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Prescription Drugs

Two categories of prescription drugs currently being abused are sedatives and stimulants.

Prescribed sedatives

Examples: Ativan, Valium, Xanax, Librium.

Street names: Bennies, nod, barbs, ludes, downers, drunk pills, tranks.

Method of use: Injected; ingested (pills); sometimes snorted if pills are crushed, which can be dangerous if the pill has a time-release component.

Short-term effects: Causes calmness, relaxation, anxiety reduction, sleepiness, slowed breathing, slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment, and slow, uncertain reflexes. In addition, taking more than one sedative at a time (legal or illegal) can be very dangerous, as they can slow the heart and breathing rates to the point that they stop.

Long-term effects: At high doses, or when they are abused, many of these drugs can cause unconsciousness and death.

Tolerance, dependence and withdrawal: Tolerance can develop from regular use. All sedatives can cause physical and psychological dependence when taken regularly over a period of time, even at therapeutic doses. Prolonged use of certain sedatives can cause changes in the brain, which is why some people need to get help when discontinuing a particular drug.

Other drugs with this classification: Any drug that is a tranquilizer, depressant, sleeping pill, or downer is considered a sedative.

Prescribed stimulants

Examples: Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine.

Street names: Pep pills, uppers, go pills, leapers, cartwheels.

Method of use: Injected; ingested (pills); sometimes snorted if pills are crushed, which can be dangerous if the pill has a time-release component.

Short-term effects: For those with ADHD, stimulant medications can often alleviate symptoms such as hyperactivity, forgetfulness, mood shifts, poor impulse control, and distractibility. Stimulant medications can also be helpful for people suffering from asthma or excessive daytime sleepiness, even after adequate nighttime rest.

For those using stimulant medications recreationally, short-term effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased energy, rapid or irregular heart beat, reduced appetite, increased body temperature, tremor, paranoia, restlesness, aggressiveness and panic.

Long-term effects: Repeated recreational use of stimulant medications increases the user’s chances of dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, seizures, or heart failure. This risk is increased when combining more than one stimulant (legal or illegal), including cold medicines.

Tolerance, dependence and withdrawal: Tolerance can develop with some types of stimulants, and it develops more easily with drugs that are taken regularly than those that are taken irregularly. Stimulants can be addictive. Using prescribed stimulants might not lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, but the user might have a hard time stopping because of the effects the drugs produce.

Other drugs with this classification: Many drugs used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and daytime sleepiness are classified as stimulants.