Misuse of prescription drugs in Wisconsin

Prescription drugs have accepted medical uses to treat certain diseases. However, they can do harm if used in a way other than the prescriber intended.

There is a crisis of misuse of prescription drugs throughout the United States, and Wisconsin is no exception. Not only can medications be dangerous on their own if misused, but they can also lead to illegal drug use.

In what situations does misuse take place?

According to Lakeview Health, misuse of a prescription drug can be accidental or intentional. A person who originally had a valid prescription may take the drug for nonmedical purposes or fail to follow the instructions for taking it.

Misuse also occurs when someone without a prescription takes the drug. The person who had the prescription originally may not be aware of it because the other person steals the drug without his or her knowledge. However, sometimes people with prescriptions knowingly provide drugs to people without.

What prescription drugs are susceptible to misuse?

Misuse of certain drugs is more common than others:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Cough/cold medications
  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Stimulants
  • Sedatives

Stimulants treat sleep disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, while narcotics relieve pain by dulling the senses. Widespread prescription of each combined with a high abuse potential makes these among the most commonly abused prescription drugs.

How does misuse of prescription drugs lead to illegal drug use?

According to North Shore Health Department, only 4% of people who abuse prescription drugs started by using heroin, while 80% of heroin users took prescription drugs beforehand. People who originally became addicted to prescription drugs may switch to heroin because it is cheaper and more readily available.

Though potentially dangerous on their own, prescription drugs can also cause unpredictable reactions when combined with alcohol or other substances.