Use as prescribed

It’s 2:03 AM. You just laid down after a long day of conditioning, classes, practice, and homework. You’re completely exhausted, but the time for sleep, sweet sleep, has finally come! You start to smile and drift off when your eyes fly open.

Your paper on the history of the Roman Empire is due tomorrow and you have yet to start writing it. You can think of two options: take the zero or pull an all-nighter. You choose the latter and “borrow” an Adderall from your roommate. On second thought, maybe two would be better than one. Isn’t it always? You pop the pills and hit the books.

Maybe you turn in that paper the next day and get a good grade. Maybe you end up in the hospital after experiencing a heart attack because you did not know that combining Adderall with the cold medicine you took earlier in the evening could lead to severe problems. Maybe you fall asleep at your desk and never finish the paper. Or maybe taking the Adderall worked so well you decide to take it again and again and again, resulting in an addiction. The point it is, if a doctor did not prescribe you the drug, you do not know how exactly a drug is going to affect you and you are putting yourself at significant risk.

Prescription drug misuse and abuse has increased significantly on college campuses. There are three main categories that are most frequently misused: opioid painkillers (ex. OxyContin, Vicodin), depressants (ex. Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (ex. Adderall, Ritalin). While each drug category can have a positive purpose when prescribed by a doctor, they can also have negative and even life-threatening side-effects.

Whether your intent is to pass a test, de-stress after a long day, or get high, using prescription drugs without a proper examination from your doctor prior to taking them could have dangerous consequences. These drugs require a prescription for a reason. If you take someone else’s medication, a doctor is not able to check your medical history and select the appropriate drug for you. Drugs affect everyone differently and although a drug may work for your friend one way, it may have the opposite effect on you. Additionally, combining some of these medications with over-the-counter medications can cause serious health problems. For instance, did you know that combining a stimulant like Adderall with an over-the-counter cold medication could cause critically high blood pressure or arrhythmia? While you may not know which drugs are safe to combine with others, doctors are trained to look at these possible interactions and provide you an effective treatment plan that outweighs any risk.

Whether you are intentionally misusing prescription drugs or are unintentionally misusing them, dangerous health problems can occur. Here is a very short list of potential health problems that can come with misusing prescription drugs: Opioids can cause choking, mood swings, decreased cognitive function, infertility, and slowed breathing. Depressants can cause memory problems and lead to seizures. Stimulants can prompt paranoia, cardiovascular problems, seizures, and arrhythmia.

Aside from the serious dangers of possible health problems, the misuse of prescription drugs can also lead to addiction, poor academic performance, and legal trouble. Ultimately, misusing prescription drugs is a bad decision. The negatives outweigh the positives. Maybe you have only experienced positives thus far, but that does not mean that you are invincible. Ask yourself next time you are tempted: Is it really worth the risk?


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