Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

prescription drug abuse

When a physician writes a prescription for a particular medication, there are many factors that go into the type of drug chosen as well as the amount and the frequency of the dosage. These factors ensure the effectiveness and the safety of that medication for the individual who receives the prescription. When the drug is misused or abused, there can be serious consequences. The effects of prescription drug abuse include potentially devastating symptoms and sometimes fatal results.

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Essentially, if you take a medication that has been prescribed for someone else, you are abusing that drug. If you have been prescribed a medication and take it in a way that was not intended, either a larger dose or more frequently than ordered, then you are abusing the prescription drug. The healthcare provider writes the prescription in a specific way, taking into account the potential side effects. When you abuse the drug, you are disregarding the risks associated with these side effects.

Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs that tend to be most abused include:

  • Opioids, including medications used to treat pain such as those containing oxycodone and hydrocodone. Oxycontin and Percocet are among these opioids.
  • Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Valium as well as medications for treating anxiety and sleep disorders, including Ambien.
  • Stimulants used to treat sleep disorders as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, and Dexedrine.

Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

When you misuse or abuse opioids such as oxycodone and codeine, you can experience serious side effects such as stomach illness, excessive sleepiness, and constipation. If you take higher doses of these medications, you run the risk of experiencing breathing difficulties as well as overdose, which could be fatal.

Abusing stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall can make you feel paranoid. Your body temperature can get dangerously high, and your heartbeat can increase significantly. Depressants can cause slurred speech, disorientation, sleepiness, and shallow breathing. An overdose of depressants can also result in death.

Abusing prescription drugs by mixing them with each other or with alcohol can be especially dangerous. Alcohol and drugs can make breathing problems worse. Mixing benzodiazepines with opioids can increase the risk of overdose.

In addition to these physical consequences, the effects of prescription drug abuse can be seen in your behavior when you are under the influence of the substances. You may engage in risky behaviors because of your poor judgement, become involved in criminal activities, begin using recreational drugs, cause or be involved in a motor vehicle accident, see a significant decrease in the quality of your work on the job, and have problems in your relationships.

Breathing and Blood Pressure

There are very serious consequences that frequently result from abusing medications that were not prescribed for you or that you are altering in terms of dosage level and frequency. You could see seriously low blood pressure, a slowed breathing rate, and even the potential to stop breathing when you abuse opioids. You could slip into a coma or overdose, which could have fatal results.

Low blood pressure and slowed breathing is also an effect of abusing anti-anxiety medications and sedatives. If you misuse or abuse stimulants, your blood pressure could go too high, and you could experience seizures or tremors. You may also have hallucinations and become more aggressive.

Physical Dependence and Addiction

When you abuse prescription drugs, the medication will activate your brain’s reward center. As a result,  you could develop a physical dependence and addiction to the drug. Physical dependence is your body’s response to long-term use. When you are dependent on a drug, you will need higher doses to achieve the same effects as when you first started using it.

Being addicted means you have a physical dependence and you also compulsively seek out the drug as one of the effects of prescription drug abuse. You will continue to use the medication even as you realize that it has caused serious issues in your life, including the devastating consequences it can have on your physical and mental health.


When you are struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, recovery starts with supervised detox so you can safely rid your body of the toxic substance. At BRC Recovery, we help you heal your mind and your body while addressing the underlying issues that lead to your addiction. We bring you real change for your life, with proven treatment options that will empower you to recreate and reclaim your life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we offer a safe, clean environment so you can continue receiving the highest quality of care. To learn more about our services and to get the help you need, please call BRC Recovery at 1-866-291-2676 to speak to our team.