Prescription Drugs​—Use and Abuse

A GIRL named Angie overheard her parents saying that her brother’s medicine curbed his appetite. Because Angie was concerned about her weight, she started sneaking her brother’s pills, taking one every few days. To reduce the risk of her parents’ finding out, she asked a friend who was using the same medication to give her some of his pills. *

Why the fascination with prescription drugs? One reason is availability​—they may be right there in the home. Second, many young people wrongly assume that they are not doing anything illegal when they take medicinal drugs without a prescription. And third, prescription drugs seem less toxic than their illicit counterparts. ‘After all,’ some youths reason, ‘if a child can take certain prescribed products, the products must be safe.’

Granted, when properly used, prescribed medication may improve health and the quality of life and even save lives. But misused, it can be as unsafe as street drugs. For example, when a person abuses certain prescription stimulants, he may bring on heart failure or seizures. Other products can lower a person’s breathing rate and ultimately cause death. A drug may also have a harmful effect if it is taken with certain other drugs or with alcohol. Early in 2008, a popular actor died “from a deadly mix of six tranquilizers, sleeping pills and painkillers,” said the Arizona Republic newspaper.

Another potential danger is addiction. When taken in excessive amounts or for  the wrong reason, some substances act like street drugs​—they stimulate pleasure centers in the brain, which can lead to a craving for the substance. But instead of providing ongoing excitement or helping people cope with life, drug abuse only makes matters worse. It may heighten stress, deepen depression, ruin health and the ability to function normally, lead to addiction, or do all of these things. Inevitably, victims have problems at home, at school, or at work. Where, then, is the line between the proper use of prescribed products and their wrongful use?

Use or Abuse?

Simply put, you use a prescription drug properly when you take it according to the directions of a physician who is fully aware of your medical history. That would include taking the correct dosage at the right times, in the proper manner, and for the right medical reason. Even so, undesirable or unexpected symptoms may appear. If that happens, tell your doctor immediately. He or she may change your prescription or cancel it altogether. The same principles apply to over-the-counter products: Use them only when you have a legitimate need, and carefully follow the instructions on the label.

People step into dangerous territory when they take medication for the wrong reason, take liberties with the dosage, use products meant for someone else, or take the drug in the wrong way. For example, some pills have to be swallowed whole so that the active ingredient is released into the system slowly. Abusers often disrupt the process by crushing or chewing pills, by crushing and sniffing them,  or by dissolving them in water and injecting them. The result may be a high, but it could also be a first step toward addiction. Worse still, it could be lethal.

On the other hand, if someone is taking a prescribed drug in the proper manner but suspects that he may be developing an addiction, he should inform his doctor without delay. The doctor should know the safest way to address the matter without neglecting the original health problem.

The pandemic of drug abuse​—in all its forms—​is a reflection of our times. The family, which should be a haven of love and a refuge from daily stresses, is in trouble. Wholesome moral and spiritual values are on the wane, as is respect for life. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Another factor is a lack of hope for a better future. Many people see nothing but gloom and doom on the horizon. Hence, they live for the moment and pursue whatever pleasures they can, sometimes recklessly. The Bible says: “Where there is no vision the people go unrestrained.”​—Proverbs 29:18.

If you are a parent, no doubt you want to protect your family from the moral and spiritual ills that plague the world. But how can you do that? And where can you turn for sound guidance and a reliable hope for a better tomorrow? The following articles address these questions.

[Footnote]

^ par. 2 From TeensHealth Web site.

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ANYTHING FOR A HIGH

Some people will try almost anything to get a high. Particularly harmful practices include the sniffing of cleaning fluids, fingernail polish, furniture polish, gasoline, glue, lighter fluid, spray paint, and other volatile substances. Sniffed fumes are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, giving an almost instant reaction.

Another harmful practice is the abuse of over-the-counter medications that contain alcohol or induce sleepiness. When taken in high doses, these products interfere with the senses, especially hearing and vision, and may cause confusion, hallucinations, numbness, and stomach pain.

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“DRUG-SEEKING TACTICS”

“‘Drug-seeking’ behavior is very common in addicts and drug abusers,” says the Physicians’ Desk Reference. “Drug-seeking tactics include emergency calls or visits near the end of office hours, refusal to undergo appropriate examination, testing or referral, repeated ‘loss’ of prescriptions, tampering with prescriptions and reluctance to provide prior medical records or contact information for other treating physician(s). ‘Doctor shopping’ to obtain additional prescriptions is common among drug abusers and people suffering from untreated addiction.”

The drugs most often abused are the following three kinds:

Opioids​—prescribed for pain relief

CNS (central nervous system) Depressants​—barbiturates and benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety or sleep problems (often referred to as sedatives or tranquilizers)

Stimulants​—prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the sleep disorder narcolepsy, or obesity *

[Footnote]

^ par. 24 Information supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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GUIDELINES FOR THE SAFE USE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

1. Follow directions carefully.

2. Don’t change doses without consulting your doctor.

3. Don’t stop taking prescribed medication on your own.

4. Don’t crush or break pills unless specifically instructed to do so.

5. Be aware of the effect the drug may have on your driving and other activities.

6. Find out how the drug may interact with alcohol and with other medications​—prescribed or over the counter.

7. If you have a history of substance abuse, tell your doctor.

8. Do not use drugs prescribed for someone else, and do not share yours. *

[Footnote]

^ par. 36 Based on recommendations provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.