During my 3rd visit to the 7th grade, I talked about prescription drugs and prescription drug abuse. We live in a culture where all sorts of pills are available to any person that asks for them, and many of our homes are filled with all sorts of medications that could be dangerous if used improperly. Its important that kids understand that improperly using prescription drugs is every bit as dangerous as using any of the illegal street drugs out there. The difference between prescription painkillers (opiates like Oxycontin, Fentanyl and Vicodin) and illegal drugs like heroin is very slight. People that abuse prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are not dissimilar to someone abusing methamphetamine.
- Medical experts identify the dangers of taking any medicines not specifically prescribed for you. They compare the abuse level to that of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, and note that this new addiction has evolved quite rapidly.
- Prescription drugs are defined as drugs manufactured to treat an illness or pain that are prescribed by a doctor and used by a patient under a doctor’s care. The most commonly abused prescription drugs come from these categories:
- Opiates (e.g., Vicodin®, Percocet®) are time-released drugs that block pain receptors in the brain. When crushed, they are as potent as heroin.
- Benzodiazepines (e.g., sleep aids and anti-anxiety pills like Xanax® and Valium®): “The kids use it for any excuse… ‘I broke up with my boyfriend, I flunked a test… I think I’ll take a Xanax®,’” Narcotics Educator Thomas Janette says of the many reasons these drugs are taken and abused by teens. These drugs are dangerous enough abused on their own, and are downright deadly when combined with other drugs.
- CNS Stimulants (e.g., Ritalin®) are used to combat narcolepsy and ADHD by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS), but can be abused in the same manner as methamphetamine and other illegal stimulants.
- We discuss drug tolerance or how the effects of the drug gradually weakens the more a person uses the drug. If they are addicted or abusing the drug (trying to get high), they need to increase the amount of the drug they use to get the feeling they want. As the amount increases, so does the danger of an overdose.
- We discuss drug withdrawal, and how all drugs that people use to get high may potentially make them feel sick and/or depressed when they stop using the drug. The withdrawal prevents the user from quitting and helps motivate continued use.
- We also talk about the danger of mixing drugs of any kind and how drug mixing can exponentially increase the danger of using.