Prescription Drug Abuse
Physicians prescribe psychoactive prescription drugs (drugs that affect mood or behavior) to help people with pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression and a number of other conditions. Many of these drugs have the potential for addiction. Prescription drugs are only safe for the individuals who actually have prescriptions for them. Because most people take medicine responsibly, addiction or compulsive drug-seeking is uncommon among people who use drugs as prescribed. The risk for addiction exists when drugs are used in ways other than as prescribed.
Some people use prescription drugs for recreation or amusement. Using prescription drugs for reasons other than those prescribed by a physician, is drug abuse. Prescription drugs are abused as a means to get high, calm down, get a lift or build muscle mass.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into these categories:
Opioids are either extracts from the opium poppy, or synthetics with similar properties to opium derivatives. They are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Opioids are prescribed because of their pain relieving, properties. They can also produce drowsiness, cause constipation, and depress breathing. Taken exactly as prescribed, opioids can be used to manage pain effectively.
Because Opioids can affect parts of the brain that produce a feeling of euphoria, the potential for addiction is high. Taking Opioids in combination with other drugs, or as one large single dose, can cause severe respiratory depression or death. Some of the most commonly abused opioids are codeine, OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), Dilaudid (Hydromorphone), and Demerol (meperidine).
Central Nervous System Depressants
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants slow down normal brain function resulting in drowsiness, sluggishness, sedation and sleep. Alcohol is the most familiar and most widely abused depressant. The most commonly abused prescription CNS depressants are those in the benzodiazepine class of drugs, Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam) and Halcion (triazolam) The date rape drug Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is also in this class of drug, but it is not approved for use in the United States. Long-term use CNS depressants can lead to dependence and addiction. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be particularly uncomfortable and lengthy.
CNS depressants should not be combined with any medication or substance that causes drowsiness, including other prescription depressants, opioids or alcohol. When depressants are taken together there is an enhancement of the action of one drug by the presence of a second. The resulting intensity of the two depressants can slow the heart and respiration to the point of death.