Perscription Drugs

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

Due to their potential for abuse and addiction, many prescription drugs have been categorised by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in the same category as opium or cocaine. These include Ritalin and Dexedrine (stimulants), and the painkillers OxyContin, Demerol and Roxanol.

Many illegal street drugs were at one time used or prescribed by doctors or psychiatrists but were later banned when the evidence of their harmful effects could no longer be ignored. Examples are heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

Abuse of prescription drugs can be even riskier than the abuse of illegally manufactured drugs. The high potency of some of the synthetic (man-made) drugs available as prescription drugs creates a high overdose risk. This is particularly true of OxyContin and similar painkillers, where overdose deaths more than doubled over a five-year period.

Many people don’t realise that distributing or selling prescription drugs (other than by a doctor) is a form of drug dealing and as illegal as selling heroin or cocaine, with costly fines and jail time. When the drug dealing results in death or serious bodily injury, dealers can face life imprisonment.

TYPES OF ABUSED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

Prescription drugs that are taken for recreational use include the following major categories:

\1. Depressants: Often referred to as central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) depressants, these drugs slow brain function. They include sedatives (used to make a person calm and drowsy) and tranquillisers (intended to reduce tension or anxiety).

\2. Opioids and morphine derivatives:1 Generally referred to as painkillers, these drugs contain opium or opium-like substances and are used to relieve pain.

\3. Stimulants: A class of drugs intended to increase energy and alertness but which also increase blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.

\4. Antidepressants: Psychiatric drugs that are supposed to handle depression.


\1. derivative: a chemical substance formed from a related substance.

DEPRESSANTS

DepressantsSometimes called “downers,” these drugs come in multicoloured tablets and capsules or in liquid form. Some drugs in this category, such as Zyprexa, Seroquel and Haldol, are known as “major tranquillisers” or “antipsychotics,” as they are supposed to reduce the symptoms of mental illness. Depressants such as Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion and Librium are often referred to as “benzos” (short for benzodiazepines1). Other depressants, such as Amytal, Numbutal and Seconal, are classed as barbiturates—drugs that are used as sedatives and sleeping pills. Some of the well-known brand and street names can be found here.

DEPRESSANTS: SHORT-TERM EFFECTS

  • Slow brain function
  • Slowed pulse and breathing
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue2
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disorientation, lack of coordination
  • Depression
  • Difficulty or inability to urinate
  • Addiction

Higher doses can cause impairment of memory, judgment and coordination, irritability, paranoia,3 and suicidal thoughts. Some people experience the opposite of the intended effect, such as agitation or aggression.

Using sedatives (drugs used to calm or soothe) and tranquillisers with other substances, particularly alcohol, can slow breathing and the heart rate and even lead to death.

DEPRESSANTS: LONG-TERM EFFECTS

Tolerance to many depressants can develop rapidly, with larger doses needed to achieve the same effect. The user, trying to reach the same high, may raise the dose to a level that results in coma or death by overdose.

Long-term use of depressants can produce depression, chronic fatigue, breathing difficulties, sexual problems and sleep problems. As a dependency on the drug increases, cravings, anxiety or panic are common if the user is unable to get more.

Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, weakness and nausea. For continual and high-dose users, agitation, high body temperature, delirium, hallucinations and convulsions can occur. Unlike withdrawal from most drugs, withdrawal from depressants can be life-threatening.

These drugs can also increase the risk of high blood sugar, diabetes, and weight gain (instances of up to 100 pounds have been reported).

In a study conducted by USA Today, based on Food and Drug Administration data over a four-year period, antipsychotics (a type of depressant) were the prime suspects in forty-five deaths caused by heart problems, choking, liver failure and suicide.

“I have overdosed twice off of prescription pills (Zyprexa) and had a close friend die of the same drug....There is no worse feeling than knowing that your friend is dead because you gave him pills you knew relatively little about.” —Linda

  1. benzodiazepine: a tranquillizer that acts to relax muscles and calm mental excitement.

  2. fatigue: extreme physical or mental tiredness.

  3. paranoia: suspicion, distrust or fear of other people.

KETAMINE

Ketamine, categorised as a “dissociative anaesthetic,”1 is used in powdered or liquid form as an anaesthetic, usually on animals. It can be injected, consumed in drinks, snorted, or added to joints or cigarettes. Ketamine was placed on the list of controlled substances in the US in 1999.

Short- and long-term effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, numbness, depression, amnesia, hallucinations and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Ketamine users can also develop cravings for the drug. At high doses, users experience an effect referred to as “K-Hole,” an “out of body” or “near-death” experience.

Due to the detached, dreamlike state it creates, where the user finds it difficult to move, ketamine has been used as a “date-rape” drug.


  1. dissociative anaesthetic: a drug that distorts perception of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment (dissociation) from the environment and self.

OPIOIDS AND MORPHINE DERIVATIVES

Opioids morphine effectsOpioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Continued use and abuse can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. They come in tablets, capsules or liquid.

Some of the well-known brand and street names:

STREET NAMES BRAND NAMES

  • Fiorional with Codeine

  • Robitussin A-C

  • Tylenol with Codeine

  • Empirin with Codeine

  • Roxanol

  • Duramorph

  • Demerol

  • STREET NAMES

  • Captain Cody

  • Cody

  • Schoolboy

  • Doors & Fours

  • Pancakes & Syrup

  • Loads

  • M

  • Miss Emma

  • Monkey

  • White Stuff

  • Demmies

  • Pain killer

BRAND NAMES

  • Actiq

  • Duragesic

  • Sublimaze

  • OxyContin

  • Percodan

  • Percocet

  • Tylox

  • Dilaudid

STREET NAMES

  • Apache

  • China girl

  • Dance fever

  • Goodfella

  • Murder 8

  • Tango and Cash

  • China white

  • Friend

  • Jackpot

  • TNT

  • Oxy 80

  • Oxycat

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

Due to their potential for abuse and addiction, many prescription drugs have been categorised by the US Drug Enforcement Administration in the same category as opium or cocaine. These include Ritalin and Dexedrine (stimulants), and the painkillers OxyContin, Demerol and Roxanol.

Many illegal street drugs were at one time used or prescribed by doctors or psychiatrists but were later banned when the evidence of their harmful effects could no longer be ignored. Examples are heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

Abuse of prescription drugs can be even riskier than the abuse of illegally manufactured drugs. The high potency of some of the synthetic (man-made) drugs available as prescription drugs creates a high overdose risk. This is particularly true of OxyContin and similar painkillers, where overdose deaths more than doubled over a five-year period.

Many people don’t realise that distributing or selling prescription drugs (other than by a doctor) is a form of drug dealing and as illegal as selling heroin or cocaine, with costly fines and jail time. When the drug dealing results in death or serious bodily injury, dealers can face life imprisonment.

TYPES OF ABUSED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

Prescription drugs that are taken for recreational use include the following major categories:

  1. Depressants: Often referred to as central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) depressants, these drugs slow brain function. They include sedatives (used to make a person calm and drowsy) and tranquillisers (intended to reduce tension or anxiety).

  2. Opioids and morphine derivatives:1 Generally referred to as painkillers, these drugs contain opium or opium-like substances and are used to relieve pain.

  3. Stimulants: A class of drugs intended to increase energy and alertness but which also increase blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.

  4. Antidepressants: Psychiatric drugs that are supposed to handle depression.


  1. derivative: a chemical substance formed from a related substance.

STIMULANTS

Stimulants, sometimes called “uppers,” temporarily increase alertness and energy. The most commonly used street drugs that fall into this category are cocaine and amphetamines.

Prescription stimulants come in tablets or capsules. When abused, they are swallowed, injected in liquid form or crushed and snorted.

SHORT-TERM EFFECTS

The short-term effects of stimulants include exhaustion, apathy and depression—the “down” that follows the “up.” It is this immediate and lasting exhaustion that quickly leads the stimulant user to want the drug again. Soon he is not trying to get “high,” he is only trying to get “well”—to feel any energy at all.

LONG-TERM EFFECTS

Stimulants can be addictive. Repeated high doses of some stimulants over a short period can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia. Such doses may also result in dangerously high body temperatures and an irregular heartbeat.

For more information about the abuse of prescription stimulants, see The Truth About Ritalin Abuse.

STREET NAMES AND BRAND NAMES

  • Ritalin

  • Concerta

  • Biphetamine

  • Dexedrine

  • STREET NAMES

  • R-ball

  • Skippy

  • The smart drug

  • Vitamin R

  • JIF

  • Kibbles and bits

  • Speed

  • Truck drivers

  • Bennies

  • Black beauties

  • Crosses

  • Hearts

  • LA turnaround

  • Uppers

INTERNATIONAL STATISTICS

Every day in the US, 2,500 youth (12 to 17) abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time.

Prescription drug abuse, while most prevalent in the US, is a problem in many areas around the world including Europe, Southern Africa and South Asia. In the US alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs, more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin.

In 2006 in the United States, 2.6 million people abused prescription drugs for the first time.

A 2007 survey in the US found that 3.3% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 6% of 17- to 25-year-olds had abused prescription drugs in the past month.

Prescription drug abuse causes the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdosing. Of the 22,400 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2005, opioid painkillers were the most commonly found drug, accounting for 38.2% of these deaths.

In 2005, 4.4 million teenagers (aged 12 to 17) in the US admitted to taking prescription painkillers, and 2.3 million took a prescription stimulant such as Ritalin. 2.2 million abused over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup. The average age for first-time users is now 13 to 14.

CAUSE OF DEATHS

Prescription Drugs 45%

Street Drugs Combined: 39% (Amphetamine + Heroin + Methamphetamine + Cocaine)

Depressants, opioids and antidepressants are responsible for more overdose deaths (45%) than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamines (39%) combined. In the United States, the most deaths used to take place in inner cities in African-American neighbourhoods, but they have now been overtaken by white rural communities. The same trend can be seen in the rates of hospitalisation for substance abuse and emergency hospitalisation for overdoses. Of the 1.4 million drug-related emergency room admissions in 2005, 598,542 were associated with abuse of pharmaceuticals alone or with other drugs.

By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs—60% to 70% say that home medicine cabinets are their source of drugs.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teens who abuse prescription drugs are twice as likely to use alcohol, five times more likely to use marijuana, and twelve to twenty times more likely to use illegal street drugs such as heroin, Ecstasy and cocaine than teens who do not abuse prescription drugs.

In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people that year in the US. It is thirty to fifty times more powerful than heroin.

“I realised I was using more Xanax on a regular basis. I took time off work to get off it. Without the knowledge I was addicted, I went ‘cold turkey.’ For four days and nights I was bedridden. I didn’t sleep or eat. I vomited. I had hallucinations. On about the third day without Xanax I started to become uncoordinated and unbalanced and bumped into things. On about the fourth day I became really worried when I started having twitching sensations.” —Patricia

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