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Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse is NOT what the doctor ordered.

Most people take medicines only for the reasons their doctors prescribe. But according to a recent University of Michigan survey of 3,600+ university students, at least 20 percent of the students surveyed reported taking prescription drugs just to get high. Where do you fit in?

Q. If you have a tooth pulled, and your dentist gives you a refillable Vicodin prescription for pain, would you use only the pills you need and throw out the rest? Or would you keep the rest and use them to get high?

Q. Do you think prescription drugs that come from a medicine chest are safer to use than street drugs, such as cocaine or heroin?

Q. Do you think you’re less likely to get addicted to prescription drugs, such as painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants, just because a doctor gives them to you?

Q. Would you use a prescription drug that wasn’t yours to lose weight, cram for an exam, chill out at the end of the day or “perform” better socially or academically?

If you answered “Yes” to even one of these questions, you’d better think again.

Just because you can get prescription drugs from your family’s medicine chest, from a doctor or even on the Internet, doesn’t mean they are safe to use.

In fact, students who abuse prescription drugs are at higher risk for also abusing other drugs and alcohol.

Don’t look now, but the most dangerous drugs today are likely to come from your local pharmacy. When taken as prescribed, powerful time-released drugs like Ritalin, Adderall and OxyContin treat conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder and chronic pain. But without a doctor’s supervision, each of these drugs may cause serious hazards to your health—and life-threatening reactions.

RITALIN® and OTHER STIMULANTS

Street names: Rids, Vitamin R, pineapple, uppers, Jif

What is it? A stimulant in pill or tablet form

How is it used? Swallowed; crushed into powder and inhaled or mixed with water and injected

What are its short-term effects? Increases energy, alertness and euphoria; reduces appetite; may cause hallucinations

What are its long-term effects? Increasing tolerance and addiction; irritability and depression; insomnia; irregular heartbeat; paranoid psychosis

How does it interact with alcohol? Disguises the effects of both; increases the risk for overdose

Legal or illegal? Ritalin®, Aderall® and Cylert® are legal prescription drugs—but it’s illegal to use them, share them, sell them or even possess them unless they are prescribed for you.

OXYCONTIN®

Street names: Hillbilly heroin, Oxycotton, Oxy

What is it? A highly potent opiate-based tablet or capsule for severe pain

How is it used? Swallowed; crushed into powder and snorted or dissolved into water and injected

What are its short-term effects? Intense heroin-like euphoria; may be accompanied by slurred speech, drooling, sluggish movements, slowed breathing

What are its long-term effects? Physically and psychologically addictive, with severe withdrawal symptoms, including muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting

How does it interact with alcohol? May suppress vital functions like breathing, and lead to death

Legal or illegal? OxyContin®, Demerol®, Percocet® and Vicodin® are legal prescription drugs—but it’s illegal to use them, share them, sell them or even possess them unless they are prescribed for you.

PROZAC, PAXIL & OTHER ANTIDEPRESSANTS

Street names: happy pills

What is it: A pill or tablet that changes the balance of a chemical, usually serotonin, in the brain

How is it used: Swallowed

What are the short-term effects: You may not feel much; most antidepressants take weeks to kick in, so short-term effects are typically minimal

What are the long-term effects: Sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, addiction; unprescribed use may cause chemical imbalances in the brain and emotional disturbances

How does in interact with alcohol? Combined use increases risk for overdose and may also worsen depression, sometimes leading to suicide

Legal or illegal? Antidepressants are legal prescription drugs—but it’s illegal to use them, share them, sell them or even posses them unless they are prescribed for you

VALIUM, XANAX & OTHER ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS

Street names: downers, goof balls, tranks, xanies, xan bars, footballs

What is it: A pill or tablet that effects the central nervous system

How is it used: Swallowed, or crushed and snorted

What are the short-term effects: Reduced anxiety, lowered inhibitions, poor concentration and coordination, decreased sexual interest, slowed reflexes, cloudy judgment

What are the long-term effects: Sleep disturbances, memory problems, mental confusion, addiction; unsupervised withdrawal may be life-threatening; large doses can cause respiratory failure and death

How does in interact with alcohol? Both impair motor and memory skills and slow respiration; combined use increases risk for overdose and death

Legal or illegal? Antidepressants are legal prescription drugs—but it’s illegal to use them, share them, sell them or even posses them unless they are prescribed for you

AMBIEN, LUNESTA & OTHER SLEEPING PILLS

Street names: sleepers, A-minus, zombies

What is it: A pill or tablet prescribed for insomnia

How is it used: Swallowed

What are the short-term effects: Drowsiness, dizziness; may cause morning-after “hangover,” facial swelling; severe allergic reaction possible

What are the long-term effects: Daytime drowsiness, sleep behaviors such as sleep eating and sleep driving, persistent headache, blackouts and memory loss; stopping abruptly may cause withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, nightmares, muscle cramps, vomiting and shakiness

How does in interact with alcohol? Combined use increases sedative effect; may cause dizziness, confusion, fainting, respiratory failure and death

Legal or illegal? Sleep aids are legal prescription drugs—but it’s illegal to use them, share them, sell them or even posses them unless they are prescribed for you

STEROIDS

Street names: ‘rhoids, juice

What is it? A manufactured hormone-like drug similar to testosterone; available in tablet or liquid form

How is it used? Swallowed or injected

What are its short-term effects? Increases muscle mass and athletic performance; may also cause acne, high blood pressure, liver tumors, jaundice and ‘rhoid rage

What are its long-term effects? Hypertension, heart disease, wild mood swings; women may stop menstruating and develop beards and other masculine characteristics; men may develop breasts, shrunken testicles and become impotent

How does it interact with alcohol? Combined use increases risks for heart and liver disease, as well as for aggression and violent mood disturbances

Legal or illegal? It is illegal to produce, possess or use steroids for non-medical purposes

Resources:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2007). Harmful interactions: Mixing alcohol with medicines. Bethesda, MD. Available online at:

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Medicine/medicine.htm

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mayo Clinic

Facts on Tap

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