People all over the world mourned the tragic loss of one of the most talented singers of 1980’s/1990’s, Whitney Houston. She joins multiple other celebrities, such as Judy Garland, Margaux Hemingway, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, who have had their lives cut short due to the result of a fatal combination of prescription drugs. Even worse, it appears prescription drug abuse is on the rise.  Here are some common mistaken beliefs about prescription drugs:

1. Prescription Drugs are “safe.” False. Prescription drugs are not necessarily “safe.” Many think that because a medication is prescribed by their medical doctor that it’s safe. It is extremely important to be an educated patient and to take prescribed medications as prescribed. Taking more than prescribed, combining it with other, even herbal, remedies may cause serious negative consequences. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist.

2. It’s Not Addiction, if I got it from a pharmacy. False. There are many popular medications that are addictive. Pain medication, anti-anxiety medication and stimulant medication – like ADHD medications – are the top addictive medications. Preliminary reports suggest that Whitney Houston died from a combination of Xanax, Valium and alcohol mixed together. A substance which can cause any change in your body is important to take seriously. Being your own doctor or pharmacist can have tragic consequences.

3. It’s Easy to Quit prescription drugs compared to illegal or “street” drugs. False! It can be incredibly difficult to ween off or discontinue a prescription medication. It is of paramount importance to consult with your doctor before altering what or how much medication you take.

4. It’s okay to take a Friend’s Prescription Medication. False! Again, being your own doctor or pharmacist is not a good idea. For your safety, always consult a medical professional.

5. You’re not an Addict!  If you are addicted to prescription medication you are not an “addict.” False. Prescription drug addiction is an addiction. It does not matter whether the addiction is to a street drug or a prescription drug. An addiction or physical dependence on a medication may require inpatient detox and treatment the same as an illegal drug addiction would be treated.

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Most of the time, prescription medications are helpful and temporary. When taken against medical directive, they can be deadly. It is important to let your doctor know about everything you are taking, even vitamins, herbal supplements and any illegal drugs you may be using. Scientists cannot perform research on human subjects who use or abuse multiple substances, and as a result, we have no way of knowing what physical, negative consequences will occur if you take multiple substances together.

If you or someone you care about is dependent on their prescription medication, know there is help available. It is important to let your treating medical professional know about the suspected addiction. With his or her guidance, the medication can be changed, weened off, or discontinued completely.

Resources for further reading:

National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse

The Mayo Clinic

Nemours – Teens Health

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Author: Addictions and Trauma counselor | Orlando Therapist Laura Peddie-Bravo, MA, LMHC