Welcome back to Medical Mondays! Melissa Sarno had some great questions about her current WIP and I thought I'd tackle a few specific questions she had.
"What kinds of effects can prescription drugs of abuse can a person have, and what are the withdrawal symptoms if they go off the drugs?"
The prescription drugs that are commonly abused usually run in three classes.
- Pain medications (opioids, like morphine, Vicodin, Dilaudid, methadone, etc.)
- Sedatives, including sleeping medicines and anxiolytics ("anxiety destroyers") also known as benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Ativan, and Xanax
- Stimulants (amphetamines, such as Ritalin)
- In the US, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem (16 million people in the US as of 2009)
- Except for marijuana usage, more people in the US abuse prescription drugs than heroin, inhalants, cocaine, hallucinogens, crystal meth, and ecstasy combined.
- Rapid onset (quicker high)
- Route (to get the best high), so a drug that can be given or changed to intravenous is preferred over inhaled > immediate release > slow release formulas
- Purity (trade names have more street value than generic)
- Pain medications: The mental states can range from euphoria to sleepiness and even coma. Physically, abuser might have a lower breathing rate with shallow breathing, tiny pupils, and a slowed GI rate (constipation and quiet belly sounds)
- Sedatives (benzos and barbiturates): Slurred speech, incoordination, wobbly gait, stupor and coma. Their mood may be all over the place and they might be socially inappropriate. Physically, their irises might be twitchy.
- Stimulants: Euphoria, increased energy and exuberant mood, decreased appetite, and sometimes hallucinations. Severe intoxication can cause agitation, violent behavior, elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rates, elevated body temperature, and sometimes heart attack and cardiovascular collapse.
- Pain medications: Classic opioid withdrawal includes terrible, downed mood, restlessness, runny nose and tearing, body pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Sedatives: tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, psychosis and seizures.
- Stimulants: fatigue, depression, inability to find joy in anything, increased sleep or insomnia, vivid dreams, drug cravings, and increased appetite.