Prescription Drugs

What Are Prescription Drugs?

In the U.S. there are more than 2,800 drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of illness and disease. Taken under a doctor's care, these medications help millions of people each year. However, there is a growing trend of self-medicating and/or abusing prescription medications.

The three classes of prescription medications that are most commonly abused are: Opioids, CNS Depressants, and Stimulants.

Opioids — Pain Relievers

These include OxyContin, Codeine, Percodan, Fentanyl, Vicodin (Hydrocodone), Morphine, Percocet, Demerol.

How are Opioids Taken?

Opioids are taken orally as a tablet or capsule or in liquid form; crushed and snorted; or cooked and injected intravenously (IV).

What are the Short Term Effects of Opioid Abuse?

Users report feeling relaxed and indifferent to physical and emotional pain. Some people report feeling drowsy, or even nauseous. A common side effect is constipation. Taking too much of the drug (overdose) can slow down breathing and can ultimately be fatal.

What are the Long Term Effects of Opioid Abuse?

Painkillers are highly addictive. Physical dependence or addiction can develop even when using the drug as prescribed, since the body builds up a tolerance and more of the drug is needed to maintain the desired effect. Withdrawal can be lengthy and physically painful. Users who combine opioids with alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines are at high risk of death from respiratory failure.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants

CNS depressants can be divided into two groups, based on their chemistry and pharmacology: Barbiturates, such as Mebaral and Nembutal, and Benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Librium, and Xanax. CNS Depressants are used to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, and sleep disorders.

How are CNS Depressants Taken?

Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates are taken orally as a tablet; or crushed and snorted.

What are the Short Term Effects of CNS Depressant Abuse?

CNS depressants slow normal brain function. Users report reduced tension, anxiety, or panic. Some users describe feeling calm or drowsy. Over time these effects fade as the body builds a tolerance. In higher doses, some CNS depressants can become general anesthetics.

What are the Long Term Effects of CNS Depressant Abuse?

Misusing benzodiazepines can result in addiction. Withdrawal can be lengthy and painful, and may cause seizures and death. For these reasons, withdrawal should be supervised by a medical professional. Serious problems can occur when Benzodiazepines are used with alcohol, pain medications, and some over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Such usage can prove fatal.

Stimulants — Prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, asthma, some forms of depression, and obesity

These include Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Focalin, and Dexedrine.

How are Stimulants Taken?

Stimulants are taken orally as a tablet; crushed and snorted; or liquefied and injected intravenously (IV). Some stimulant abusers take the drug anally (known as "plugging" or "shafting").

What are the Short Term Effects of Stimulant Abuse?

Users feel alert, focused, and awake. Appetite is reduced and sleeplessness can occur. Stimulants increase blood pressure and heart rate and can cause high body temperatures.

What are the Long Term Effects of Stimulant Abuse?

There is a high potential for addiction, paranoia, and sleep deprivation (which can cause psychotic episodes). There is also a danger of long-term insomnia, digestive problems, and erratic weight change. Stimulants are most dangerous when used with over-the-counter medications including cold medications containing decongestants; antidepressants, unless supervised by a physician; and some asthma medications.

Antidepressants — Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's), MAO Inhibitors, Tricyclics

These include Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Paxil, Amitriptyline, Nardil

How are Antidepressants Taken?

Antidepressants are taken orally. These drugs build up in the body over time, so one dose does not have an immediate effect.

What are the Short Term Effects of Antidepressant Abuse?

There are very few initial effects. Most antidepressants take days or weeks to build up in the system.

What are the Long Term Effects of Antidepressant Abuse?

Taken under medical supervision, the dosages of these drugs are customized for the person taking them. Doctors will often change the dosage or substitute other medications according to the patient's response. Taking non-prescribed antidepressants long enough to feel the effects may cause brain chemicals to become out of sync with one another and can result in emotional disturbances. Stopping antidepressants should only be attempted under strict medical supervision. Alcohol should not be consumed when taking antidepressants. Other drugs may interfere with antidepressants. Long term effects may include addiction, paranoia, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, headaches, and hallucinations.

Get Help

If you are concerned you or a friend may have a problem with alcohol or other drugs , get help from a counselor, doctor, or other professional. Contact a counselor or campus security at 488-2663 or 471-6911.

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