Prescription drugs are only safe for the people for whom they were prescribed. But one in seven teens report they have taken a prescription drug that wasn’t meant for them, according to the Nemours Foundation.
Prescription drugs may be easier to get than street drugs like cocaine or marijuana, and some people may even think they’re safe because they came from a doctor.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
There are three classes of commonly abused prescription drugs.
- Opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, are commonly used for pain relief, treatment of diarrhea or coughs. These drugs attach to receptors in the central nervous system and keep the brain from receiving pain messages.
- Central nervous system depressants like Valium and Xanax usually treat anxiety, panic attacks and sleep problems. They slow down brain activity and create a drowsy or calming effect.
- Stimulants like Ritalin and Addreall are used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. The opposite of depressants, these drugs increase brain activity, resulting in alertness and more energy.
Dangers of Abuse
Addiction of any of these prescription drugs can cause health issues or even be fatal. Opioid abuse can lead to impaired cognitive function, decreased respiration or even coma or death. Depressant abuse can cause seizures and impair respiration. Stimulant abuse can tax the heart and cause people to become aggressive or paranoid.
Furthermore, if prescription drugs are out there being abused, somewhere a patient is missing out on the treatment they need to live a normal life. Doctors and pharmacists can also get in trouble when their patients become addicted to prescription drugs.
Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse
There are ways you can fight prescription drug abuse. Lock up your prescriptions and dispose of all unused medication properly by using take-back programs in your community. If there’s no such program in your area, follow these tips from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
- Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with particularly yucky refuse like cat litter. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid.
- Remove any personal information and the prescription number from the drug container and put it in the container with the drugs. Then, put it all in the household trash.