Prescription Drug Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, Detox and Rehab Treatment

What Are Prescription Drugs

A prescription drug is a pharmaceutical drug that legally requires a medical prescription to be dispensed. In contrast, over-the-counter drugs can be obtained without a prescription. The reason for this difference in substance control is the potential scope of misuse, from drug abuse to practising medicine without a license and without sufficient education. Different jurisdictions have different definitions of what constitutes a prescription drug.

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor. This type of abuse includes everything from taking a friend’s prescription painkiller to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. As with illicit drug abuse, this can become ongoing and compulsive, despite the negative consequences.

The prescription drugs most often abused include opioid painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants. Early identification of prescription drug abuse and early intervention may prevent the problem from turning into an addiction.

Types Of Prescription Drugs We Treat

If you or a loved are abusing any of the above – call us today and speak to one of our experienced addiction counsellors!

Effects Of Prescription Drug Abuse

Abusing prescription drugs can have an adverse physical and psychological affect on your mental and physical state such as:


– Constipation
– Nausea
– Feeling high (euphoria)
– Slowed breathing rate
– Drowsiness
– Confusion
– Poor coordination
– Increased pain with higher doses

Sedatives and anti-anxiety medication

– Drowsiness
– Confusion
– Unsteady walking
– Slurred speech
– Poor concentration
– Dizziness
– Problems with memory
– Slowed breathing


– Reduced appetite
– Agitation
– High body temperature
– Insomnia
– High blood pressure
– Irregular heartbeat
– Anxiety
– Paranoia

Signs And Symptoms Of Abuse

If you’re someone who suspects their loved one is abusive prescription medication, there are some signs and symptoms you should be looking out for. Typical signs and symptoms include but are not limited to the following:

• Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
• Taking higher doses than prescribed
• Excessive mood swings or hostility
• Increase or decrease in sleep
• Poor decision-making
• Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
• Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
• Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

Withdrawal And Detoxification Process

Withdrawal refers to the process by which the body tries to return its original state before it relied on prescription medication to function. However, if not done safely, withdrawal can be a painful and dangerous process. The reason the body reacts so severely during withdrawal is due to the chemical processes in the brain is severely disrupted. Stimulants, opiates and antidepressants interfere with the brain’s GABA receptors, which work to inhibit and reduce the activity of your nerve cells. Therefore, if you are weaning off prescription medication alone, you may be at risk of danger if you are not medically supervised.

Symptoms of Stimulant Withdrawal

Stimulants are prescribed to help people suffering from sleep disorders, hyperactivity disorders and severe cases of depression. The drug acts on the central nervous system in order to help the body release certain natural chemicals, like dopamine, which helps keep you alert. When a person stops misusing stimulants, they can experience symptoms like:

• Difficulty sleeping
• Depression
• Intense dreaming
• Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
• Anxiety
• Aggression
• Tremors
• Stomach pains
• Sweating
• Fever

Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiates are prescribed by doctors to treat pain. However, they have long been misused for recreational purposes and are available in various forms. Opiates enter the brain through the bloodstream, which creates false endorphins and dopamines. This means that the drug gives the person the kind of high that creates a rush of happiness and euphoria. On the other hand, opiate withdrawal is far from euphoric. Symptoms of opiate withdrawal include:

• Fatigue
• Insomnia
• Excessive sweating
• Anxiety
• Muscle aches and spasms
• Paranoia
• Nausea
• Aggression
• Abdominal cramping
• Rapid heartbeat
• High blood pressure
• Dilated pupils
• Irritability
• Inability to concentrate

Symptoms of Antidepressant Withdrawal

Another common prescription drug that is very often abused is antidepressants. While they are usually used to treat medically diagnosed depression, these medications are misused for the feeling of euphoria they can provide. These drugs are often misused by those who have a substance use disorder or a mental illness. Much like opiate withdrawal, antidepressant withdrawal comes with a handful of potential side effects. Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Loss of coordination
  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Nightmares
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle spasms

Detox Timeline

Stimulant detox timeline:

Following the initial crash, within around 24 to 36 hours after the last dose of a stimulant is taken, a person will usually start to feel extremely tired and increasingly depressed, and they will likely have sleep problems, like insomnia and vivid dreams. Most stimulant withdrawal symptoms will end anywhere from 96 hours to a few weeks after the last dose of the drug is taken. Some psychological symptoms can be ongoing, however. For example, a person may experience depression for months after they stop using stimulants.

Opiates detox timeline

With opioids withdrawal, symptoms will begin to set in six to 12 hours after the last dose.
After the first phase of withdrawal, most of the intense symptoms have subsided. At this point, withdrawing opiate addicts are likely to feel:
– Stomach cramping
– Minor muscle aches
– Shivers
– Fatigue

Antidepressants detox timeline

Abrupt discontinuation of antidepressants can lead to withdrawal syndrome. In general, one can expect the following timeline for symptoms.

The first week: Within the first week, issues with mood, fatigue, muscle spasms and tension and even feelings of dissociation (that you are disconnected from your body) may occur.

The second week: During the second week, the physical symptoms typically subside. However, you may still experience issues with mood and sleep, and you may begin to experience vivid dreams or nightmares.

The third week: The most common symptoms after 3 weeks include weight gain, rebound depression (a return of depressive symptoms that were present before you began to take the medication), and overall feelings of malaise.

Addiction Treatment

Although it is possible to overcome addiction alone, it is recommended that treatment is undertaken in a professional rehab facility, where staff can monitor your detox safely. If you or a loved one is suffering from prescription drug addiction, contact us to speak to one of our trained advisors.

Apart from the individual and group rehabilitation programs that emphasise medical treatment, prescription drug treatment goes beyond this to cater for other aspects surrounding the problem and ways of restoring health.
Treatment can be categorised into:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: Cognitive behaviour therapy seeks to help patients understand the root causes of the thoughts and behaviours that drive them to abuse drugs. During the treatment, the patient is required to focus on his or her own lives and come up with ways of changing and improving it.

Holistic Therapies: Holistic addiction treatment programs focus on the whole person; the mind, body and spirit. Holistic practitioners believe that for one to achieve physical healing, he or she must be well physically, emotionally and sometimes spiritually. Simply put, holistic addiction treatment is a natural therapy that touches on all spheres of the patient’s life.

Get Help Today!

Regardless of the prescription drug you are addicted to, continued abuse can become a serious problem very quickly, and can lead to a range of devastating long-term consequences. At UKAT, we understand that without effective treatment this condition has the potential to profoundly impact your day-to-day life, as well as causing you to neglect your work, hobbies, social life, family and friends.

However, the good news is we are able to treat this problem, and you don’t have to go through this alone. The most crucial first step in your journey to rehabilitation is to seek expert advice and support. Our exceptional psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other addiction specialists at UKAT are committed to delivering treatment tailored to each individual, within our nationwide network of facilities.

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Call Now 0203 553 9263
Call Now 0203 553 9263

Call Now 0203 553 9263

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    Perry Hill
    Surrey, GU3 3RF
  • Tel. 0203 553 9263
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