How can I tell if someone is abusing prescription pills, like OxyContin or Xanax?

Some people show marked changes due to drug or alcohol problems, others exhibit more subtle changes. Some signs include changes in school or work performance, mood swings, loss of or increased appetite, change in sleep patterns, deterioration in hygiene, new friends, the development of an “I don’t care” attitude, shirking of responsibilities, dishonesty, and secretiveness.

It can be more complicated when the drug being abused is a prescription medication, such as OxyContin or Xanax. The person may regularly complain about vague symptoms that require medication, and be interested only in treatment options that involve a prescription. They may begin to doctor shop, and you may begin to see more bags from different pharmacies around the house or small boxes shipped to the home from an Internet source. These could be coupled with unusual charges on a credit card bill as most Internet sources will bill under a non-identifying name for discretion. For instance, a bill for “ringtones” might appear on your credit card statement when the purchase was actually for prescription opiates. The person may begin to take other people’s medications – check what you have in your medicine cabinet and track whether pills are missing.  (Don’t ignore the pills at a relative’s house – Grandma can be a great source for medications like Percocet and may not notice if a few pills are missing.) Opiates such as OxyContin may cause physical withdrawal symptoms when doses are missed, so the person may experience flu-like symptoms such as achiness, night sweats, insomnia, and even nausea or vomiting (which brings the person back to a doctor, for more medicine).

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