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Agents-of Addiction in the Family Medicine Cabinet

Updated on July 13, 2014

Agents of Addiction in the Family Medicine Cabinet

While parents worry about the drugs that their children may be exposed to outside the house, the prescription drugs in the family cabinet are often ignored as potential agents of addiction. With the relative difficulty of obtaining drugs, teens are finding out the potential pleasures of over the counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. An estimated 16 million children in America over the age of 12 had taken some form of a prescription sedative, stimulant, tranquilizer or pain reliever for nonmedical purposes, a survey in 2009 revealed.

Some Hazardous Common Prescription Drugs Abused

Some of the common opioids or pain relievers abused include -

  • Vicodin
  • Oxycontin
  • Demerol
  • Lomotil
  • Opana.

Some central nervous system depressants abused include –

  • Nembutal
  • Valium
  • Xanax.

Stimulants are also used. The most common being –

  • Dexedrine
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Adderall.

Teens believe that using prescription drugs is the safest way to get high. This behavior is seen also in students that would not otherwise explore illegal drugs.

It’s also important to note that these figures don’t mean that drugs that are available OTC are not harmful when taken in very high dosages.

Addiction to Opioids, Depressants and Stimulants

When opioids are taken as prescribed for pain, they produce mild euphoria, and when administered under supervision for a short period of time, can improve the quality of lives for patients. However they are sometimes injected into the bloodstream or snorted to increase the euphoria.

CNS depressants, often used to treat insomnia, anxiety etc. can make the patient feel calmer during the days of initial usage. Eventually, the body needs larger doses for achieving calm, and can have harmful effects. Discontinuing with medication after a long time can cause life threatening withdrawal seizures and other conditions.

Stimulants, similarly, are used to treat a wide range of problems from asthma to ADD and narcolepsy. When they are taken in high doses, such as by crushing the pills for a high, they can cause addiction and continuing abuse.

Harmful Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

These drugs are easily accessible, and are often stolen from family and friends. They are easily accessible to children though online pharmacies as well.

Long term use of central nervous system depressants and opioids in particular can lead to physical dependence. Opioids specifically can produce constipation and drowsiness and depress breathing.

A single large dose of an OTC antidepressant can also lead to difficulties in breathing, and eventually, death. Abusing stimulants can lead to paranoia and hostility, and at the very worst, heart failure.

Depressants and pain killers also, no matter how small the dose is that they have taken, affect learning abilities and motor skills. If depressants are taken along with other drowsiness-causing drugs or with alcohol, they can slow down respiration and heart rate to a dangerous extent.

OTC remedies available for cough and cold are also often abused. They can lead to harmful effects such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, blurred vision, coma and sometimes even death. Many teens admit to mixing various OTC and prescription drugs and alcohol. A combination of these is deadly, and can result in failure of the respiratory system and even death.

Why Some People Are More Prone to Addiction than Others

Addiction risk is believed to be an influence of social environment, biology, and age. There can be genetic traits running in the family sometimes. Peers and the developmental stage of the individual can also affect addiction. The more the number of risk factors and individual has, the greater the risk of addiction.

Dangers Among Older Populations

However the dangers of prescription drugs lie not only for the teens. An estimated 2 million elderly Americans are believed to be taking a deadly combination of drugs such as gingko tablets and aspirin or cholesterol pills and blood thinners together. Older people, in particular, are more vulnerable to side effects and interactions between the drugs.

It is essential that in order to counter the problems of easy accessibility of prescription drugs, physicians strictly control the prescription of these drugs only when absolutely essential. Parents need to be aware of the possibilities of addiction with drugs in the medicine cabinet. In the eventuality of addiction to prescription and OTC drugs, the addict must be taken to de-addiction centers for rehabilitation.


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