Thursday, June 13, 2013
Prescription and Over-The-Counter Drug Abuse
You may remember the days of childhood. It was common to get a cold, flu bug, or other type of illness. Trips to the doctor were never fun, but you knew that the word medicine meant a way to get better. Medicine helped get over the illness and back to school, back to the playground, and back with your friends. You knew that a doctor was prescribing you with the medication to help you recover. However, as you get older, you start to realize that some people abuse these same medications.
According to drugs.com, drugs that are safe and effective for use by the general public, without a prescription, are defined as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. These drugs are often located on shelves in pharmacies, as well as non-pharmacy outlets. A few examples include grocery stores, convenience stores, and large discount retailers. In the U.S., there are more than 80 classes of OTC drugs. These range from allergy medications, to pain relievers, to weight loss products.
Some medications have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties and, because of that, they are sometimes abused. You could define abusing medications as someone taking a medication in ways or amounts other than what has been instructed in directions or by a doctor, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed to. In fact, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans, ages 14 and older. This is according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are: opioid pain relievers, stimulants for treating ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants for relieving anxiety. The most commonly abused OTC drugs are cough and cold remedies containing dextromethorphan.
Many people believe that prescription drugs and OTC drugs are safer to use than illicit drugs. This is only true when they are taken exactly as prescribed and for the purpose intended. When these prescription and OTC drugs are abused, they can become addictive and put abusers at risk for other adverse health effects. This includes overdose, especially when taken along with other drugs or alcohol.
There is more than one way for prescription and OTC drugs to be abused. These include taking a medication that has been prescribed for somebody else, taking a drug in a higher quantity or another manner than prescribed, and taking a drug for another purpose than prescribed.
We usually think of drug abuse issues as illicit drugs. However, licit drugs (legal for prescription) are a huge abuse issue. Whether they are being deliberately abused, or accidentally abused while taking them for a medical purpose, the results are disturbing. People abuse over-the-counter (OTC) products to get high, zone out, hallucinate, etc. Often times this abuse involves youth since these products are so readily available, either in the home medicine cabinet or simply for purchase.
The importance of educating our youth about the risks associated with the use and abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs need not go overlooked. Some of the same “medicines” that we have come to lean on during periods of illness, can harm our kids, family, and friends.