What Are Prescription Medications and How Are They Used and Misused?
Prescription medications include opioids, sedatives, stimulants, prescription and over-the-counter cold and cough medicine.
Opioids are a class of prescription medicines generally used to relieve pain by reducing the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain, creating a sense of well-being by reducing tension, anxiety and aggression. The main ingredient of prescription pain relievers is derived from the opium poppy plant, which is also the main ingredient in heroin. Because of the highly addictive nature of opioids, people can quite easily become dependent on the medicine and turn to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative. Opioids can be swallowed, snorted or smoked as a powder, through a patch, or injected.
OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet, Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Lomotil, Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin, Duragesic, Darvon, Dilaudid, Demerol
Aunti Emm, Big O, God’s Medicine, Happy Pills, Hilbilly heroin, Midnight Oil, Mira, Oxy, OC, Oxycotton, Percs, Vikes, Vikings
Sedatives, also referred to as depressants, suppress your central nervous system activity and make you tired, calm and lose inhibitions. These drugs are often prescribed to help people with anxiety, sleep disorders or seizures. There are two major types of sedatives known as barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Medically, barbiturates (a.k.a. sleeping pills) are prescribed for acute anxiety, tension and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines (a.k.a. tranquilizers) are prescribed for anxiety, acute stress reactions and panic attacks. Most of these drugs are used legitimately for pain relief, as anesthesia, or in the treatment of psychological issues. When misused, tolerance and dependence can result in seizures and overdose, especially when paired with alcohol or other prescription drugs. Sedatives can be swallowed or injected.
Valium, Librium, Xanax, Halcion, ProSom, Nembutal, Quaalude, Seconal
Bennies, Benzos, Downers, Sleeping pills, Footballs, Candy, Xannies, Xanbars
A stimulant is a drug that excites your central nervous system, resulting in a rise in alertness, attention, energy, elevated blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Stimulants are most commonly prescribed to people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to help settle their brains and allow them to focus. For those who don’t have medical conditions that warrant these drugs, stimulants often have the opposite effect, including increased energy, exhilaration and the inability to sleep. Despite their hype as “study drugs,” increasing evidence shows that misusing stimulants is associated with lower odds of obtaining a college degree. They can also cause anxiety, depression, irritability, suicidal ideation and extreme loss of appetite. Stimulants are also highly addictive as dependence and painful withdrawals are common. Stimulants can be swallowed, snorted as powder, or injected.
Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Concerta
Cat, Crank, Flake, Pellets, R-Ball, Skippy, Snow, Speed, Study drugs, Uppers, Vitamin R
Prescription and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines
Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines include cough syrups and capsules containing dextromethorphan (DXM). These OTC cough medicines are safe for stopping coughs during a cold if you take them as directed. Taking more than the recommended amount can produce euphoria (a relaxed pleasurable feeling) but also dissociative (like you are detached from your body) or even hallucinogenic (distorted perceptions of reality) effects. Misuse can result in loss of coordination, numbness, stomachaches, increased heart rate and lack of oxygen in rare cases causing permanent brain damage. Promethazine-codeine cough syrup contains the opioid codeine, which stops coughs, but when taken in higher doses produces a euphoric, calming feeling. It also can slow heart and breathing rates to dangerously low, even deadly, levels.
Alka Seltzer Plus™, Comtrex™, Coricidin™, Delsym™, Dimetapp™, Mucinex DM™, Pediacare™, Robitussin™, Theraflu™, Triaminic™, Tylenol Cough & Cold™, Vicks DayQuil™/NyQuil™, Vicks Formula 44™ and many more.
Candy, Dex, Drank, Lean, Robo, Robotripping, Skittles, Triple C, Tussin, Velvet
Speak Now With Your Kids About the Dangers of Misusing Prescription Drugs
In addition to talking with your child about alcohol, marijuana, and other illegal drugs, it’s also important to talk with them about the dangers of taking medications not prescribed for them. Whether it’s an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicine, labels provide important instructions on how much and when is appropriate for whom, based on age or size/weight. Point these important pieces out or ask your child to find them on the bottle themselves to determine how much and how often is right for them. There are organizations in Colorado whose mission is to focus on the prevention of youth substance misuse and addiction. To learn more about our partner that empowers youth to make healthy choices click here.
Speak Now to Your Child's Doctor and Pharmacist About Prescription Drugs
Doctors, psychiatrists and pharmacists are experts when it comes to their medical, psychological or pharmacological specialties. However, you are the expert about your child’s history and family history, their strengths and challenges. It’s important to actively participate in any conversation about your child’s health, particularly if it involves taking medication. We know that a large proportion of teens who misuse prescription opioids first used opioids for medical reasons prescribed by a doctor. It is extremely important to engage in a conversation about the medicine your healthcare providers suggest for your child.
Keep Your Home Safe: Storage and Disposal
Lock medicines in a secure location. With young children, keeping all medicine out of reach is essential to prevent unintentional drug poisoning. As children get older, medicine should continue to be kept in a secure location. Many pharmacies sell a variety of lock boxes that adapt to your specific needs (e.g. for the refrigerator, portable, big or small).
Monitor your medicine supply. Know what and how much you have so you will notice if any is missing. Keeping all medicines in one place makes tracking easier.
Talk with friends and family about their safe storage practices. The majority of misuse includes obtaining drugs from a friend or relative’s medicine cabinet.
Dispose of medications safely. Take Meds Seriously offers safe drop off locations across Colorado in order to prevent misuse and to protect our environment and wildlife. Disposing of unused or expired medications in a timely and safe manner is doing your small part for addiction prevention. It takes a village.
Be aware of medicine’s role in suicide. In Colorado from 2004-2015, the third most common method for suicide completions among 10-24 year olds was poisoning. For suicide attempts among youth and young adults in Colorado from 2010-14, drug overdose/poisoning is the most common method. These statistics underscore the importance of safe storage and disposal to prevent a variety of types of injuries, including death.