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Health Information For Teens
Taking prescription drugs in a way that hasn’t been recommended by a doctor can be more dangerous than people think. In fact, it’s drug abuse. And it’s illegal, just like taking street drugs.
Some people abuse prescription drugs because they think they will help them have more fun, lose weight, fit in, and even study more effectively. Prescription drugs can be easier to get than street drugs: Family members or friends may have them. But prescription drugs are also sometimes sold on the street like other illegal drugs. In 2017, 1 in 7 teens surveyed said they have taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription.
But prescription drugs are only safe for the people who have prescriptions for them. That’s because a doctor has examined these people and prescribed the right dose of medicine for their medical condition. The doctor has also told them exactly how they should take the medicine, including things to avoid while taking the drug. They also are aware of side effects and can watch patients closely for these.
The most commonly used prescription drugs fall into three classes:
2. Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants
The likelihood that someone will commit a crime, be a victim of a crime, or have an accident is higher when that person is abusing drugs — no matter whether those drugs are medicines or street drugs.
Like all drug abuse, using prescription drugs for the wrong reasons has serious risks for a person’s health.
Opioid abuse can lead to vomiting, mood changes, decrease in ability to think (cognitive function), and even decreased respiratory function, coma, or death. This risk is higher when prescription drugs like opioids are taken with other substances like alcohol, antihistamines, and CNS depressants.
CNS depressant abuse is risky too. Abruptly stopping or reducing them too quickly can lead to seizures. Taking CNS depressants with other medicines, such as prescription painkillers, some over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, or alcohol can slow a person’s heartbeat and breathing — and even kill.
Stimulant abuse (like with some ADHD drugs) may cause heart failure or seizures. These risks are increased when stimulants are mixed with other medicines — even OTC ones like cold medicines. Taking too much of a stimulant can lead to a dangerously high body temperature or an irregular heartbeat. High doses over a short period may make someone aggressive or paranoid. Stimulant abuse might not lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, but users might take the drugs so often that they become a hard habit to break.
The dangers of prescription drug abuse can be made even worse if people take drugs in a way they weren’t intended to be used. Ritalin may seem harmless because it’s prescribed even for little kids with ADHD. But when a person takes it either unnecessarily or in a way it wasn’t intended (such as snorting or injection), Ritalin toxicity can be serious.
Probably the most common risk of prescription drug abuse is addiction. People who abuse medicines can become addicted as easily as if they were taking street drugs. That’s one reason most doctors won’t renew a prescription unless they see the patient — they want to examine the patient to make sure he or she isn’t getting addicted.
If a doctor prescribes a pain medicine, stimulant, or CNS depressant, follow the directions exactly. Also be sure to:
Finally, never use someone else’s prescription. And don’t allow anyone to use yours. Not only are you putting others at risk, but you could suffer too: Pharmacists may be stopped from refilling a prescription if a medicine has been used up before it should be. And if you’re found giving medicine to someone else, it’s considered a crime and you could find yourself in court.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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