Prescription medication and manufactured street drugs have quite a bit in common. Both involve humans concocting mixtures from chemicals which can be fatal in large doses. Both involve a myriad of ingredients, many of which users have no idea about. Most people who take either type of drug are not highly educated about why the drug does what it does. They are just wanting the positive effects of it.
Even more in common is the fact that many illegal drugs were once legal. Cocaine was invented by doctors, and was prescribed for everything from fatigue to anesthesia. When its addictive properties became apparent, cocaine was replaced by amphetamine prescriptions. According to the latest survey, at least 16 million people in the United States are abusing these modern stimulant prescriptions during any given year.
Heroin, too, was an invention of doctors. Heroin was introduced as a remedy for morphine addiction, which had arisen after scientists had created morphine through separating out the chemical products of the poppy plant. Prescribing the opiates from the poppy plant had resulted in an addiction crisis, and morphine was introduced as an alternative. The fact that we are currently in the grips of a prescription opioid addiction crisis seems quite ironic, in light of 300 years of the medical community’s efforts to get away from it.
Beginning in the 1980’s, pharmaceutical companies were set loose on the media marketing world. Long commercials depicting happy people living fulfilling lives became the gimmick to sell the drug. If you have ever watched all the way through, you will notice a person with the skills of an auctioneer speaking at the end of the commercial. This voice is listing all of the discovered, potential, side effects associated with the particular medication. Some of the side effects even sound very much like the condition which the drugs are supposed to be fixing.
Prescription drugs are removed from the market – or more tightly regulated – following enough complaints from consumers about experiencing these side effects. In spite of this, they often come back after being repackaged, or after lying low for awhile. The drugs are also often prescribed off-label, meaning that their original – and FDA approved – purposes are being exploited. This sounds quite a bit like how street drugs operate.
Unless you are one of the lucky few who have a quality relationship with your health team, chances are good that you spend no more than 15 minutes at an appointment with your prescribing doctor. The internet has become a very valuable resource for people who are wanting to become more involved in their treatments. Formerly, the lists of side effects for a particular drug had to come from the mouths of the nurses or doctors, or had be be read off of the long list of fine print handed to us by our pharmacist. Now, simply typing the name of the drug you are taking into a browser can bring up the risks that come with taking a particular pharmaceutical.
It is very important that your prescribing doctor be made aware of any other medications or substances that you are putting into your body over the course of taking the prescribed medication. Some mixtures of chemicals can be extremely harmful, or even deadly. At best, the influence of another chemical can render the effects of the currently prescribed medication useless.
Many warning labels on prescribed medications specify that you are not to drink alcohol while taking them, as the result can be an increased level of intoxication. Taking multiple depressant-type drugs can result in being overly sedated, and taking multiple stimulant drugs can result in developing a psychosis. Mixing uppers and downers can confuse the body, and can result in an emergency room visit, or worse.
Prescription medications are often filled with inactive ingredients that are notorious for causing allergic reactions. Peanut oil, gluten, and chemical dyes are all associated with allergies ranging from rash to anaphylactic shock, and all are found with pharmaceuticals. These types of ingredients are meant to improve shelf life, aid in digestion, or disguise a bad taste, and are not intended to have any overtly medical effects. As those who have gone to the hospital over allergic reactions to prescription medications can attest, intentions don’t pay the medical bills.
Dependence and Addiction
As noted at the outset of this article, prescription drugs contain many of the chemicals which are also present in illicit drugs. Illicit drugs are notorious for their capacity to cause both physical, and mental, addiction for the user. It is becoming apparent that prescribed drugs need to be approached with a similar amount of caution.
During physical dependence, the body begins to rely upon whatever function the drug is performing. In the case of stimulants, the brain learns that it can wait for the dosage to come and activate the chemicals needed for inspiration and focus. With depressants, the brain learns to rely on the medication for releasing the chemicals needed to relax. The pharmaceuticals allow the brain to become lazy, and it eventually stops striving, on its own, to produce the chemicals that are needed for optimal functioning. When the drug is removed, the brain doesn’t know what to do.
Addiction is often associated with dependence. The negative experience of having a brain which doesn’t produce enough of its own chemicals can encourage a person to obtain more of the drug, and even at the expense of spending energy on other activities and obligations. Regaining the feelings which the drugs produce becomes the sole quest, and the addict begins to suffer consequences from neglecting other areas of life development. Drug addiction – whether the drugs are from illegal or legal sources – destroys lives.
As horrible as the experience of side effects, drug interactions, allergic reactions – and even addiction – can be, overdosing on prescription drugs is the consequence most feared. Statistics show that over 60 people die, daily, from an overdose of prescription medication. This number accounts for over half of all drug related deaths, meaning that illegal drugs are not the main culprit in drug-related deaths.