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Prescription Drug Abuse: A Growing Danger

As a growing public health concern, prescription drug abuse affects millions of teens and adults each year. The risks associated with prescription drug abuse vary depending upon the drugs that are abused. Abuse of opioids/narcotics/pain relievers can result in life-threatening respiratory depression (reduced breathing).

  • Individuals who abuse depressants, including benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, barbiturates and sedatives, place themselves at risk of seizures, respiratory depression and decreased heart rate.
  • Stimulant abuse can cause high body temperature, irregular heart rate, cardiovascular system failure and fatal seizures. It can also result in hostility or feelings of paranoia.
  • Individuals who abuse prescription drugs by injecting them expose themselves to additional risks, including contracting HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), hepatitis B and C and other blood-borne viruses.
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Prescription drugs provide benefits when used correctly under the care of a health provider. But prescription drug abuse cand be just as dangerous as use of illicit drugs. The side effects of prescription drugs range from unpleasant to dangerous for the recreational user. But the affects, and the dangers, are intensified when these drugs are combined with each other, with alcohol or with illegal street drugs. Even when used at recommended doses to treat medical conditions, combining multiple prescription drugs can be dangerous. Talk to your health provider about all of the medications and supplements you ingest to ensure you're not putting yourself at a health risk.

Following are questions your health care provider should answer before you begin a new prescription:

  • Will this medicine work safely with the other prescription and nonprescription medicines currently taken by my teen or myself?
  • What are the side effects that can happen with this medicine and what should be done if they occur?
  • Does this prescription drug have the potential for addiction and/or abuse?
  • What are the specific signs and symptoms of addiction or abuse I need to be looking for (for myself and for someone else)?

Prescriptions Not Immune from War on Drugs

You may not think of Vicodin as an illegal drug however if you don't have a written prescription for Vicodin or any other drug, it is illegal to use it. The penalties associated with the abuse or illegal distribution of prescription drugs vary depending upon the drug type.

Learn how to Properly Dispose of Rx Drugs

Prescription Drugs and Risky Mixing

The affects and the dangers of prescription medicine are intensified when these drugs are combined with each other, with alcohol or with illegal street drugs. Even when used at recommended doses to treat medical conditions, combining multiple medications can be dangerous.

The Prescription Drug Abuse Problem Is Larger Than You Think

Free and easy to find, 70% of teens and adults who abuse prescription pain relievers say they got them from a friend or relative often without their knowledge.* Others may abuse their own prescription medicine or swap pills with friends. It's important that not just parents, but anyone taking a prescription drug understand the growing danger of prescription drug abuse.

*, 2011

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