Prescription Drug Information Provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse
Prescription drugs are rapidly becoming primary drugs of abuse in the United States and throughout the world. There are many commonly held misconceptions of the abuse potential for powerful substances such as oxycontin, because such substances can be obtained legally, and have legitimate use in the medical profession.
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Addiction: A chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use and by neurochemical and molecular changes in the brain.
Barbiturate: A type of central nervous system (CNS) depressant often prescribed to promote sleep.
Benzodiazepine: A type of CNS depressant prescribed to relieve anxiety; among the most widely prescribed medications, including Valium and Librium.
Buprenorphine: A new medication awaiting FDA approval for treatment of opioid addiction. It blocks the effects of opioids on the brain.
Central nervous system (CNS): The brain and spinal cord.
CNS depressants: A class of drugs that slow CNS function, some of which are used to treat anxiety and sleeping disorders; includes barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
Detoxification: A process that allows the body to rid itself of a drug while at the same time managing the individual’s symptoms of withdrawal; often the first step in a drug treatment program.
Dopamine: A neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure.
LAAM (levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol): An approved medication for the treatment of opioid addiction, taken 3 to 4 times a week.
Methadone: A long-acting synthetic medication that is effective in treating opioid addiction.
Narcolepsy: A disorder characterized by uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep.
Norepinephrine: A neurotransmitter present in some areas of the brain and the adrenal glands; decreases smooth muscle contraction and increases heart rate; often released in response to low blood pressure or stress.
Opioids: Controlled drugs or narcotics most often prescribed for the management of pain; natural or synthetic chemicals based on opium’s active component – morphine – that work by mimicking the actions of pain-relieving chemicals produced in the body.
Opiophobia: A health care provider’s unfounded fear that patients will become physically dependent upon or addicted to opioids even when using them appropriately; can lead to the underprescribing of opioids for pain management.
Physical dependence: An adaptive physiological state that can occur with regular drug use and results in withdrawal when drug use is discontinued.
Polydrug abuse: The abuse of two or more drugs at the same time, such as CNS depressant abuse accompanied by abuse of alcohol.
Prescription drug abuse: The intentional misuse of a medication outside of the normally accepted standards of its use.
Prescription drug misuse: Taking a medication in a manner other than that prescribed or for a different condition than that for which the medication is prescribed.
Psychotherapeutics: Drugs that have an effect on the function of the brain and that often are used to treat psychiatric disorders; can include opioids, CNS depressants, and stimulants.
Respiratory depression: Depression of respiration (breathing) that results in the reduced availability of oxygen to vital organs.
Stimulants: Drugs that enhance the activity of the brain and lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration; used to treat only a few disorders, such as narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Tolerance: A condition in which higher doses of a drug are required to produce the same effect as experienced initially.
Tranquilizers: Drugs prescribed to promote sleep or reduce anxiety; this National Household Survey on Drug Abuse classification includes benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other types of CNS depressants.
Withdrawal: A variety of symptoms that occur after chronic use of some drugs is reduced or stopped.
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