In most cases, when we think about drug addiction, we usually assume that the drugs involved are illegal substances like cocaine and marijuana. However, more and more people around the world are developing an addiction which is known as  prescription drug addiction. If you are unsure of the signs of prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health, please read on as I unravel it for you.

Prescription drug addiction is defined as the chronic, repeated use of a prescription drug in ways other than prescribed for, including using someone else’s prescription. A prescription drug is a pharmaceutical drug that may not be dispensed without a legal medical prescription. Drugs in this category are supervised due to their potential for misuse as well as substance use disorder.

Please remember that there is no shame in asking for help if you discover the signs of prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health. Keep in mind that Prescription drugs such as legal opiates and benzodiazepines can be abused due to their highly addictive qualities.

Signs of Prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health.

These prescription drugs affect the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in our brain, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of calmness. This is the major reason why these drugs are usually addictive!

The benzodiazepines produce GABA, opiates inhibit GABA and replace it with another neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Both of these neurotransmitters are pleasure-enhancing. Taking more than your prescribed dosage can facilitate dependency, as your body and mind begin to crave these drugs to receive GABA and dopamine. This is what causes prescription drug abuse, which in turn can result in addiction.

These are the drugs that are often addictive;

Sleeping medications.

Sleeping medications have hypnotic and sedative properties and are prescribed for the short term treatment of sleep disorders. If you are not careful with these, they are very tempting to use every time you want a wink of sleep. Guess what? Addiction!

Prescription opioids

These drugs have very strong painkilling properties, and are the most commonly misused prescription drugs. In addition to numbing pain, opioid-based prescription medications can also cause you to experience a sense of relaxation. This pleasurable sensation, combined with the addictive nature of opioid medication, can quickly trap you in cycle of continued abuse and addiction.

Signs of Prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health.

Prescription benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos’, ‘sedatives’ and ‘tranquilizers’ ’, are another widely-abused classification of prescription medication. These types of prescription drugs may be prescribed to you if you have been struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, seizures and certain other psychiatric and medical conditions.

Benzodiazepines are known to cause individuals to feel calm, serene, and relaxed – feelings which can be highly addictive to some people, and which can lead to the development of a harmful benzodiazepine dependency

Prescription stimulants

Stimulants are typically prescribed in the treatment of conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and narcolepsy, which is a disorder that is characterized by uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep. Prescription stimulants are designed to increase attention, energy and alertness, and they do this by increasing the activity of various chemicals in the brain, including dopamine.

As dopamine is linked to the brain’s ‘pleasure center’, taking stimulant medication can result in highly addictive, pleasurable and euphoric sensations.

How would I know that am addicted to a prescribed drug? You may wonder.  Well here are the signs of  prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health.

Signs of prescription drug addiction.

  • Your prescription medication has taken priority above your work or personal life
  • You experience strong cravings for your prescription
  • You feel as if you are physically unable to stop taking your prescription
  • You’ve visited several doctors to try to get extra prescriptions or placed extra online ordersYou
  • You regularly increase your prescription dosages to achieve feelings of euphoria or calmness
  • You have forged or stolen prescriptions.
  • You regularly increase your prescription dosages just to achieve relaxation.

We all know that every action surely has consequences. What would happen if you get addicted to a prescribed drug? Well in this column of Signs of prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health,  I have also brought to your notice the dangers of having this kind of addiction. Below are the effects of prescription drug addiction.

How prescription drug addiction affects your health.


When you have a prescription drug addiction, these prescribed drugs disrupt the normal flow of chemicals in the brain. This imbalance can cause anxiety. Nearly every type of substance can produce anxiety, either during intoxication or withdrawal.

Changes in appearance (weight loss or weight gain)

Drug addiction is dangerous in a way that it  affects changes in abusers body weight as the body fails to find energy and nutrients due to a decrease in efficiency levels. Some drugs, in particular prescription drugs, are known to increase weight gain

Damage to the heart, kidneys, liver and brain

Prescription drug addiction can cause Nausea and abdominal pain, which can also lead to changes in appetite and weight loss. Increased strain on the liver, which puts the person at risk of significant liver damage or liver failure. Seizures, stroke, mental confusion and brain damage. Lung disease.

Signs of Prescription drug addiction and how it affects your health.

The more prescription drugs you abuse and the longer you abuse them for, the more damage is caused to the brain. Recovery from prescription drug addiction becomes harder to attain and maintain. This is due to addiction being characterized by progression, compulsion and relapse


It is no secret that Substance use disorder and specific drugs can interact with depressive symptoms. Drug misuse can cause changes to the brain’s structure and function, making people more likely to develop a mental health condition like depression.

Drug addiction

The abuse of certain prescription drugs— opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and stimulants—can lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including addiction. Among those who reported past-year nonmedical use of a prescription drug, nearly 14 percent met criteria for abuse of or dependence on it.

Once the brain is addicted to a substance, it becomes chemically and structurally altered. It (the brain) rewires itself to compulsively seek and take that substance, regardless of the possible consequences and the negative effects that have already happened.

Drug dependence

Because commonly abused prescription drugs activate the brain’s reward center, it’s possible to develop physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence. Physical dependence, also called drug tolerance, is the body’s response to long-term use of a drug.

Abusing prescription drugs carries many side effects, not only to your physical health but also to your mental and emotional health. As you become more unwell from the side effects of abusing prescription drugs, other areas of your life are likely to become affected. Whilst you may have an awareness that you are physically, mentally, socially, and financially suffering, you still find it difficult/impossible to stop abusing them.

Emotionally you will start to experience overriding feelings of hopelessness, shame, depression and dissatisfaction. You may even start to feel suicidal and contemplate taking your own life – just to escape the feelings of misery and entrapment that addiction brings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are prescribed drug addictions?

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medicine in a way not intended by the prescriber. Prescription drug abuse, also called prescription drug misuse, includes everything from taking a friend’s prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high.

What is the most common prescription drug addiction?

Three types of drugs are abused most often: • Opioids—prescribed for pain relief • CNS depressants—barbiturates and benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety or sleep problems (often referred to as sedatives or tranquilizers) • Stimulants—prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the sleep disorder

What is the difference between prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs?

Prescription drugs should be taken only by the patient they are prescribed for. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medications available without a prescription. Some medications are available both as a prescription and over-the-counter.

What does prescription mean in medical terms?

A doctor’s order for medicine or another intervention

How long does it take to break a habit?

Since the brain doesn’t distinguish between good and bad habits, and it’s difficult for the brain to unlearn them, it can take an average of 30 to 60 days to actually break a habit,

Leticia Nambaziira

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