"What is it?"

A prescription drug is a medicine that requires a doctor to write a prescription in order for a person to acquire it from a pharmacy. The abuse of these drugs occurs in three ways:

  1. Taking someone else's prescription to self-medicate.
  2. Taking a prescription medicine in a way other than what was prescribed by the doctor (eg. too high a dosage or too frequently.)
  3. Taking a medication to just get a high.

Prescription drug abuse (the over-usage of prescribed drugs for non medical reasons) is as dangerous as any other form of drug addiction and is one of the highest methods of drug abuse in teenagers.

prescription drug

prescription drugs

Common Names

There are many different medicines that are prescription drugs but those that pose the most risk of abuse and addiction fall into the following types:




Painkillers - this is where the largest problem lies today. Those that have an opioid base are the biggest problem. A peson who suffers from chronic pain in their life and really needs some sort of pain management just to get through their day is at risk as when they stop taking the opiate-based painkiller their intense level of pain will often lead to relapse if they are not persistent in seeking alternatives. Other people who take pain medication which is far stronger than what they need is also at risk of abuse. The most commonly abused painkillers are codeine, morphine, dihydrocodeine, methadone, buprenorphine and diamorphine (also known as heroin).


Anxiety medications (central nervous system depressants) - Some of these are no longer addictive but many of them are. Benzodiazepines which include drugs such as Valium and Xanax are the biggest problem. Other antidepressants include Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, Effexor and Remeron. If these types of drugs are combined with alcohol or other drugs they can have very serious consequences and it is difficult to safely detox.


Stimulants - Medications such as Ritalin or those used for some mental and behavioural disorders have abuse potential and can be addictive.

Short Term Effects

These prescription drugs have the short term effect of delivering what they are meant to in terms of what they are prescribed to do - reduce pain, reduce anxiety and control mental and behavioural problems.

All drugs have some kind of negative effect on the body and it is important to make sure that the desired outcome of taking the drug is more positive than the other side effects of taking the drug. A doctor should weigh this up before prescribing the drug. Making improper use of prescription medicines means that this balance is not considered and therefore the bad effects outweigh any good the drug was intended for.

Some short term physical effects are changes in heart rate, breathing patterns and body temperature.

codeine girl

Long Term Effects


Over time the misuse of prescription drugs can have effects on the person physically, mentally and socially both at home, in the community and with the law.

Physical Effects:

  • Disruption in body functions like excessive urination, sweating and thirst
  • Uncontrollable nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Insomnia, dizziness, drowsiness and palpitation
  • Extensive and severe rashes
  • Hospitalization due to extreme changes in body functions (heart rate, breathing etc.)
  • Vulnerability to Social Dangers
  • Coma and seizures
  • Death

Social Effects:

  • Loss of judgment or coordination - taking risks that would not normally be taken
  • Creating a bad reputation
  • Losing interest in looks and dress
  • Feeling depressed and worried
  • Losing interest in family activities and group activities like clubs or sports
  • Arguing over silly issues
  • Ignoring curfews and breaking other rules
  • Changes in personality and mood swings
  • Keeping secrets from family members
  • Losing long-time friendships - becoming more solitary
  • Using other illicit drugs
  • Engaging in violence that could cause danger to property and life
  • Driving under the effect of a prescription drug which could endanger lives
  • Stealing prescription medicine
  • Selling or supplying prescription medicines to others
  • Stealing in order to pay for drugs
codeine addict












Last updated: Wednesday, 29 April, 2015