Misuse of prescription drugs includes:
- taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed;
- taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain;
- or taking a medication to feel euphoria -to get high.
The abuse of prescription drugs has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Another worrying trend is that thousands of teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. Prescription drug abuse is STILL DRUG ABUSE.
People believe prescription drugs because a doctor prescribed them are harmless and not as bad as other illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. However, many prescription drugs fall in the same category as illegal drugs because of their potential for abuse and addiction. These include Ritalin and Dexedrine (stimulants) and the painkillers OxyContin, Demerol and Roxanol.
The highest abuse of prescription medicine is among women, the elderly and teens. The most abused drugs are painkillers, sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety medications.
What is a medicine schedule:
Pharmaceutical products worldwide get a number (for example, Schedule 6) based on their benefits and risks. Schedules range from schedule 0 to schedule 8.
What does the number mean?
The higher the risk of the product – the higher the number.
Why do medicines need to be scheduled?
Schedules aim to keep us safe and protect us from becoming addicted to the product, for example, codeine.
There are three main types of medicine schedules.
Unscheduled medicines have a schedule of 0 (S0 medicines).
You can buy them on the shelves at places like pharmacies, supermarkets, health shops or service stations.
Things like aspirin, vitamins and even some topical creams are considered schedule 0 medicines.
Over-the-counter medicines (or OTC medicines) are medicines that can be given to you over the counter without a prescription.
They have a schedule of 1 or a schedule of 2 (S1 and S2 medicines).
It means you can buy OTC medicines without a prescription – but
- they must be dispensed to you by a pharmacist
- The law requires a pharmacist to write down the name and quantity of any S1 & 2 products you buy.
Things like cold and flu remedies, antihistamines and anti-inflammatories are considered schedule 1 and 2 medicines.
These medicines are behind the counter because you should be consulting the pharmacist about the best treatment for your condition based on things like other medication you might be on, your weight and age, and other complicating factors. Remember, it is a pharmacists job to guide you.
In South Africa, any medicine classified as schedule 3 – 8 is a prescription medicine.
To get prescription medicine, you need a prescription from a doctor. The pharmacist should explain how to take medication — ask as many questions as you like and only leave when you’re sure you understand how to take medicine.
By law, you can only get a 6-month repeat prescription for schedule 3 and schedule 4 medicines.
Medicine with a high scheduling status (usually schedule 5 and above) is treated differently because of its habit-forming nature and potentially harmful side effects.
- Pharmacists keep a record of all sales.
- Repeat prescriptions are limited or not given.
- A doctor must renew a prescription that has lapsed.
Schedule 4: Anti-infectives, for example, antibiotics & anti-retro-virals / prescription only, available from the pharmacy dispensary. A doctor can renew a prescription for six months.
Schedule 5: Psycho-active medicines like sedatives & anti-depressants / Prescription only, available from the pharmacy dispensary, repeats stipulated.
Schedule 6: Narcotic painkillers/ Prescription only, available from the pharmacy dispensary.
Schedule 7: Drugs like cannabis & heroin / Controlled substances
Schedule 8: Amphetamine, dexamphetamine & Nabilone / Strictly controlled substances
Classification of often-abused prescription medicines
Dexedrine, Desoxyn, Ritalin, Preludin, Didrex, Plugin, Nuvigil, Tenuate, Fastin, Ionamin, Adipex, Ranorex, Mazanor, Provigil, Meridia
Short-term effects of opioids and morphine derivatives include:
· Slowed breathing
Long term effects
Long term use and abuse of opioids can result in physical dependence because the body adapts to the presence of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped.
These include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps (“cold turkey”). Tolerance can also occur, meaning that long-term users must increase their doses to achieve the same high.
Major tranquillisers: Haldol, Thorazine, Prolixin, Etrafon, Compazine
Minor tranquillisers: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan
Depressants: short-term effects
· Slow brain function
· Slowed pulse and breathing
· Lowered blood pressure
· Poor concentration
· Slurred speech
· Visual disturbances
· Dilated pupils
· Disorientation, lack of coordination
· Difficulty or inability to urinate
What is addiction?
Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease. It causes compulsive drug seeking and uses despite harmful consequences to the addicted person and the people around that person.
Drugs – even prescription drugs – can change the structure and function of the brain, causing addiction. It is not easy to recognise and diagnose addiction to prescription medicine. The afflicted person hides addiction symptoms well. They fear the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms should they discontinue use. A person addicted to a prescription medication becomes very irritable when the prescription runs out, much like an alcoholic with a depleted alcohol stash. Other symptoms are trouble sleeping and mood swings.
Signs of addictive behaviour could be:
· Frequent requests for refills from physicians
· Losing prescriptions and requesting replacements regularly
· Crushing or breaking pills
· Stealing or borrowing prescription medications from family members, friends, or co-workers
· Consuming prescriptions much faster than indicated
· Visiting multiple doctors for similar conditions
· Inconsistent answers to questions about prescription usage
· Stealing or forging prescriptions
· Consumption of over-the-counter drugs for the same conditions that a doctor has prescribed other medication
· Ordering prescription medications over the internet
Drug detection times
Please use these figures as a guide only:
Barbiturates: 2-4 days in urine and 1-2 days in blood
Benzodiazepines: 3-6 weeks in urine and 2-3 days in blood
Codeine: 1 day in urine and up to 12 hours in blood
Morphine: 2-3 days in urine and 6-8 hours in blood