Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies must be treated with respect.
Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
Prescription medications might be in your home—on your counter, in your medicine cabinet or at your bedside. They can be life-saving, but if they are used the wrong way they can be deadly. Use them only as directed and safely dispose of old or unused medications.
Opioid pain relievers
These powerful medications are intended for severe pain. Opioid drugs come as pills, capsules, liquids, or suppositories. Users might also smoke, snort, crush or inject them to feel a more intense high faster.
A report from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network reveals that between 2006 and 2010, 70 people died from opioid overdose in the Regional Municipality of Sudbury. This compares to 475 deaths in Toronto, which has a population about 20 times the size of Sudbury’s.
Using prescription opioids is legal, but only when they are prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner and are used by the person to whom they are prescribed. Penalties for the illegal possession and distribution of prescription opioids include fines, imprisonment or both.
Examples of opioid drugs:
Misuse of opioids
When abused, opioids can create feelings of intense pleasure or euphoria. However, these drugs carry the risk of addiction because of their powerful effects.
Tolerance for these drugs can develop quickly. A person using these medications will need more of the drug to achieve the effect, leading to addiction, physical, social and legal problems. This can also lead to overdose and death.
Physical dependence can also develop meaning that if a person stops using the drug suddenly they can experience unpleasant side effects including strong cravings, sweating, muscle aches and insomnia. Psychological dependence is also possible. Although a person might know that the drug is not good for them, they will continue to use.
Sedatives are drugs that slow down the central nervous system. They slow brain function and create a relaxed feeling. Using sedatives can result in drowsiness, dizziness and loss of balance. At higher doses, confusion, disorientation, amnesia, breathing difficulties and depression can result. The use of these drugs can lead to dependence.
Sedative drugs can come as pills, capsules, liquids, or suppositories. Users may also smoke, snort, crush or inject this drug in order to feel relaxed faster. When used with alcohol the effects can be much worse.
Using sedatives is legal, but only when they are prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner and are used by the person to whom they are prescribed. Penalties for the illegal possession and distribution of sedatives include fines, imprisonment or both.
Examples of sedative drugs include:
Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®)
Misuse of sedatives
Addiction can result from sedative use. Because some people develop a tolerance to these drugs, they may try to use more of the drug to feel relaxed, which can also lead to overdose.
Stimulants are drugs that temporarily increase alertness and energy. They are sometimes called “uppers”.
Prescription stimulants come in tablets or capsules. When abused, they are swallowed, injected in liquid form or crushed and snorted.
Using stimulants is legal only when they are prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner and are used by the person to whom they are prescribed. Penalties for the illegal possession and distribution of stimulants include fines, imprisonment or both.
Examples of stimulants include:
Methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®)
Misuse of stimulants
After using stimulants, the user can feel exhaustion, apathy or depression. It is the immediate and lasting exhaustion that leads the user to want to continue to use this drug. While a drug like Ritalin can have a calming effect on a person who needs to use this drug, it can act like a stimulant in someone who does not.
Stimulants can be addictive. Use of these drugs over time can make a person become hostile or paranoid. Because these drugs also influence heart rate, an irregular heartbeat can result from long-term use.
Over-the-counter drugs are useful for those little medical emergencies, but they need to be treated with respect. They can interact with your prescription medications resulting in unintended consequences. Some people will misuse these medications to achieve a high. Other times, over-the-counter medications are used to make certain street drugs.
Herbal remedies may have effects that are similar to the prescription medication that you are taking or they may interfere with the normal action of your medications. Check with your pharmacist before taking any herbal remedy if you are also taking a prescription medication.
What should you do with old, unused medication?
A growing number of adults and teens are getting prescription drugs easily and for free from friends or relatives. Be part of the solution. Safely dispose of old and unused medications by dropping them off at a local pharmacy.