Prescription Drugs

The non-medical use of prescription drugs can occur when people use prescription drugs to; try to manage ongoing chronic pain or psychological distress , get high, or to come down from other drug use [34196].

The most commonly used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes are benzodiazepines (sometimes called benzos) and opioids (oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and codeine) [34196]. Benzodiazepines (such as Diazepam or Valium) are drugs that are usually prescribed by a doctor to calm people down or help people sleep (sleeping tablets). Prescription opioids are usually prescribed for pain relief. Other kinds of prescription drugs include stimulants like dexamphetamine [26504].

Long term use of prescription drugs can lead to physical and psychological dependence (addiction) and other harms including overdose  [23503]. Some of the harms from regular use of prescription drugs include:

  • sleep problems
  • hormonal changes
  • dental decay (due to dry mouth caused by opioid use)
  • increased anxiety
  • seizures – if a person suddenly stops taking a prescription drug such as a sedative.

There are treatment options available for people who are addicted to prescription drugs [23503]. This treatment usually involves some form of counselling and support. For opioid addiction, there are also additional treatments such as methadone (opioid substitution therapy). For more information on opioid substitution therapy see also the section on Pharmacotherapies in the Harm Reduction portal.

 

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Key resources

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Artwork

Water Dreaming by Shanna Napanangka Williams

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