People often forget that common prescription and over-the-counter medications can affect their brains and bodies. For example, many drugs have warning labels about the possible effects of drowsiness or dizziness. So people who use them and then drive cause thousands of car crashes each year. In addition, drugs may blur vision, change depth perception, cause hallucinations, raise or lower blood pressure, and cause one to react too quickly or slowly. Having these effects is especially dangerous when you’re behind the wheel.
You are responsible for knowing the effects of medication you take. You can get a DUI even if you were under the influence of cough syrup, so consider that before you drive. Talk to your doctor and know the risks to others and yourself while you’re on the road if you take the following medications
- Antianxiety medication
- Narcotic pain medications
- Allergy medicines
- Blood sugar medicines
- Blood pressure medicines
- Motion sickness medications
- Ulcer medications
- Antiseizure medicines
- Antinausea medicine
- Cough syrups
- Alcohol-containing medicines
- Caffeine-containing medicines
Remember, combining alcohol with other drugs hugely increases the effects that either drug would have on its own. Don’t mix alcohol, drugs, and driving. It’s a fatal mistake.
- Short-term effects: Relaxation, indifference to emotional or physical pain, drowsiness, constipation, slow breathing, and death.
- Long-term effects: Highly addictive. As the body builds up tolerance for the drug, more is needed to maintain the desired feeling. Withdrawals can be long and physically painful. Combining opioids with alcohol and other drugs can lead to death from respiratory failure.
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants
- Short-term effects: Slows normal brain functions, gives a drowsy feeling, but over time the effects fade as body builds tolerance.
- Long-term effects: Addiction can result, withdrawal can be painful, and the drug may cause seizures and death. Mixing these depressants with alcohol or other drugs can kill you.
- Short-term effects: Alertness, focus, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, increased blood pressure and heart rate, high body temperature.
- Long-term effects: Addiction, paranoia and long-term insomnia, extreme weight change.
Long-Term Health Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse
There are a number of different kinds of prescription drugs that are highly addictive and have the potential for abuse. These include opiate painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, hydrocodone), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Vicodin), and stimulants (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin). All of these drugs can be abused even by patients who have a legitimate prescription for their use and, over time, this can lead to a number of long-term health risks. Each drug class comes with its own set of risks, but across the board, long-term users of prescription drugs will risk health problems that include:
- Organ damage and failure, especially to the kidneys and liver
- Tolerance to the medication characterized by needing more and more of the drug to experience its effects which leads to physical dependence
- Psychological addiction and cravings
- Withdrawal symptomswhen without the drug
- Increased mental health symptoms like paranoia and depression
- Decreased cognitive function
If your teen is abusing prescription drugs of any kind, you can help him avoid the long-term health risks associated with chronic abuse of these medications when you enroll him in a comprehensive drug addiction treatment program that offers teen-specific care. Contact us at Muir Wood today and learn more about the types of treatment that will have a positive impact on your child.
Long-Term Effects of Opiate Painkillers
Often prescribed to treat chronic pain, acute pain experienced after an injury or surgery, or cough (e.g., codeine cough syrup), opiate painkillers are the most commonly abused types of prescription drugs. Teens have easy access to these medications because they are so often prescribed – and over-prescribed – to adults, a practice that often results in “leftover” pills that are frequently stored in the medicine cabinet at home. Unfortunately, the short-term risks of use include overdose, especially when combined with alcohol, and long-term health risks include:
- Respiratory failure
- Intense withdrawal symptoms
Long-Term Effects of Central Nervous System Depressants
Termed “central nervous depressants,” these medications work by slowing down the brain’s normal activity. They are often prescribed to patients who are unable to control rapid brain activity and experience anxiety, insomnia, seizures or panic attacks as a result. Included in this classification of prescription drugs are barbiturates (e.g., mephobarbital and sodium pentobarbital), benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium and Xanax), and sleep medications (e.g., Ambien and Lunesta). Deadly when abused or taken in large doses, they are also extremely dangerous when combined with other drugs, including alcohol.
Some of the dangerous long-term health risks that those who abuse these medications should be concerned about include:
- Brain damage that affects motor function
- Loss of cognitive function
Long-Term Effects of Stimulants
Dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate are both commonly prescribed to teens who struggle with ADHD. In children, these medications provide a calming effect and aid in focus, but in adults, these medications have a stimulant effect that can be addictive and even deadly. Long-term use of the medication can cause health problems that include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Dehydration as well as a slew of related health problems
- Chronic insomnia
Ongoing Risk of Overdose and Death
Many people are under the mistaken impression that those who are new to the use of prescription drugs are the most likely to experience an overdose or to die as a result of their drug use because they are unfamiliar with the medication and unsure what they’re body can handle. While it is true that those who take any prescription medications for the first time without the guidance of a doctor are at risk of overdose if they take too much, chronic abusers of prescription medication are also at high risk of dying due to their use of the drug.
When ongoing drug use is a problem, body chemistry changes from day to day and yesterday’s “normal” dose may be overwhelming today. Furthermore, the addition of other drugs makes the equation even less stable, and when under the influence, many teens incorrectly calculate the time between doses, which means they have more in their body than is
notice prescription drug abuse by spotting false or altered prescription forms or multiple prescriptions for controlled substances from different doctors.