Prescription Medication

Benzodiazepines

Xanax, Valium, Ativan

Usually taken for calming effects, some would say their experience is similar to the effects of alcohol (talkativeness). Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and present a host of symptoms that includes physical, psychological, and behavioural symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), describes benzodiazepine abuse as hypnotic or sedative abuse disorder which requires 2 of a possible 11 symptoms manifesting in a 12 month period.

These symptoms include:

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you're meant to.

  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.

  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.

  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance.

  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.

  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.

  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.

  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.

  9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.

  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance).

  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.

Adverse Effects

  • Drowsiness

  • Lethargy

  • Irritability

  • Confusion

  • Memory problems

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Loss of coordination

  • Slurred speech

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Paranoia

  • Hallucinations

  • Constipation

Overdose Potential

Signs of an overdose may vary from person to person. Typical signs may include the following:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Bluish fingernails and lips

  • Uncoordinated muscle movements

  • Tremors

  • Profoundly altered mental state

  • Stupor

In rare cases serious complications may arise associated with respiratory distress, lack of oxygenated blood, or physical trauma caused from lack of consciousness.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines are highly variable but it can be said that a history of taking high doses or for a prolonged time have more severe withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines are classified on their half-lives (time spent in the body after consumption) and is a determining factor with withdrawals experienced. The most common symptoms are called rebound symptoms and usually manifests within 1 to 4 days of discontinuing use and may last for 10 days. Short-acting benzodiazepines may result in withdrawal symptoms starting within 8 hours and symptoms could be more severe.

Typical symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety

  • Excessive sweating

  • Headaches

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Muscle pain

  • Nausea

Opioids

Codeine, Morphine, Methadone, Pain Medication

Signs and Symptoms

Opioids attaches to pain receptors in the brain, releasing signals of pain relief and boosting the feelings of pleasure. Chronic users commonly become tolerant to their initial doses, requiring higher and higher doses for the same desired effect. 

Initial stages of opioid addiction might be difficult to show definite signs. You might notice certain behaviour or mood changes.

DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), describes substance abuse disorder having 2 of a possible 11 symptoms manifesting in a 12 month period.

These symptoms include:

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you're meant to.

  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.

  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.

  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance.

  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.

  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.

  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.

  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.

  9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.

  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance).

  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.

Adverse Effects

  • Lethargy

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Dizziness

  • Changes in vision

  • Headache

  • Seizures

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Constipation

Overdose Potential

Opioids have a high risk in fatal overdose as it can cause respiratory depression. Combining opioids with other sedative medication and alcohol increases the risk in fatality.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can start within a few hours after last use and could possibly last for more than a week. It is not life-threatening but could be emotionally and physically uncomfortable.

Withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

  • Cravings

  • Agitation or irritability

  • Runny nose

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Excessive sweating

  • Chills

  • Digestive problems

Stimulants

ADD and ADHD prescribed medicines such as Ritalin, prescriptions for narcolepsy and obesity

Users describe feelings of energy and wakefulness, quicker reaction times, excitement, increased attentiveness and concentration, feelings of euphoria. Most commonly abused is Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate, a stimulant of the central nervous system.

Signs and Symptoms

Most noticeable in long-term Ritalin abuse:

  • Grandiosity

  • Repetitive actions (OCD-like behaviour)

  • Paranoia

  • Auditory hallucinations

  • Tendency towards violence

Adverse Effects

  • Paranoia

  • Hallucinations

  • Obsessive behaviour

  • Anxiety

  • Lack of appetite

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Teeth grinding

  • Dizziness

  • Increased heart rate

  • Rapid breathing

  • Increased body temperature

  • Ulcers

Overdose Potential

If taken in large doses, symptoms usually appear in a progression, beginning with restlessness, agitation, and irritability and escalating into more severe physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate and convulsions.

Withdrawal

  • Anxiety

  • Nightmares

  • Strong cravings

  • Increased sleep duration

  • Paranoia

  • Confusion

  • Irritability

  • Violent behaviour

  • Depression