  • Loss of interest in significant activities
  • Expressions of anxiety or paranoia
  • Agitation and irritability


Effects of prescription drug addiction

Left untreated, prescription drug abuse can lead to a variety of immediate and long-term effects, including the following:

  • Irreversible organ damage
  • Brain damage
  • Vision problems
  • Cardiovascular distress
  • Family discord
  • Strained or ruined personal or professional relationships
  • Academic failure and expulsion
  • Diminished occupational performance, job loss, and unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Withdrawal, isolation, or ostracization

Co-Occurring Disorders

Prescription drug addiction and co-occurring disorders

Individuals who develop substance use disorders involving prescription medications may also be at increased risk for the following co-occurring mental health conditions:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depressive disorders

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal & overdose

Effects of prescription drug withdrawal: When a person has become dependent upon a prescription drug, she will experience painful withdrawal symptoms when she stops or significantly curtails her use of that medication. The following are among the common prescription drug withdrawal symptoms:

  • Strong drug cravings
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Hot flashes
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucinations and delusions

Effects of prescription drug overdose: Prescription drug overdose can be lethal. An individual who exhibits the following signs after ingesting a prescription medication should be brought to the immediate attention of a qualified medical professional:

  • Shallow or extremely rapid breathing
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Bluish tinge near lips or fingernails
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

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My addiction to prescription drugs got to the point where I would fake injuries and illnesses to get prescriptions. Thanks to The Rose, I am now sober thanks to their comprehensive treatment programs.

– Former Patient
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