facebook pixel

The Effects of Prescription Substance Misuse

A. prescription substance or medication comes in many forms and helps people overcome a wide range of injuries and conditions. This form of medication often requires a doctor’s prescription because they contain higher or more concentrated doses. If these recommendations aren’t followed correctly, they could potentially cause more harm than good. Prescription medications are one step above over-the-counter products and are intended to offer more potent benefits to address the side effects of your current condition.

The most common prescription substances are opioid-based painkillers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, stimulants, and ‘study’ aids like Adderall. These prescriptions will include recommended daily doses as well as a timeline for how long you should take the specific medication. Straying from the dosage and prolonging your intake may put you at risk of health concerns and may lead to substance misuse.

The team at Pacifica Treatment Centre offers recovery and rehabilitation programs for community members. We provide services that help people at any step in their journey; with pre-engagement, in-residence, and continuing care services for post-treatment participants.


Looking for support, services, or information? Please visit our resource section here

Who Is At Risk of Prescription Substance Misuse?

Unfortunately, prescription misuse can affect all age groups, including teens. People across the social and economic spectrum can be affected by prescription misuse; as the conditions that prescription medication provides relief from can affect anyone.

Persons suffering from chronic pain, debilitating anxiety, or major depression may be at a higher risk of prescription misuse. The relief provided by prescription medication can lead to addiction as your natural tolerance levels increase and seem to require higher doses to obtain the same relief. Early identification and early intervention may prevent the possibility of a prescription addiction.

Prescription Medication

Symptoms Associated With Each Prescription Substance

Signs and symptoms of prescription dependence vary based on the specific drug. Because of their mind-altering properties, the most commonly misused prescription drugs are:

  • Opioids used to treat pain, such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and Hydrocodone
  • Anti-anxiety medications and sedatives, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), and hypnotics, such as zolpidem (Ambien), used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders
  • Stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall), used to treat ADHD


Symptoms Associated With Prescription Medication Use



Anti-Anxiety Medications and Sedatives


  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Increased dose required for pain relief
  • Worsening or increased sensitivity to pain with higher doses (hyperalgesia)
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Unsteady walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Spotty memory
  • Slowed breathing
  • Increased alertness
  • Feeling high
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • High body temperature
  • Reduced appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

What Does Prescription Substance Misuse Look Like?

How can prescription substance misuse be defined? How can you determine a necessary intake of prescriptions, and at what point does it become misuse? While those can be complicated questions to answer, there are two factors that should be considered. First, is the prolonged use of prescriptions that may no longer be tied to your condition. The second factor is, increasing the amount of prescription medications you take, beyond your doctor’s recommendations. Prescription medication has addictive properties even at low-level doses, so prolonged use puts you at a higher risk of developing an addiction. Below is a list of recognizable behaviour that is associated with prescription misuse:

  • Asking for early refills or consistently “losing” prescriptions to get refills
  • Attempting to get prescriptions from multiple doctors
  • Stealing or falsifying prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Abnormal mood swings and increased hostility
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Impaired decision-making


What Can Be Done?

Stick to Your Prescribed Dose

More isn’t always better. Doubling your dose doesn’t equate to doubling its effectiveness or your results. More often than not, increasing doses beyond what is prescribed by a doctor will cause more harm than good. Estimates indicate that approximately 25% of patients prescribed opioid pain relievers for a chronic pain condition will misuse them to varying degrees. Perhaps you have a lower threshold for pain and greater resistance to medication – don’t deviate from your prescription schedule, always speak to your doctor.

Speak to Your Doctor about prescription substance misuse

If you are worried about taking a prescription substance or medication, the best course of action is to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor.

  • Does problematic substance use run in your family, or do you have addictive tendencies?
  • Does your condition or injury require prescription-strength medication, or will over-the-counter medication be sufficient?
  • Discuss side effects and have a plan in place to protect yourself.


Get Professional Assistance

If you are worried that yourself or a loved one is exhibiting the symptoms of prescription substance misuse; you need to speak with your doctor to safely and effectively get yourself off of the medication(s).

Substance Recovery Programs Available in Vancouver, BC

Pacifica fosters a collaborative environment where both community members and our interdisciplinary team are active participants in the Pacifica ecosystem. Pacifica encourages community members to “own their path” to self-discovery, self-empowerment, and self-actualization.

If you would like to speak with a member of our team, call our intake team or reach out to us online to get started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *