Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Inc.

Health Topic of the Month - April

Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug AbuseApril 01 2013 - Press Release


Although prescription drugs can help, when not used properly, they can seriously harm.

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing provider, for example: taking a friend’s prescription to treat your backache or snorting pills to get high.

The non-medical use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications ranks second only to marijuana as the most common form of drug abuse in America. The majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get them from family and friends – and the home medicine cabinet.

The most common drugs being abused today include: painkillers (opioids), sedatives, anti-anxiety meds and stimulants. These medications can be potentially fatal and should not be used unless under the supervision of a medical provider. The latest research shows that taking opioid pain medications for chronic pain can change the brain, damaging its ability to feel pleasure and lead to a craving for more drugs. Some studies have found that long-term use can actually lead to increased back or neck pain, reports Health Digest.

What are some of the symptoms of drug abuse?

Opioids (Oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin):

  • constipation, depression, low blood pressure, confusion, decreased breathing rate, sweating, poor coordination

Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications (Xanax, Valium, Ambien):

  • drowsiness, confusion, unsteady walking, poor judgement, rapid eye movement, dizziness

Stimulants (Ritalin):

  • weight loss, agitation, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, restlessness, impulsive behavior

There are additional behaviors that may suggest medication abuse: continually “losing” prescriptions and asking for early refills, seeking prescriptions from more than one provider, and taking higher doses than prescribed.

Treatment for prescription drug abuse

If you think you, a friend or family member may have a problem with prescription drug use, please talk to your health care provider or suggest others do.  Health care providers are trained to help you, not judge you and may be able to help coordinate further care such as counseling, support groups (NA/AA), or medications to help with withdrawal symptoms and/or avoid future relapse. Not seeking help may result in other more serious health issues, or even death.

How can prescription drub aguse be prevented?

  • Have open lines of communication with your provider.
  • Make sure you’re getting the right medications for your health issue, keep appointments, follow dosing directions, and be aware of what your medications are for
  • Do not use medication prescribed for others. Much thought goes into appropriately prescribing medications for patients, like allergies or drug interactions. Bad outcomes often occur when drugs are taken by someone other than the person for whom it was prescribed.
  • Discuss the dangers of prescription medications with teens. Their meds are not to be shared and should be kept in a safe location where quantities can be monitored.

Dispose of prescription drugs properly

Dispose of all unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the proper manner. Unused prescription drugs thrown in the trash can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold.  Unused drugs that are flushed contaminate the water supply. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment so please dispose of drugs appropriately:

  • Take-back programs – National Take-Back Day Saturday, April 27th, 2013; locations can be found on the DEA website at “Got Drugs?”
  • Take meds out of the bottle, mix them with used kitty litter or coffee grounds, seal them in a bag and throw them away.
  • The Littleton Police Department now has a drug drop box located at the police station for the disposal of expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications that is available to the public Monday through Friday from 8am-6pm.

Check out the websites listed below for more information...

This report was compiled by Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Inc. (ACHS) clinical staff for informational purposes, and does not replace any advice one might receive from a qualified health care provider.

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