Resources & Education

January 20th, 2015

6 Warning Signs You May Be Abusing Rx Pills

Prescription Drugs

According to 2010 study, painkiller overdose is quickly increasing with 15 thousand deaths occurring each year. Twelve million Americans, aged 12 or older, have reported the use of prescription medications for non-medical purposes.

Commonly misused medications include:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Xodol etc.)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxyfast etc.)
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine

But, just being aware of addictive drugs isn’t always enough.

Often what begins as an innocent prescription for pain pills following surgery can grow into a huge problem almost overnight.

There are six major warning signs that may indicate that you or someone you love is abusing Rx medication.

  1. Finishing a prescription early. Prescription medication is distributed alongside a very specific treatment schedule. Certain dosages are intended to be taken over a certain amount of time, so if you suddenly finish the prescription before you’re supposed to, it raises a red flag.
  2. Losing a prescription. Losing a prescription can raise questions, especially when the medication is for pain management. Often the prescription isn’t lost at all, just a lie to get more.
  3. Having multiple prescriptions from different doctors. “Doctor shopping” occurs when a person visits different doctors in search of the same prescription, or similar pain management medications. Warning signs of a problem include paying special attention to the number of pills you have as well as how frequently you’re taking them.
  4. Overly-specific requests for certain prescriptions. Someone that is abusing pain management medication will request very specific medications with very specific dosages.
  5. Going to the ER between doctor visits. Going to the emergency room between doctor visits to get more pain medication can be a major red flag. Most people who go looking for more medications, especially between appointments or after finishing previous medications, are just looking to feed an addiction from as many sources as possible.
  6. Borrowing medications from others. Using medications prescribed for others can be incredibly dangerous as well as illegal. If you witness an individual stealing or accepting medication that is not theirs, it’s very likely that they have a problem which needs to be addressed immediately.

A physician can identify potential cases of prescription addiction through some warning signs. For example, if a patient is constantly rating their pain at a “10” on the numeric scale, their prescription clearly isn’t helping, but they’re still asking for more, making them suspicious and their motives questionable.

In addition, chronic pain often causes patients to have trouble sleeping. So, if a patient claims to be experiencing a “10” for pain, but doesn’t present with any trouble sleeping, their pain is most likely part of their lie.

Recognizing and preventing addiction can be best accomplished when patients and their loved ones educate themselves before prescriptions are written. Knowing the signs and likelihood of addiction can help prevent it from happening.

For more information on painkiller addiction or counseling services for families dealing with an addicted loved one, please call our HOPE line at (855) 969.HOPE or Horizon Health Services at (716) 831.1800.

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