It’s a common myth that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs because they came from a doctor. But, if they were prescribed for others instead of you, by your doctor, they are dangerous.
People try them for the first time for several reasons: to help with pain, to study better, to lose weight, to get high. They get them from friends, parents’ medicine cabinets, drugstores (cold medicine has been abused with serious consequences), and even pet medical supplies.
Whatever the reason is, or where they come from, taking prescription medicines without supervision by a doctor is a bad idea.
Why are prescription drugs so dangerous?
- Prescription drugs act on the same parts of your brain as non-prescription drugs and can have similar effects.
- They can be addicting and act as gateway drugs to using other substances, including heroin, later in life.
- They impair your judgment and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe behaviors.
- Mixing medications with other drugs, meds, or alcohol, taking too high of a dose, or taking certain medicines if you have medical problems can be fatal.
Some un-glamorous statistics:
- One-third of the teens who used prescription opioids (like Vicodin or OxyContin) reported abusing other drugs, especially heroin, later in life and suffering from drug addiction.
- 1 in 15 people who take prescription pain relievers for non-medical use will try heroin within 10 years.
- Prescription painkillers were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008.
- Misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009.
- Prescription drug abusers are also more likely to abuse alcohol, marijuana, and other controlled substances.
- Prescription drug abuse is linked to risky behaviors like unprotected sex that result in unwanted pregnancies and STDs. (It’s hard to make the best decisions if your high or blacked out.)
- Prescription drug abuse is illegal and can end up with visits to rehab or prison.
Common classes of drugs and their (scary) effects.
Opioids/Painkillers – Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, Lortab, Dilaudid, Morphine, Codeine, etc.
- Act on same sites in the brain as heroin.
- Abuse can cause drowsiness, nausea, constipation and can slow breathing.
Stimulants – Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin
- Similar effects to cocaine.
- Abuse can cause paranoia, high body temperature, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat.
Depressants/sedatives – Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Ambien, Sonata, Barbituates
- Abuse can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, disorientation, loss of coordination.
Dextromethorphan (DXM, over-the-counter cough syrup)
- Effects similar to PCP or ketamine in large doses.
- Abuse can cause numbness, nausea, vomiting, high heart rate and blood pressure. It can also affect memory, feelings and thoughts, making users feel “disconnected.”
- Don’t share your prescriptions with anyone else and don’t try pills anyone tries to give you.
- Don’t try your pets’ meds. (It happens.)
- Addiction is real and scary and can start in the teen years.
- If you or someone you know has already started using there are lots of places to turn to for help (see below).