Rx Drug Abuse: Common and Dangerous
What are the most abused prescription drugs, and what are the risks?
Teens and Prescription Drug Abuse continued...
"As people try these substances, some of them will find that they really
like them," he says. "They take more of them and they continue to take
them, even when they no longer want to. And that's the hallmark of addiction.
It creeps up on people in very subtle and unexpected ways. No one starts out
taking a drug, saying, 'I want to be an addict.'"
Besides addiction, prescription drug abuse can bring on a host of health
problems, such as irregular heartbeats, seizures, hostility, and paranoia --
even infections with HIV or other agents if someone dissolves and injects pills
to get a quick high. Overdoses can be fatal. To combat the potential for abuse,
some drug companies have marketed newer, timed-release versions that are harder
It's important to remember that most people can reap benefits from
prescription drugs without problems. But a minority will run into trouble.
"Using these substances outside of a doctor's prescription is already a red
flag and a warning," Compton says.
Which drugs are commonly abused? Who's most susceptible? How could they be
endangering their health? Here's the rundown.
These drugs, which include Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall, are often
prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). By enhancing
brain activity, stimulants increase one's attention, alertness, and energy.
Typically, high school and college students abuse these drugs for different
reasons, "both for what I consider typical drug abuse reasons, for its
intoxicating or inebriating qualities, to feel good or feel high," Compton
says. "But they're also taking it as a performance-enhancing substance to
increase their ability to stay up late and to work and concentrate."
Not only are these older students abusing stimulants, so are junior high
students, Compton adds. The rates are much higher in high school and college,
he says. "But even in the younger group, we see significant abuse."
According to the NIDA, health risks include: addiction and elevated blood
pressure, heart rate, and respiration. In high doses, stimulants can cause
irregular heartbeats and dangerously high body temperature, heart failure, or
deadly seizures. Some stimulants can also cause hostility or paranoia.