Have you ever taken a medication that wasn’t prescribed for you? Was it accidental or intentional?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 20% of people aged 12 and up have used prescription drugs at least once in their lifetimes for nonmedical purposes. Taking a medication that is not prescribed for you because you like the physiological effects, or taking drugs in a manner that isn’t officially sanctioned or recommended (such as crushing pills and then snorting or smoking them) are two manifestations of prescription drug abuse.
Powerful medicines with strong effects require a prescription from a doctor due to their potency and the potential for addiction. When these substances are abused, they can be as addictive as illicit drugs and may have similar effects.
Commonly abused prescription drugs include stimulants like amphetamines and methylphenidate, opioid analgesics like oxycodone, hydromorphone and diphenoxylate, and central nervous system depressants like Diazepam and Alprazolam. Stimulants impart energy and increase heart rate and blood pressure. Opioid analgesics kill pain, and CNS depressants slow down the nervous system and respiratory functions.
Some teenagers tend to abuse prescription drugs to get high. This may lead to tolerance, where the brain and the body become accustomed to the presence of drugs and require progressively larger doses to satisfy cravings. Eventually, this can lead to addiction—a powerful, all-consuming mental and physical need to consume a particular substance.
Every day, 44 people in the United States die from prescription painkiller overdoses, and many more become addicted.
Tips for staying safe
- Keep pharmaceutical drugs out of reach of children.
- Take the medicine as your doctor instructs you. Do not increase the dose or consume the drugs in unapproved ways.
- Know why you are taking the medicine.
- Do not keep expired medicines.
- Do not share your medication with other people.
Just because the medicine is safe for you doesn’t mean that it is also safe for other people to consume. Prescribed medications should be taken responsibly. Remember that if you get high, you may die. Always read the directions and follow them, and take care to keep the drugs away from people who may misuse them.