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Prescription Drug Abuse: Signs, Symptoms & Key Facts


What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

The US Department of Health and Human Services defines prescription drug abuse as the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feeling elicited. The only way to legally obtain a prescription drug is to have a valid prescription from a licensed doctor or physician and purchase it through a pharmacy, use it only as intended, and take it only in the recommended dosage for the recommended time period.

Unfortunately, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that an estimated 18 million people have misused prescription medication at least once in 2017. For context, “misuse” means:

  • Taking medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed
  • Taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint
  • Taking medication to feel euphoria (ex: to get high)

The reasons for such alarming statistics may be attributed to easy access, misinformation about the addictive properties of certain prescribed drugs, and the false perception that prescription drugs are less harmful than illegal drugs. Nonetheless, prescription drug abuse can easily result in criminal charges for illegal possession or distribution of prescription drugs in New Jersey. In court, a judge or jury may show no mercy for your situation and sentence you to prison rather than rehabilitation.

Signs & Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

The physical, psychological, and behavioral signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse depend on the type of drug being abused. Examples include:

Physical Abuse Symptoms

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dizziness

Psychological Abuse symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia

Behavioral Abuse Symptoms

  • Visiting multiple physicians to obtain more prescriptions, or lying about one’s condition to extend a prescription
  • Stealing money, or committing other crimes, to obtain drugs or money for drugs
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Having poor judgment and impulse control
  • Using other people’s prescription medications

Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

With the above symptoms in mind, we encourage you to review commonly abused types of prescription medications below:

Stimulants: Typically used to treat psychological or sleep disorders, stimulants are intended to increase energy and alertness and last for varying amounts of time. They can be short-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting. Examples include Adderall, Evekeo, and Focalin XR, respectively.

Opioids: These are synthetic pain relievers and sedatives that mimic the effects of naturally-occurring opiates derived from the opium poppy plant. As highly-addictive drugs, opioids are typically not used long-term and are usually prescribed to people with moderate to severe pain from surgical procedures or injuries. Common opioids include Morphine, Oxycodone, Codeine, and Methadone.

Depressants: Also called sedatives or tranquilizers, these drugs are the opposite of stimulants, as they inhibit the central nervous system in order to provide relaxation, calmness, drowsiness, and pain relief to individuals who suffer from anxiety or sleep disorders. These drugs typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Benzodiazepine
  • Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications
  • Barbiturates

Facing Prescription Drug Charges in Bergen County?

The US epidemic of prescription drug abuse can have life-threatening and even fatal consequences. Not to mention, the criminal consequences for illegally possessing and distributing prescription drugs in New Jersey can be unforgiving. Thus, we strongly urge you to protect yourself with our criminal defense expert at the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC. As a former prosecutor, we can better negotiate with the State for alternatives to incarceration such as rehabilitation programs to help you get back on your feet.

Contact us at (201) 574-7919 to learn more.

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