Prescription Drugs FAQ

Will I become addicted to prescription drugs?

All prescription medications are subject to becoming addictive, sometimes only psychologically. Doctors are becoming more and more careful to make sure their patients do not become dependent. They work with patients to make sure that their symptoms are treated, but that they do not overuse medication. Taking them as prescribed for the shortest duration as possible is the key to avoiding addiction. When you are given a prescription, be sure to educate yourself about the medication. Read all the pamphlets that come with the prescription, ask questions of both your doctor and pharmacist. If you have further questions, many drug manufacturers have websites that will educate you further about the drugs you are taking. Always consult with your doctor before changing your prescription drug dosage.

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What drugs are dangerous to mix with prescription drugs?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This is dangerous with two of the classifications of drugs we discuss in this article. The first one is pain medication (opioid drugs). Because they interact with the CNS in much the same fashion, an overdose is easy with alcohol. Most people are not aware of how alcohols them until it is too late. Because it is absorbed so quickly into the bloodstream, it can have a fast reaction and the user’s heart can slow to the point that they go into cardiac arrest with little or no warning. This is one of the most common forms of both accidental and intentional overdoses.

The second drug that has a dangerous interaction with alcohol are the tranquilizers and muscle relaxers. Their method of operation on the CNS is that of a depressant as well. When the heart rate is slowed so severely by drugs and a person introduces another depressant, they may unknowingly stop their heart from beating altogether. This is the second most common method for accidental and intentional overdose.

Stimulant use with alcohol is dangerous because the heart is being sped up and slowed down at the same time, as are the rest of the vital systems in the body. This can cause the person to drink much more than is deemed safe and/or increase their drug use to offset the effects of the alcohol, again a deadly match.

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If your doctor prescribes them, why aren’t prescription drugs safe?

All medications have dangers, whether they are over-the-counter, prescribed by your doctor, or street narcotics. The Federal Drug Administration regulates the drugs prescribed and those who may prescribe. This does not mean that they are not safe. All drugs contain inherent risk for abuse, addiction and inappropriate use; this can happen to any person using these drugs, even as they are prescribed.

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Why are they so addictive?

This question applies more to the person taking the substance than the substance itself. Sometimes it can be more about what the substance does for that person than its inherent addictive properties. With medications that are known to be addictive, it is usually their function in the brain and central nervous system of the user that creates the addictive pattern for abuse and dependence. This is different for classes of drugs. Dependence upon anything is a matter of psychological dependence and physical dependence, usually operating together to make withdrawal uncomfortable and difficult. Then the drug is taken again to offset the symptoms, and the cycle continues. Stopping that cycle of drug use and abuse is hard.

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How can they be illegal if I get them from my doctor?

Prescription medication is completely legal, if it is taken only as prescribed. Many people will take more than prescribed, or take it more often than prescribed, sometimes taking medication that does not belong to them, or keeping a prescription medication and using it for something else later on. All of these practices are illegal use of these drugs.

Though they may not be caught and prosecuted, this behavior may begin a pattern of abuse of prescription medications that can escalate into more egregious crimes with these drugs. Since they are carefully manufactured and governed by numerous legal entities, prescription drug abuse is receiving more and more severe penalties.

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Why do so many celebrities overdose and die from prescription drugs?

Most celebrities who overdose on prescription drugs have most likely been taking large amounts of these drugs to begin with, so they are at a greater risk of ODing. They have reached a certain tolerance, so oftentimes, they will self-medicate, upping their dosage without the permission from their doctor. Also, most often mixed these drugs with either street drugs or alcohol, which can be a fatal combination. Sometimes they have used pain medications and benzodiazepines together, which causes them to slow their heart rate to dangerous levels, causing cardiac arrest. Different celebrities have been known to “shop” for doctors who did not carefully monitor their prescriptions with various other doctors and were able to obtain prescriptions that gave them access to deadly quantities of narcotics.

Once under the influence of pain killers and sedatives, it is easy to misjudge the amount of medication being taken. These cases are usually termed “accidental overdoses” because there is no intention to overdose on the part of the user.

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What is being done to prevent people from getting numerous prescriptions from different doctors?

Federal agencies overseeing drug manufacturing in the US and other countries have developed several programs to control this practice. Distribution is being more carefully monitored; prescriptions being used by each person are being monitored to avoid duplication of medications, as well as quantity being prescribed and possible drug interactions in new systems implemented where prescriptions are filled; doctors and pharmacists are being trained to recognize drug-seeking behaviors in their patients; and regulations are being created to govern new methods for detection of abuse and theft of all controlled substances.

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