WHAT IS PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE? Prescription drug abuse is when someone takes a prescription drug that was prescribed for someone else or in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed. Abuse can include taking a friend’s or relative’s prescription to get high, to treat pain, or because you think it will help with studying.
What are the most commonly abused prescription and over-the-counter drugs? Opioids (such as the pain relievers OxyContin and Vicodin), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall) are the most commonly abused prescription drugs.1 Some drugs that are available without a prescription—also known as over-the-counter drugs—also can be dangerous if they aren’t taken according to the directions on the packaging. For example, DXM (dextromethorphan), the active cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cough and cold medications, sometimes is abused, particularly by youth.
What happens when you abuse prescription drugs? Abusing prescription drugs can have negative short- and long-term health consequences. Stimulant abuse can cause paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and an irregular heartbeat, especially if stimulants are taken in high doses or in ways other than in pill form. The abuse of opioids can cause drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and, depending on the amount taken, slowed breathing. Abusing depressants can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, disorientation, lack of coordination, and seizures (upon withdrawal from chronic abuse). Abuse of any of these substances may result in addiction. Abusing over-the-counter drugs that contain DXM—which usually involves taking doses much higher than recommended for treating coughs and colds—can impair motor function (such as walking or sitting up); produce numbness, nausea, and vomiting; and increase heart rate and blood pressure. Abusing any type of mind-altering drug can affect judgment and inhibition and may put a person at heightened risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Aren’t prescription drugs safer than illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin? No. Many people think that abusing prescription drugs is safer than abusing illicit drugs like heroin because the manufacturing of prescription drugs is regulated or because they are prescribed by doctors. But that doesn’t mean these drugs are safe for someone other than the person with the prescription to use. Many prescription drugs can have powerful effects in the brain and body—and people sometimes take them in ways that can be just as dangerous (e.g., crushing pills and snorting or injecting them) as illicit drug abuse. In fact, opioid painkillers act on the same sites in the brain as heroin, which is one reason why they can be so dangerous when abused. Also, abusing prescription drugs is illegal—and that includes sharing prescriptions with friends.
If prescription drugs are dangerous, why are they prescribed by doctors? Virtually every medication presents some risk of undesirable side effects, sometimes even serious ones. Doctors consider the potential benefits and risks to each patient before prescribing medications. Doctors ask about patients’ medical history, including what other health problems they have and what other medications they take. Based on this and other information (e.g., age and weight of the patient), physicians can prescribe medications while minimizing the risks. But when abused, some prescription drugs can be dangerous and can lead to severe health consequences, including addiction and overdose—just like illicit drugs can. Is it dangerous to abuse prescription drugs in combination with other drugs? Yes. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs pose increased risk of health complications when combined with other prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, illicit drugs, or alcohol. For example, combining opioids with alcohol can intensify respiratory distress and lead to death.
Rock and Recovery http://www.rockandrecovery.com/ Rock & Recovery mixes inspiring stories and messages of strength, and hope, from professional health-care providers, addicts, comedians and family members. These powerful stories and meaningful messages are carefully woven in between hand-picked music.
Above The Influence http://www.abovetheinfluence.com/ Every teen’s life is filled with pressure, some of it good, some of it bad. Our goal is to help teens stand up to negative pressures, or influences. The more aware you are of the influences around you, the better prepared you will be to face them, including the pressure to use drugs, pills, and alcohol.
Check Yourself http://www.checkyourself.com/ This Web site is a cool way for you to be more aware of the influences around you and can help you carefully consider the risks when you’re faced with tough decisions.