source: UN, The World Youth Report 2003,
Over the years, medicines have been diverted and used for non-prescribed, non-medical purposes...
Less than 3% of youth in Australia and the United States (predominantly males) use steroids to enhance body image and/or athletic performance. These substances are illegal and can have serious consequences.
- rates of non-medical prescription drug use are higher among females.
- past-year non-medical amphetamine use by students (aged 15-16) ranges from 6% in Australia and 7.8% in Ontario, Canada, to 12% in the United States.
- rates of past-year non-medical use of tranquillizers by students (aged 15-16) range from less than 6% in North America to 12% in Australia;
- in Africa, tranquillizer use is reportedly prevalent in Côte d’Ivoire, with some indication of use among street children;
- in Asia, media reports from Bangladesh suggest that young people are among those using phensidyl cough syrup. The syrup reportedly contains alcohol, codeine (an opiate) and ephedrine (a stimulant) and is cheap and readily available in comparison with other alcoholic drugs.
What are the effects?
The abuse of prescription drugs can occur completely by accident, simply by not following the doctor's instructions. On the other hand there is a growing illicit market for opiods, stimulants and tranquilisers. Opiods such as codeine (the world's most widely used narcotic for medicinal purposes) morphine and OxyContin, are commonly prescribed as painkillers.
It's their ability to bring on a sense of euphoria and calm that attracts them to non-medicinal users. Chronic use of opiods leads to tolerance so the user needs ever increasing amountsto achieve the initial feel good effect. Long term use can lead to addiction. Patients sometimes find themselves addicted to these painkillers simply because their pain is so severe that they end up self medicating and ignoring the advice of their doctor.
Self-medication is also a key factor in the abuse of central nervous system depressants. These include barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as valium. Because they are used to treat anxiety and sleeping problems people tend to rely on them initially for psychological reasons and this eventually leads to physical dependence. Stimulants, on the other hand, such as legally prescribed amphetamines have a thriving non-medicinal market.