Prescription Drug Use & Abuse

In addition to amphetamines, opioids (oxycodone, morphine) depressants and anti-depressants are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. According to The Foundation for a Drug-free World, depressants, opioids and antidepressants are responsible for more overdose deaths (45%) than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamines (39%) combined.


Opioids, such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine are made from the naturally occurring drug in the poppy plant and are traditionally prescribed to relieve severe pain. Opioids bind to receptors in the body and reduce feelings of physical and emotional pain.

Signs & Effects of Opioid Use

  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constipation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Nausea
  • Coma

Prescription Depressants

Prescription depressants (“downers”) include benzodiazepines, barbiturates or other sleep medications and are traditionally prescribed to reduce anxiety, for sleep disorders or for seizure disorders.

Signs & Effects of Depressant Use

  • Slow brain function
  • Slowed pulse and breathing
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Long term use can cause depression & chronic fatigue

Prescription Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed for moderate to severe depression or anxiety. Most antidepressants work by preventing the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in more of these chemicals in the brain.

Teens who find relief from taking an unprescribed antidepressant might be tempted to self-diagnose and assume the drug is safe for them. But it’s vitally important to see a counselor or doctor if you think you may suffer from anxiety or depression. Drugs don’t do it alone – antidepressants are often taken in conjunction with counseling and other efforts to relieve depression.

The Difference Between Prescription Drug Dependency & Addiction

Our bodies naturally build up a tolerance to prescription drugs and even legitimate prescription drug users may find themselves dependent on the drug, meaning that symptoms of withdrawal occur if they stop taking it. Therefore, medical community distinguishes between people with drug dependency and those with prescription drug addiction. Prescription drug addicts show a psychological need for the drug, beyond preventing physical withdrawal symptoms. An addict may go to great (and illegal) measures to get his hands on the drug.

Prescription drug use becomes abuse any time it is taken outside of the instructions of a doctor, whether that’s taking a drug that isn’t prescribed or taking more than is prescribed. Teens who abuse prescription drugs often finding them in their household medicine cabinet.

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