Drug abuse not only involves illicit substances but also prescription medications. Because doctors prescribe these drugs for legitimate medical uses, it may be easier for people to divert and distribute them for recreational use.
There are several classes of prescription medication that people in Georgia admit to using for nonmedical purposes. Among the most common are narcotic pain relievers and stimulants.
The word “narcotic” means “stupor” in Greek. Narcotic medications work to relieve pain by dulling the senses and reducing one’s consciousness level. In addition to relieving pain and inducing sedation, prescription narcotics also have acceptable uses as antidiarrheal treatments or cough suppressants. Prescription narcotics can be either entirely manmade or derive from organic sources, particularly the Papaver somniferum, a species of poppy flower.
Long-term use of narcotics can lead to tolerance, meaning that, to achieve the same effects, people must take higher doses. Some narcotics, such as Fentanyl, are extremely potent. Overdoses of narcotics can slow one’s breathing to a dangerous and potentially deadly level.
Stimulants cause the systems of the body to speed up. Some stimulants have legitimate medical uses for treating attention-deficit conditions and sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, which causes a person to fall asleep suddenly and uncontrollably. Because stimulants can decrease appetite, doctors may prescribe them as a weight loss aid.
People abuse stimulant medications in the hopes of prolonging wakefulness and enhancing performance, whether physical or mental. Unfortunately, any performance-enhancing benefits of stimulant medications exist largely in the user’s mind. Stimulants improve a person’s self-esteem and produce a sensation of exhilaration. However, a stimulant overdose can cause excess sweating, vomiting, tremors, dizziness and heart palpitations.
As with narcotics, chronic stimulant use can cause a person to develop a tolerance. A person who stops taking stimulants suddenly may experience a “crash” characterized by extreme fatigue, anxiety and depression, as well as intense cravings for the drug.