Prescription Drug Abuse

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Quick Facts Alert: Prescription Painkillers (Spring 2015)

What is prescription drug abuse?

  • Taking medication that was prescribed for someone else
  • Taking own prescription in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed by a doctor

What are the most commonly abused prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs?

  • Pain relievers – opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin
  • Central nervous system depressants – such as Xanax and Valium
  • Stimulants – such as, Concerta or Adderall
  • Cough and cold medications

How are prescription drugs abused?

  • Taking another person’s drugs for their intended purpose (ex. to relieve pain)
  • Taking them in larger doses than prescribed to get high
  • Taking them by a different route of administration (ex. crushing and sniffing instead of swallowing it)

What’s the danger in abusing prescription drugs?

  • Form and dose – Doctors take many factors into account when prescribing medication. For example, a person’s weight, how long the medication takes to dissolve and be released into the bloodstream and reach the brain, how long they have been on the medication, and what other medications they are on.
  • Side effects – other effects on the body that can be dangerous, which can be extremely dangerous, especially when mixed with other substances
  • Addiction – Medications change the brain functions, especially when they are taken repeatedly in a manner that is not considered safe. They alter the brain’s reward system, making it harder to feel good without the drug and leading to cravings.
  • Withdrawal – Repeated use causes the body and the brain to change, causing physical dependence. The body adapts to the drug’s presence and when use is stopped the person experiences withdrawal symptoms.