Prescription Drugs A prescription drug is any medicine that can only be obtained from a licensed physician. The most common prescription drugs abused are pain relievers/narcotics (Oxycontin, Vicodin, Tylox, etc.), depressants (Xanax, Valium, Librium, etc.), and stimulants (Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, etc.). The most commonly abused drugs come in tablet form and are either swallowed whole, crushed into a powder and snorted, or dissolved in water and injected.
Prescription Drug Use
Many people use prescription drugs because they believe that since a doctor prescribed them, the drugs are safe. One in 3 teens surveyed says there is “nothing wrong” with abusing prescription drugs “every once in a while.”
Potential Side Effects of Prescription Drugs
- Can result in life-threatening breathing problems.
- Can cause seizures, sometimes fatal.
- Can cause an irregular heartbeat which may lead to cardiovascular system failure.
- Carries with it risks of HIV and hepatitis, when used intravenously.
- Leads to addiction.
- Can cause uncomfortable feelings of paranoia.
- Can harm relationships due to increased hostility towards others.
- Is responsible for more overdose deaths (45%) than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamines (39%) combined.
Over the last five years, there was been a change in the pattern of drug use among teens. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana. The majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs explain that it is because these drugs are easy to get and are often free.
What Teens Say
- By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs. 60% to 70% say that home medicine cabinets are their source of drugs.
- One in 3 teens reports knowing someone who abuses prescription drugs.
- Nearly three out of ten teens believe prescribed pain relievers are not addictive.
- Nearly one-third of teenagers feel pressure from their peers to abuse prescription and illegal drugs, and 9% admit it is an important part of “fitting in.”
- 1 in 5 teens reports taking an Rx drug without a prescription for it. 28% of parents do likewise.
- 55% of 12-17 year olds reported obtaining Rx drugs from a relative or friend for free.
- One in 5 teens (4.5 million) has abused Rx drugs.
- When asked why they started using either prescription drugs or illicit drugs, young people cited as major reasons: stress about school, home problems or wanting to fit in or feel more comfortable socially.
How to Recognize if Someone Has a Problem with Prescription Drugs
The person will exhibit some, but not necessarily all, of the following behaviors:
- Acts intoxicated
- Slurred speech
- Droopy eyes
- Unwarranted sleep episodes, such as falling asleep at dinner
- Irritability and mood swings
- Euphoric behavior
- Chills or fever
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Unethical behavior
If you think you have a problem, take this self-quiz provided by Narcotics Anonymous.
How to Cut Back on Misuse of Prescription Drugs
Cutting back on prescription drug use can be a hard task because the drugs can be very addictive. The first step to cutting back on misuse of any drug is finding a support group, such as family and close friends (not drug users), that includes people who have gone through this before, to help with the recovery process. This support group is especially important during the period of withdrawal, which can bring about insomnia, depression, and exhaustion. Though withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable, these effects are the result of your body beginning to right itself. If these symptoms become too difficult to manage, or you are not able to stay drug free, help is available from many resources, such as those listed under the substance abuse get help tab.