Commonly Abused Legal Drugs

It’s important to discuss the commonly abused legal drugs…

The term ‘drugs’ is commonly associated with illicit substances, such as cocaine and heroin. However, some of the most addictive drugs aren’t illegal at all. Some are readily available over the counter while others are obtained by prescription.

There is no dispute over the efficacy of these drugs and their benefits, however, while these drugs are legal, they have a high potential for abuse. The consequences of which can be devastating.

Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the most prevalent substances that is widely misused because it is so easily accessible and costs very little.

Even though the alcohol itself contains no addictive properties, many people use it in a harmful way, such as binge drinking. Binge drinking involves consuming large volumes of alcohol within a short space of time in order to intensify the effects which include higher self-confidence, improvement in mood and less anxiety.

There are a number of signs that you might have a problem with binge drinking. Some of these include:

  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol on the weekends or at social events
  • Consuming so much alcohol that you blackout
  • Drinking four or five drinks in two hours or less
  • Drinking more than you had planned
  • Engaging in behaviours while drinking that you later regret
  • Feeling tired or hungover after a night out drinking
  • Worrying or feeling guilty about your excessive drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can pose a number of short- and long-term health risks. You may suffer from alcohol poisoning if you consume too much alcohol too quickly. Long-term, drinking too much too often can increase your risk of developing different types of cancer and other serious health problems.

 

Nicotine addiction

 

Nicotine

Alongside alcohol, nicotine is one of the most easily accessible drugs worldwide, but unlike alcohol, nicotine is extremely addictive. An addiction to nicotine can develop quickly whether you’re smoking cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco. Once this addiction takes hold, quitting the habit can be challenging.

Many smokers opt for nicotine patches or gum to overcome their addiction. These methods keep a certain amount of nicotine in the system to avoid experiencing the withdrawal symptoms that can occur after complete cessation.

Opioids

Opioids such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Morphine are responsible for one of the biggest drug epidemics worldwide. Opioids work by binding to the receptors in the brain and the rest of the body in order to eliminate pain. Because they are so effective, prescriptions for these medications have increased significantly over the last two decades.

Opioids produce feelings of euphoria, and lowered inhibitions and can make users feel calm and relaxed. However, opioids should not be prescribed long-term due to the high risk of addiction. If you continue taking opioids on a long-term basis your body will eventually build up a tolerance to the drug resulting in diminished effects. Although the drugs will have no obvious effect on treating pain at this stage, your body will have already become dependent on the medication, meaning it requires the drug in order to function normally. Complete cessation of opioid drugs can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which ultimately result in relapse.

Benzodiazepines

Anti-anxiety medications such as Valium, Klonopin and Xanax have also become increasingly overprescribed in recent years. While their purpose is to treat severe anxiety and panic attacks, many people abuse them for their calming effects. Benzos also have sedating effects and taking these can feel like alcohol intoxication. However, these drugs also interfere with general function and performance. Benzodiazepine use should be monitored by a medical professional to avoid physical dependence, the results of which can be fatal. While the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are not life-threatening, suddenly stopping benzodiazepines can result in a heart attack or seizure.

The risks increase when benzodiazepines are mixed with other drugs such as opioids and alcohol, a popular combination. People combine these drugs in order to enhance the effects of each, however, by doing this, you are only accelerating any dangerous side effects.

ADHD Medications 

The use of stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta, intended to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, has also increased dramatically in the last couple of decades. These medications can cause many long-term problems. These stimulants carry a high chance of developing a habit and have been known to cause hallucinations. Taking these drugs for prolonged periods can have a serious psychological impact, causing paranoia, obsessiveness, insomnia, and skin picking. While withdrawal symptoms from these medications are considered much milder than benzos or alcohol, you may become very depressed and even suicidal.

Ambien

Ambien is a well-known sleep medication that is commonly used beyond its purpose, leading to tolerance and dependence. Once you begin using Ambien regularly you will struggle to fall asleep without it. Ironically, if taken for long periods – over several months – Ambien can cause severe insomnia when suddenly stopped.

Ambien can also make you more anxious during the daytime and cause involuntary behaviours whilst you sleep. For example, there have been reports in the past of Ambien users driving their cars in the middle of the night and causing accidents, with no recollection of what happened the next day.

Prescription Cough Syrup

Cough syrup sounds relatively harmless, however, if your doctor prescribes you a strong prescription cough syrup for illnesses such as hay fever or bronchitis, you should be aware that it may contain codeine, which is an addictive opiate. Certain cough syrups can also be fatal when used excessively, which is why the guidance should always be followed when taking it.

Commonly Abused Legal Drugs

Commonly abused legal drugs – Getting help for addiction

Which Rehab helps people find treatment for all kinds of addictions, from illicit drugs to prescription medications. If your addiction to medications is impacting your life as well as the life of those around you, it’s probably time to seek professional help.

Call our team for information on which treatment options are available to you, and advice on your next steps.

FAQs

Can You Become Addicted After First Use?

The short answer is, yes. Certain legal substances such as opioids drugs produce strong painkilling side effects, including a euphoric high and a sense of calm and relaxation. These effects are extremely intense and are often what causes people to continue using them.

Is Addiction Linked to Mental Health Disorders?

There are a number of mental health disorders which have been linked to addiction.  Repeated drug use causes chemical imbalances within the brain as it begins to adjust to the surges of dopamine. Over time, the neurons begin to make less and less dopamine. This of course results in less dopamine signalling in the brain. Eventually, this can result in the development of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

How Do I Know If Someone Has An Addiction?

The person suffering from addiction, whether they’re using legal or illicit drugs, is often the last one to recognise that their symptoms are the result of a complex brain condition. However, for those around them, there are several signs and symptoms that could indicate they may be struggling with addiction. These symptoms can be behavioural, psychological and physical. Some of the most common symptoms of alcohol or prescription drug addiction include, sweating, tremors, dilated pupils, lack of personal hygiene and dishonesty.