Prescription Medication Health Risk Factors

The use of prescription medications has improved medical care. However, certain prescription medications can be addictive.   

Prescription Medication Health Risk Factors

Table of Contents

Risks of Using Prescription Drug

In 1999, more than 10 million people, approximately 7% of the United States population, reported that they misuse prescription drugs. Since then, at least 1.3 million United States citizens report the misuse of prescription drugs each year.1 There are several risks of using prescription medication, and if someone is not careful, it can lead to addiction. 


When an individual no longer responds to the same dosage of a drug, then they have developed a tolerance. To have the same effects that they experienced when they tried a drug for the first time, they must take a higher dose. Therefore, those who experience addiction often take more of the drug over time.

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence occurs when someone stops using a drug and they experience withdrawal symptoms. These drug withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, can be life-threatening. As such, it is essential to attend a professional drug detox center.


Unlike the tolerance and dependence side of prescription medication misuse, addiction is more like a disease. Addiction occurs when an individual begins taking a drug or prescription medication and finds that they cannot stop using it despite the negative consequences.3

Addiction can get in the way of jobs, family, social life, and more. If someone is experiencing addiction or family members notice their issue with substance abuse, they must find the right treatment center that can help them overcome this disorder. 

Using Illegal and Recreational Drugs

Unlike prescription medication, illegal and recreational drugs are not prescribed by medical doctors to treat conditions. Illegal and recreational drugs are often highly addictive and can lead to misuse. Regardless, a drug rehab facility can help the individual to overcome their addiction. 

Who is at Risk for Prescription Drug Use?

Some individuals may wonder if they can become addicted to medications that are prescribed for specific medical conditions. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of addiction to prescription medication if the directions from the doctor are followed appropriately. Even so, some people are more at risk for prescription drug misuse. 


Prescription drug addiction and alcohol addiction may both have genetic factors. Several studies, including twin studies, have shown certain genes can impact the risk for dependence on drugs and alcohol.


If an individual has a medical illness and is prescribed medication to manage pain, they may be more likely to develop a prescription medication misuse problem. Therefore, doctors should carefully prescribe medications and make clear why patients should always use the drug as it is directed. 

Family History

Family history of prescription drug abuse can have an impact on an individual’s likelihood of misusing prescription medication. If a family member experiences addiction, then a person may be more likely to misuse prescription medication. 

Pre-existing Psychiatric Conditions

Pre-existing psychiatric conditions, including certain types of mental health disorders, may impact an individual’s likelihood of prescription drug misuse. Someone who has anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems may experience a co-occurring disorder.

Health Risks of Prescription Drugs

Even though prescription medication has positive impacts when used as directed, there are some health risks associated with common prescription medications. To avoid this drug misuse, you must understand the risks and how to use these medications as intended. 

Opioids Health Risks

Opioids can impact the brain and body in several ways. Commonly, opioids can cause drowsiness, constipation, nausea, and may even slow down someone’s breathing to a dangerous level. The use of opioids can also often lead to tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction.

Stimulants Health Risks

Stimulant drugs can have several negative impacts on the body, including increasing body temperatures, causing irregular heartbeats, causing paranoia, and more. Particularly when these drugs are taken in high doses, someone may experience life-threatening side effects.

Anti-depressant Health Risk

Anti-depressants can help change the chemistry in the brain to combat depression. However, there are several health risks associated with anti-depressants, including lethargy, nausea, headaches, anxiety, and dizziness.

Co-Occurring Health Risks Associated with Prescription Drug Misuse

A co-occurring disorder describes a condition wherein an individual experiences multiple disorders at the same time. Often, these co-occurring disorders have a great impact on each other and the likelihood of developing symptoms. For example, prescription drug abuse and mental health challenges are often associated with co-occurring disorders. 

Mental Disorders

Mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and other mental illness are often comorbid with substance use disorder. This aspect is especially true if an individual is receiving prescription medications for chronic pain or illness, as abusing these types of prescription drugs may lead to substance use disorders.

Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse refers to the use of multiple different prescription medications and illicit drugs all at the same time. The drugs may be used together intentionally or unintentionally. Both instances can cause severe negative side effects. Moreover, if someone stops taking all the substances at once, they may experience drug withdrawal symptoms.10

How to Prevent Addiction to Prescription Drug?

There are several ways to prevent prescription medication misuse. These safety precautions are often written on the instructions for prescription medication. 

Get the Right Medication

To reduce the risk of prescription drug addiction, it is vital to first get the right medication. This process involves letting your doctor know about any prescriptions you currently take and any over-the-counter medications, alcohol, or other drug use. The doctor then may prescribe a different medication that is less likely to lead to addiction. 

No Self-Medicating

Self-medicating involves using a medication other than its intended purpose. As an individual who responsibly uses prescription medication, it is important to avoid self-medicating and contact a doctor if the dosage does not seem to be enough or if you are worried about addiction. 

Follow Directions

It is essential to follow the directions that are written on the prescription medication label. To avoid drug misuse, read over all the information included with the prescription and do not increase the dosage of the medication or stop taking it unexpectedly. 

Knowing the Medication You Take

Before taking a medication, learn as much about it as possible. The doctor or pharmacist likely knows the effects of the drug and can help educate about the possible effects of the drug. 

Never Use Others Prescription Medication

Because everyone is different and has different genetic makeup, it is important that an individual only takes medication that is prescribed to them. If someone takes prescription medication that is not prescribed to them, they could have negative consequences. 

Preventing Teens from Prescription Abuse

Young people are often at risk for misusing substances. However, with enough education and prevention strategies, the misuse of prescription medication can be prevented. Use the following tips for prescription abuse in teens to help combat prescription drug misuse. 

Discuss Dangers

To prevent prescription abuse in teens, discuss the dangers of prescription drug misuse. Prescription drug addiction has several negative side effects that can be used to help educate teens about the dangers of prescription medication misuse. 

Keep Medication Safe

Keeping medications safe is one of the best ways to prevent prescription abuse in teens. All medications should be kept in a secure location and a person should keep track of the amount of the drug they have within their prescription. 

Prescription Access Control

It is important to fully understand what a prescription medication is being used for and to only give out prescription medications when necessary. Many people are now calling on doctors to prevent the overuse of prescription medications and decrease the likelihood of prescription drug abuse.11 

Properly Dispose of Medication

It is not good practice to leave prescription medications lying around, especially after it has expired. One should take the necessary precautions to remove them safely. It may be a good idea to call a pharmacist and ask for advice on how to dispose of prescription medication. 

Monitoring Physical and Mental Health

Prescription drug misuse often has negative impacts on physical and mental health. If an individual is experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms, it can be important to monitor the physical mental health of a teenager. Adults and parents are encouraged to understand the health impacts of prescription medications and look for signs of abuse.11 

Dual Diagnosis for Drug Abuse at The PAC Program

If someone is seeking treatment for more than one condition, finding the right drug rehab center is important for recovery. Because one condition likely influences another, the professionals who work for The PAC Program are well aware of how co-occurring disorders can impact treatment.

With our numerous recovery services, The PAC Program is a safe place for you or your loved one to come and receive the support needed for recovery. 


During drug addiction detox, the individual who is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction will work to remove the drug from their bodily systems. During this time, the individual may experience drug withdrawal symptoms, but a supportive and knowledgeable team can help the individual through this period of withdrawal. 


Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a type of treatment where an individual who struggles with drug addiction will receive medications in combination with behavioral therapies and counseling therapies.12 This type of treatment is effective for treating opioid use disorders and can help with long term recovery.13 

Inpatient Drug Rehab

Inpatient drug rehab, also known as residential services, involves attending several types of support services, including but not limited to psychiatric services, one-on-one therapy, and group therapy.

Patients who participate in inpatient drug rehab will also learn how to address their traumas, regulate emotions, build support systems, and properly communicate with loved ones. 

Outpatient Drug Rehab

Outpatient care, unlike inpatient care, is a support service that allows an individual to come to experience therapeutic services without having to live at a treatment center. Outpatient drug rehab can help clients continue to work on their self-identity and design plans to help keep them on track. 


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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