Weekend: Mental Health Moment

By LINDA BRANWELL
More and more people are abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high. This includes painkillers, depressants and stimulants.
Vicodin, Tylenol with Codeine, OxyContin and Percocet are some painkillers that are often prescribed after surgery. Klonopin, Nembutal, Soma, Valium and Xanax are some depressants that help people with insomnia or problems with anxiety.
Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine and Ritalin are some stimulants that are prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some over-the-counter cough and cold remedies include Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold, Robitussin and Vicks Formula 44 Cough Relief.
Prescription drugs provide benefits, when used correctly under the care of a doctor. However, when abused, they can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.
Here are several reasons:
• Prescription drugs can be addicting. People who abuse prescription drugs before the age of 16 have a greater risk of drug dependence later in life.
• While some people think nothing of mixing prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and alcohol, they fail to realize that using these drugs in combination can cause respiratory failure and death.
• These drugs are easily available. About 70 percent of people age 12 and older who abuse prescription pain killers say they get them from relatives and friends.
If caregivers suspect their loved one is abusing drugs, signs to look for include constricted pupils, slurred speech, and flushed skin.
Also, be aware of personality changes, mood swings, irritability, excessive energy, sleepiness or avoiding sleep, sweating, appetite loss, secretiveness, loss of interest in personal appearance, borrowing money or having extra cash, skipping classes or not doing well in school.
Lastly, look for missing pills, unfamiliar pills or empty medicine bottles.
Caregivers may feel helpless and wonder what they can do.
Here are some tips:
• Monitor the quantities and be alert to any drugs that might be missing. You might consider placing all medications in a locked cabinet.
• Properly dispose of old or unused medicines in the trash. My pharmacist recently advised me to throw away old medications in used coffee grounds because the acid breaks down the active, potentially, harmful ingredients.
• Parents, set clear rules for your child about drug use, including not sharing medicine and always follow the doctor’s advice and dosages.
• Be a good role model, yourself, by following these same rules with your own medicines.
For additional information on prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse, go to nida.gov or google National Institute of Health and prescription drug abuse.
Branwell, a licensed independent social worker with a specialization in chemical dependency, is owner of Espero Wellness & Counseling Center Ltd., Findlay. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.

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