Prescription Drugs: The Modern Double Edged Blade
by Beth Davis
All drugs, even prescription ones, come with benefits and drawbacks. When a healthcare professional decides to prescribe a patient medication, they do so with full knowledge of the risks and the belief that the benefits to the patient's health will outweigh those risks. That is why it is so precarious for patients to misuse any drug.
How Drugs Are Good and Bad
Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. It has given us cures to diseases and treatments to conditions that have plagued mankind for ages. In addition to highly developed and designed prescription drugs, men and women around the world count on a variety of more down-to-earth forms of treatment. For example, tincture with CBD is used to help relieve inflammation as well as reduce stress. Other natural substances continue to be used as medication around the world.
According to US News, nearly three-quarters of the American population takes some form of medication. The same source states that approximately 2 to 3 million of those folks are hospitalized every year for an adverse reaction. This is almost exclusively traced to prescription drugs but also includes over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen.
The Miseducation of Prescription Drug Users
Misuse can come in many forms—- taking too much or too little of a drug, consuming another drug or substance that poorly interacts with the first, or taking medications prescribed to others. Antibiotics, for example, if taken incorrectly can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance in a patient, which may limit their options the next time they get sick.
Pros vs Cons
The FDA advises patients to know the risks of their drugs and consider how they may impact your everyday activities. Know how to store and use them correctly, and if you have to quit, learn how to do so safely. Plan for every occasion, for instance— What happens if you miss a dose? What happens if you don't get any better in the expected amount of time? Also, pay attention to any changes in your mind and body while on the medication. Know your allergies and compare them against the ingredients in your medication.
The cost of drugs can be a barrier to taking them properly, prompting some patients to skip doses. Know what options are available should you need assistance affording your medications.
The Risk of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is a very real risk with any medication. Drug abuse can affect people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. The process of beating addiction once it begins can be tricky since dependence on a drug rewires the brain.
Commonly abused prescription medications include opioids used for pain, sedatives, stimulants, and anxiety reducers. There are reasons why patients abuse medications:
- The good sensations they trigger
- The need to relax or combat stressors
- The desire to control or manipulate appetite
- The desire to improve focus, concentration, or performance
- Experimentation with mind-altering states
- Social or peer pressure
Those who become addicted often must continue to abuse the substance in order to maintain their altered state and avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Many are forced to take stronger and more frequent doses.
Abuse carries with it the risk of damage to the patient's body, mind, and lifestyle. Opioids can lower blood pressure or breathing, increasing the risk of falling into a coma. Anxiety medications can affect memory and the nervous system. Stimulants can have dangerous effects including elevated body temperature, heart disease, hallucinations, and changes in personality. At their worst, any of these drugs can lead to death.
Drugs have their place. They can regulate body functions and fight diseases, however, their misuse has consequences. The bottom line is no drug should be taken without the supervision of a healthcare professional. Follow directions closely, and when in doubt, talk with your provider. Be transparent about everything you are taking, including supplements, medicinal remedies, and illicit drugs, as any of these can interact with your prescribed medications. Even with professional help, it is up to you to know what you are putting in your body and its potential impact.