How Prescription Drugs Affect the Body

How Prescription Drugs Affect the Body

Numerous prescription drugs can be abused but there's several classifications of medications that are most commonly abused and they all have a different effect on the body. The three classes of prescription drugs that are most commonly and widely abused include; opioids which are most often prescribed for the treatment of pain, central nervous system depressants (CNS depressants), and stimulants which are prescribed to treat narcolepsy which is a sleep disorder and ADHD also known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Common Prescription Opioids

  • OxyContin (generic oxycodone)
  • Percodan (generic aspirin and oxycodone)
  • Percocet (generic acetaminophen and oxycodone)
  • Vicodin (generic hydrocodone)
  • Morphine (generic MS Contin)
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Dilaudid (generic hydromorphone)
  • Demerol (generic meperidine)
  • Methadone (brand names Methadose and Dolophine)

Common Prescription CNS Depressants

- Amytal
- Nembutal
- Seconal
- Phenobarbital
- Ativan (generic lorazepam)
- Halcion (generic triazolam)
- Librium (generic chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride)
- Valium (generic diazepam)
- Xanax (generic alprazolam)

Common Prescription Stimulants

  • Adderall (generic dextroamphetamine)
  • Ritalin and Concerta (generic methylphenidate)

Opioids Effect on the Brain and Body

Opioids act on the brain and the body by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors which are found in the brain, spinal cord and the gastrointestinal tract. When these drugs attach to certain opioid receptors, they can block the perception of pain. Opioids can produce drowsiness, nausea, constipation and depending on the amount of opioid drug taken, can depress respiration as well.

Opioid drugs can also induce euphoria by affecting regions of the brain that mediate what we recognize as pleasure. Feelings of euphoria are often intensified for individuals that abuse opioids when the drug is administered by routes other than those recommended. For example, the opioid prescription painkiller OxyContin is often snorted or injected to enhance its euphoric effects but, this also increases the risk for serious medical complications to occur such as overdose.

CNS Depressants Effect on the Brain and Body

Central nervous system depressants work by slowing brain activity but discontinuing use can be very dangerous. When a person stops taking CNS depressants, the brains activity can rebound and race out of control possibly leading to seizures and other harmful consequences. Withdrawal from central nervous system depressants can be extremely serious. With some CNS depressants, withdrawal from prolonged use can have life threatening complications so it's never a good idea to abruptly stop taking them. Individuals receiving central nervous system depressant therapy or anyone suffering withdrawals from them should always consult their physician or seek medical treatment before discontinuing use to avoid serious medical complications.

Stimulants Effect on the Brain and Body

Like other drugs of abuse, it's possible for a person to become dependent legitimately or addicted to stimulants due to misuse and withdrawal can be very uncomfortable. Symptoms associated with stimulant withdrawal include fatigue, depression and disturbance of sleep patterns. Repeated use of some stimulants can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia, this could happen within a short period of time.

In high doses stimulants can lead to physiological complications also. Taking high doses of a stimulant could result in dangerously high body temperature and an irregular heartbeat. There's also the potential for cardiovascular or heart failure and lethal seizures when a stimulant is taken in high doses.


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