Prescription & Over-the-Counter Drugs

In Canada, more than 400,000 people take medication every day. These are mainly sleeping pills and tranquilizers that are used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, epilepsy, and convulsions. However, if taken improperly and over a long period of time, sleeping pills and tranquilizers can be addictive.

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    According to estimates, 60,000 people are addicted to drugs. Benzodiazepines are the most addictive category of drugs. Painkillers (analgesics) and stimulants such as methylphenidate also play a role.

    Prescription drugs

    Approximately 22% of Canadians over the age of 15 use some form of prescription psychotropic medication. There is an urgent need to reduce the harm associated with prescription drugs while ensuring that people who need them for medical reasons can access them in a timely and appropriate manner. This is particularly pressing for opioids, but also for stimulants and sedatives. CCDUS synthesizes research on demographic and prescription psychotropic drug use trends, provides targeted literature on related issues, and builds linkages that contribute to the prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery.

    What are prescription drugs?

    Medicines that are difficult to use or risky if used inappropriately can only be obtained, depending on the case, on prescription from a doctor, dentist or midwife. They are known as prescription drugs. Problematic patterns of use and negative health outcomes may develop as a result of this misuse or non-medical use. Engaging in inappropriate behaviours (such as driving or operating heavy equipment), even if the medication is taken as directed, could also result in adverse consequences.

    Understanding over-the-counter medications

    Most of the medications you take are over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which are products that don’t require a prescription and can be found on the shelves of your pharmacy: cold or flu medications, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, antihistamines, etc.

    Over-the-counter medications are not safe

    Even though you can buy these products without a prescription, OTC medications are not harmless. In fact, they can sometimes interact with your usual medications or be contraindicated for certain diseases. Finally, several products often contain the same ingredient, for example, cold medicines regularly contain acetaminophen, and the combination of several products could lead to an overdose.

    Medicines – Information on risks, effects, and side effects

    Simultaneous use of benzodiazepines with other substances or drugs, e.g. alcohol, antipsychotics, GHB/GBL (KO drops), opioids, analgesics, hypnotics, and barbiturates may potentiate the sedative effects of the different substances. The consequences can be a significant slowing of breathing, leading to respiratory arrest and death. Mixing alcohol with opioid analgesics and alcohol with benzodiazepines can also be life-threatening. In addition, the low toxicity of benzodiazepines increases dramatically with concurrent use of other sedatives. Taking benzodiazepines with alcohol can cause amnesia or memory loss.

    Consequences of long-term benzodiazepine use and drug dependence

    Daily use of benzodiazepines can lead to drug dependence with withdrawal symptoms after only a few weeks. Dependence is characterized by a strong craving or compulsion to take the drug, reduced ability to control, physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal, development of tolerance, and a gradual disinterest in hobbies and interests. In addition, drug abuse continues despite obvious harmful consequences.

    With long-term use, intellectual abilities such as memory, thinking, and other cognitive functions can be impaired. In addition, long-term use of benzodiazepines can cause the same symptoms as those for which they were prescribed, which can result in increased dosage without eliminating the symptoms and thus promote addiction.