Common Misperceptions about Prescription Drug Abuse

Common Misperceptions about Prescription Drug Abuse

When we think about drug abusers, or, specifically, those who abuse prescription drugs, it’s easy to lump those people into stereotypical categories. This article considers only prescription drug abuse or abuse of drugs for non-medical purposes (or not taken by the person for whom they were prescribed by a physician for a specific medical purpose). Here are some of the most common misconceptions about prescription drug abuse.

They were prescribed by a doctor, so they must be okay

Just look in your own medicine cabinet. Chances are you have some medication that was prescribed for you or a family member for a specific medical condition. Many people either don’t take all the medication that has been prescribed, or allow it to clutter up the medicine cabinet long after it’s no longer needed to treat the original condition. This makes the prescription drug an easy target for abuse. Young people, especially, comb through their parents’ prescription drug containers searching for opiates and sedatives, or other drugs, to use to get high. Using prescription drugs for non-medical use is very dangerous. When taken other than directed and combined with other drugs or alcohol, prescription drugs can be lethal. At the very least, this “cocktail” can lead to addiction, strokes, seizures or other medical emergencies.

OTC drugs are okay

If it’s sold in a drug store over the counter, that is, available without a prescription, it has to be okay, right? Wrong! Even Tylenol, taken in high dosages, can result in liver failure. Overdoses with OTC drugs, especially when ingested in combination with other drugs, can cause serious medical problems or even death. Only take OTC drugs as directed, and never mix drugs.

Prescription drugs and steroids can help increase performance

Many people mistakenly believe that taking prescription drugs and steroids will enhance their performance and/or looks. This is another common misconception. The FDA banned Ephedra (a popular supplement used for weight loss and performance enhancement) in 2004 because it raised blood pressure to dangerously high levels. Research showed that Ephedra users were at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. Another unwanted side effect of taking prescription drugs and/or steroids is that the gains, if any, quickly dissipate – they disappear as soon as you stop taking the drugs. Worse yet, men who take steroids may develop breasts, severe acne, shrunken testicles, and these drugs can stunt their height. Women can develop deeper voices, appear more masculine, develop fertility problems, and see decreased breast size.

Prescription drugs help with stress

A prescription drug may be taken to help alleviate stress, to make you feel good, or better able to deal with life’s daily problems. The truth is that abusing prescription drugs, or any drugs, can alter brain chemistry, possibly leading to subsequent depression and other mental illnesses. It’s better to determine what’s causing the stress in the first place, and deal with that root cause, rather than trying to mask it with abuse of prescription drugs. Meditate, take a walk, chill out with friends, enjoy a social activity with family members, even talk with a counselor — these are much better solutions to dealing with stress.

It’s cool

Movies and television programs, even advertisements, often seem to glamorize popping pills. One good thing that’s occurred in pharmaceutical advertising in recent years is the listing of warnings, or side-effects, of taking various drugs. This is now required by law, or the commercial cannot air on TV. But abusing prescription drugs is anything but cool and only leads to trouble down the road, whether physical, psychological, trouble with the law, in school, or with family and friends.

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