Abuse & Misuse Signs & Symptoms PDF Print E-mail

General Signs of Medication Misuse

Because it’s normal for teens to exhibit quick changes in mood and interest, it may seem difficult to tell the signs of medication misuse. But there are some signals to watch for in teens that may indicate misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs:

  • Missing prescription drugs—especially narcotic painkillers, CNS depressants and stimulants
  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school or declining grades
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, i.e. more secretive or “coded” language
  • Having more or less money/possessions than reasonable—may come from selling or buying prescription drugs
  • Bloodshot eyes, severely dilated or restricted pupils
  • Symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication but without the odor of alcohol

Parents should also be alert for signs of depression, withdrawal, carelessness with grooming, unusual hostility or loss of interest in sports or other activities.

Signs of Stimulant Misuse

  • Extremely dilated pupils, decreased appetite or loss of coordination
  • Increased heart and respiratory rates or elevated blood pressure
  • Dizziness, tremors or headache, vomiting or abdominal cramps
  • Flushed skin, chest pain with palpitations or excessive sweating
  • Dry mouth and nose, bad breath or frequent lip licking
  • Feelings of restlessness, nervousness or lack of interest in sleep

Signs of Misusing Depressants

  • Symptoms similar to alcohol intoxication without alcohol odor on breath
  • Dilated pupils, slurred speech or confusion
  • Relaxed muscles, fatigue or loss of motor coordination
  • Dizziness, sedation or fever, lowered blood pressure
  • Impaired judgment and lowered inhibitions

Signs of Narcotic Painkiller Misuse

  • Surge of euphoria
  • Lethargy, drowsiness or constricted pupils not responding to light
  • Slurred speech
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting and cold flashes

Click here for a list of common stimulants, depressants and narcotic painkillers.

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