What You Don't Know
Due to their potential for abuse and addiction, many prescription drugs have been categorized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in the same category as opium or cocaine. These include Ritalin and Dexedrine (stimulants), and the painkillers OxyContin.
Many illegal street drugs were at one time used or prescribed by doctors or psychiatrists but were later banned when the evidence of their harmful effects could no longer be ignored. Examples are heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.
Abuse of prescription drugs can be even riskier than the abuse of illegally manufactured drugs. The high potency of some of the synthetic (man-made) drugs available as prescription drugs creates a high overdose risk. This is particularly true of OxyContin and similar painkillers, where overdose deaths more than doubled over a five-year period.
Many people don’t realize that distributing or selling prescription drugs (other than by a doctor) is a form of drug dealing and as illegal as selling heroin or cocaine, with costly fines and jail time. When the drug dealing results in death or serious bodily injury, dealers can face life imprisonment.
The signs of abuse of a prescription medication can vary depending on the medication. Most of the time, physical symptoms will be easier to look out for than others. It is important to understand a person suffering from prescription drug abuse can suffer from multiple symptoms at once and it can take a toll on them mentally as well as physically.
Prescription painkillers, such as Oxycontin or Vicodin, are the most commonly abused prescription medication because they are the more commonly prescribed. Since these medications are meant to treat pain over long periods of time it can cause:
Feelings of nausea
Poor coordination or reflexes
Dry or itching skin
Depressants are medications to treat symptoms of anxiety or sleep disorders, but may also be prescribed to treat panic attacks. Abusers of depressants can suffer from:
Inability to sleep
Inability to focus
Stimulants are medications used to treat individuals with ADHD or ADD. One example of a stimulant is Ritalin. These medications are used to increase communication between the brain and the body. These medications can cause:
Feelings of paranoia
Loss of appetite
For many people, prescription drug abuse starts in the teenage years.
Physicians can help prevention members by speaking with their patients openly and clearly about the medications they may be using and potential side effects. Keeping track of patient refill requests or dosage amount and balancing out legitimate medical needs for certain medications while understanding the risk are ways prescribers can be the first part of the prevention process.
Pharmacists can help patients understand their dose and how they can read their prescription to increase understanding of how powerful certain medications really are. Looking out for false prescriptions, and banding together with other pharmacies in the region can help stop drug abuse before it starts. Plus, many pharmacies also have software which allows them to keep track of prescription painkiller usage in a patient’s medical history.
Always follow the directions explained on the prescription label or by a pharmacist, and be careful with potential interactions between medications and food or drink. Never take another person’s prescribed medication. What may work for one person may not work for another, and can cause serious side effects. Make sure to store all prescription medications safely and securely.
Remember to safely dispose of expired medications or those no longer in use. For a full list of safe drop boxes for unused or old medications, click here.
Are you or someone you love dealing with an addiction?
You are not fighting alone.
Norwich Unhooked partners with multiple local doctors, counselors, and hospitals in Norwich to help aid the community with substance abuse disorder treatment and prevention measures.