It is never safe to take a friend or family member’s prescription medication. When doctors prescribe medicines to their patients, they take many factors into account, including the patient’s age, weight, health history, etc. Even though a friend or family member may have a similar diagnosis, health history, age, or weight, it is still not safe to consume his or her medications, especially now that you are undergoing treatment.
Recreational use and addiction to prescription medications can be boiled down to three different categories:
- Opioids. These are for pain relief. They include morphine, codeine, OxyContin, Demerol, and Vicodin.
- Tranquilizers. These are for anxiety and sleep disorders. They include Xanax and Valium.
- Stimulants. These are for narcolepsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. They include Adderal, Dexedrine, and Ritalin.
Some users get these drugs from friends or family who have legitimate prescriptions from their physicians or buy purchasing them from other sources.
People who take prescription drugs without their doctors’ approval face many risks:
- They don’t have information about dosage, side effects, or other risks of use.
- The medication may interact with another drug they take.
- Taking the medication or stimulant may be dangerous because of a condition they have, such as asthma or heart disease.
- Many of the abused drugs, including painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, are potentially addictive.
- There’s no guarantee drugs purchased on the Internet are pure, of the stated strength, or manufactured with any quality control.
- Users, especially teenagers and college students, may not realize the dangers of abusing painkillers and drugs for mental illness. For instance, a student who will take OxyContin or Ritalin may never take a street drug, such as cocaine or heroin.
Signs of addiction include loss of control over taking a medication, hiding pills, obsessively counting them, and finding ways to get more of a medication by making unnecessary emergency room or doctor visits. Other symptoms include taking a drug or medication more often than directed, taking higher doses than instructed, taking it with other drugs or alcohol or, as is often the case with OxyContin, crushing and snorting the pill instead of swallowing it.
Heroin, horse, smack. By any name, it’s a killer and very addictive drug. It is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It is a very addictive opiate. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known on the streets as “black tar heroin.” Pure heroin is a white powder. Black-tar heroin is sold to dealers. It is prepared for use by freezing it until it gets hard, then grinding it into a dark-brown dust. Most street heroin varies in color from white to dark brown. The differences in color are because of impurities left from the manufacturing process or additives.
Although purer heroin is becoming more common, most street heroin is “cut” with other drugs such as antihistamines to mask stuffy noses, watery eyes and other signs of use, or with sugar, starch, powdered milk, quinine, strychnine or other poisons. The heroin is then packed into gelatin capsules or folded into small paper “bindles” and stuffed inside very small balloons, which are sold on the street for anywhere from $5 to $25 each. Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or what substance was used to cut it, they are at risk of overdose or death with every dose they take. Overdoses are common. It’s easy to take a dose that was not diluted enough, and too much heroin can suppress breathing or cause users to suffocate in their own vomit.
Users get high by snorting, smoking, or injecting the heroin. Intravenous injection gives a feeling of euphoria seven to eight seconds after injection; intramuscular injection takes five to eight minutes. Sniffing or snorting heroin produces peak effects within 10 to 15 minutes. The availability of high-purity heroin and the fear of infection by sharing needles have made snorting and smoking the drug more common.
In an addicted person, withdrawal occurs within a few hours after the last use. Symptoms of withdrawal can be drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain and vomiting. Symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and last about a week. They can be very intense, and the addicted person may return to using again if he or she doesn’t receive treatment for withdrawal symptoms and treatment intervention to help break the cycle of addiction.