Last updated: May 29, 2023
How many times have we taken sedatives without doctors’ prescription just to sleep better or a painkiller prescribed to someone else to curb that ridiculous pain?
The answer, unfortunately is, “quite often.” Prescription drugs are largely misused by teens and students. They usually have many ways to do it and more than one reason to start before falling a victim of addiction. The problem is more acute in college and university campuses. While many blame it on the competitiveness of the education system, the main reason behind this is usually purely recreational.
Some of the commonly abused medications include central nervous system depressants prescribed for sleep disorders and anxiety such as Ativan and Valium; opioid painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin; steroids like Oxandrin and Winstrol, and prescription stimulants used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder such as Benzedrine or Ritalin.
What is Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is using medication without a prescription or prescribed for someone else in a way which was not intended by a doctor, usually to feel elicited. Numerous national surveys indicate that prescription medications, the likes of which are used to treat attention deficit disorders, anxiety, and pain etc. are being largely used by illicit drug users. In fact, it is second only to marijuana and the consequences of this drug abuse are steadily worsening often resulting in rising emergency room visits, treatment admissions, and overdose deaths.
In fact, it is becoming a rising health issue, especially for teens. The following are some of the facts gathered by NIDA for Teens:
- Prescription medications are most frequently abused substances by teens aged 14 and older in the U.S. after marijuana and alcohol.
- American teens are abusing prescription medications for various reasons such as to stop pain, to get high as well as thinking that it will help them concentrate for school work.
- These teens get prescription drugs mostly from friends and relatives and often the person has no knowledge of it.
- The reasons for abusing prescription drugs differ based on the gender. Boys, for example, generally abuse prescription stimulants in order to get high or soothe pre-test anxiety. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to use them to lose weight or stay alert.
What Makes the Problem So Acute?
For some medications you need to follow a specific way to take it and doing otherwise can again cause adverse effect. For example, you should not combine prescription stimulants with the over-the-counter cold medication as it can cause irregular heartbeat or critically high blood pressure. Similarly, mixing certain drugs with alcohol may result in life-threatening complications.
Unfortunately, a large number of American youths and teens are using or rather misusing prescription drugs for recreational purposes. In fact, it is noted that teens are likely to abuse prescription drugs more than an illegal street drugs, especially because they are easily available and accessible.
In addition, many American teens believe prescription drugs to be safe to consume since they are prescribed by a doctor. However, they fail to realize that taking them for “self-medication” or for “nonmedical” purposes can be equally addictive and dangerous like having illegal street drugs, if not more.
The truth is, prescription drugs too have certain serious health risks and that’s why they should be taken as per doctor’s suggestions and under proper medical care. In fact, for certain medications such as painkillers, stimulants and drugs prescribed for treating anxiety and sleep disorders etc. it becomes imperative to monitor the person closely in order to avoid problems like addiction to the drug. It is therefore important for teens and youths to understand that prescription drugs are safe only for the individuals who have been prescribed by a doctor (that too in moderation) and no one else.
Here’s a list of some of the negative effects of abusing prescription medication, including the legal troubles it may cause.
Your brain reacts with these prescription drugs in a particular way and misusing or overdose can often cause complications like vomiting, slow breathing, irregular heart rate, increase in blood pressure or the person can even fall into a coma or die in worst cases.
As mentioned, abusing certain prescription medications has dire consequences. Opioids, for example, can cause choking, decreased cognitive function, changes in mood, infertility, interruptions
in the menstrual cycle, and slowed breathing. This too pose the risk of coma or can lead to death due to severe slowdown in breathing.
Likewise, CNS depressants such as tranquilizers and sedatives cause memory problems and seizures. Some prescription stimulants trigger paranoia, even if used for a short term. High doses of these stimulants can also cause fatal seizures and serious cardiovascular problems.
Certain prescription medications are addictive and should be taken in moderation even when prescribed by a doctor. The person taking them are often closely monitored by doctors for signs of addiction. When misused or abused, the risk of addiction increases exponentially.
You become physically dependent on it and gradually develop an overpowering craving for the medication. With time you will need more of the medication that too in higher doses. Worst still, you will have withdrawal symptoms if you try to discontinue the drug, resulting in physical symptoms like sweating, nervousness, shaking, nausea, insomnia, bone pain, vomiting, and depression. Withdrawals can also cause life-threatening consequences, especially in case of tranquilizers and sedatives.
Accidents & Poor Academic Performance
Although abusing of prescription medications is second to marijuana and alcohol, it cause more numbers of fatal car accidents these days. These medications cause reactions such as sedation and impaired thinking, which interfere with driving, increasing the chances of car crashes. Besides, you are more likely to become a victim of a crime under such influence as they cause poor judgment.
In addition, prescription drug abuse may recent in poor academic performance. Quite an irony that many students actually take them to ease pre-exam anxiety and boost school performance but end up having a total opposite effect.
Abusing or misusing prescription medications is as illegal as those banned street drugs. You are more likely to commit crime under the influence of such drugs and if caught taking prescription medications unlawfully, you are liable to face fines, suspension from school or worst, jail time and may need a criminal defense attorney to fight your case.
Besides, it will have a huge and long-term impact on your career and such legal issues can ruin your resume forever, irrespective of your grades. Employers are generally not very keen to hire people with police/legal records.
Abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem. Irrespective of the reasons or the level of misuse, abusing prescription drugs has dangerous consequences. Using a drug prescribed for someone else means you are having it without a doctor examining you or picking a drug/dose to suit your specific needs. Besides, different medications affect everyone differently. While a medicine works for your friend, it may trigger allergy or adverse reactions in you, often resulting in death.