When a loved one has a problem with prescription drug abuse, it may be obvious or it may be difficult to recognize. You may have a feeling that something isn’t right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. All you know is that your loved one doesn’t appear to be himself or herself. How do you recognize the signs of prescription drug abuse in someone you love? When a person has overindulged in alcoholic beverages, it isn’t hard to tell. He or she may slur words, stagger or have noticeably bloodshot eyes. Overuse of prescription drugs can lead to similar physical changes. You may notice that your loved one’s eyes are bloodshot or that his or her pupils are abnormally large or small. Changed sleeping habits are another sign that something may be wrong. Your loved one may be sleeping almost all of the time, or he or she may be restless and unable to sleep. You may notice tremors, slurred speech or lack of coordination. Your loved one may be neglecting his or her appearance. There may be changes in his or her appetite.
Your loved one may begin habitually missing work or school. He or she may seem extremely lethargic and may have little interest in things or people who used to be very important. A whole new circle of friends may replace those who were part of his or her life not long ago, and old friends may be avoided. His or her personality may change, and life may seem suddenly unpredictable as you deal with frequent mood swings and secretive behavior. The person you love may seem like a complete stranger. He or she may be extremely fearful, paranoid or agitated. There may be outbursts of giggling or rage for no apparent reason. He or she may frequently gaze off into space and not appear to hear you. When your loved one is continually asking for money or claiming to have lost money, your suspicions are probably triggered that something is going on. If he or she is suddenly getting into frequent accidents or fights, you can’t help but wonder why this keeps happening. If your loved one has legitimate prescriptions from a doctor for pain or anxiety but is constantly misplacing them or running out of them too early, he or she may be abusing these medications. You may or may not be aware of it if your loved one is obtaining medications without a prescription or obtaining them from more than one doctor.
What You Should Do
If you suspect your loved one has a problem with prescription drug abuse, try to talk to him or her about it without anger and without being judgmental. Don’t pretend the problem will go away. Offer to go with him or her to get help from a doctor or counselor. Suggest that your loved one go to a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous to get to know other people who have struggled with drug addiction and learned how to live without relying on substances. There is a good chance that your loved one will deny that he or she has a problem, and you are not going to be able to force him or her to get help until he or she is ready. But avoid making excuses or taking over responsibilities for him or her. Don’t try to hide or flush pills. Prescription drug addiction can trigger dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Don’t revolve your entire life around your loved one’s drug problem. If your loved one’s behavior is unpredictable, make sure you stay safe. Reach out for help from a counselor or support group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Be sure to take care of yourself.