Know Your Drugs

Know your drugs.Someone is misusing a prescription medication if they:

  • take a medication that is prescribed to them differently or
  • at a higher dose than is recommended by their healthcare professional to alleviate symptoms or
  • try to self-medicate with someone else’s medication

College students report misuse of prescription medications to:

  • improve their grades
  • concentrate more in class and maintain focus during late-night study sessions and all-nighters
  • diet
  • reduce stress
  • feel good/get high
  • ease nervousness in social scene / partying
  • enhance athletic performance
  • forget about problems

Steps can be taken to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs, including only taking the medication as directed, keeping the medication in a safe, dry, and secure place, and not sharing such medications with anyone, regardless of the reason.

Side Effects of Narcotics:

Restlessness, nausea, dizziness, confusion, respiratory depression, scars caused by injections, loss of appetite, cough, lethargy, tolerance, addiction, unconsciousness, withdrawal effects, watery eyes, runny nose, cramps, loss of appetite, irritability, tremors, panic, chills, sweating

Narcotics overdose:

Slow, shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, respiratory depression and arrest, coma, death

Side Effects of Depressants:

Intoxication similar to alcohol, slurred speech, impaired memory and judgment, loss of motor coordination, respiratory depression, staggering or stumbling, lack of coordination, falling asleep, difficulty concentrating, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, lowered blood pressure, confusion, addiction, withdrawal effects, anxiety, insomnia, muscle tremors, loss of appetite, convulsions, delirium, death

Depressants overdose:

Shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, respiratory depression and arrest, coma, death

Side Effects of Stimulants:

Increased heart and respiratory rates, rapid or irregular heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, decreased appetite, loss of coordination, collapse, unhealthy weight loss, perspiration, blurred vision, irritability, argumentativeness, nervousness, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, long periods of sleeping or eating, dizziness, insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, delusions, overdose

All prescription drugs have side effects that can only be managed by a doctor. The risk of adverse consequences increases when prescription drugs are taken with alcohol and other drugs. Those who take painkillers or central nervous system (CNS) depressants for long periods of time develop a tolerance to the drugs, leading to increased frequency of use and the need to take larger doses to achieve the same effect. Students who stop taking painkillers or CNS depressants can experience withdrawal. Withdrawal from CNS depressants can cause life-threatening consequences. Those who take large doses of prescription painkillers or CNS depressants or mix them with other substances, such as alcohol, risk respiratory depression and death.

Sources: Above the Influence; Taking Action to Prevent and Address Prescription Drug Abuse