Why People Use Drugs

OTC & Prescription Drugs

Attitude drives behavior. Many teens and adults have a false sense of security about prescription and over-the-counter drugs: “They are medicine, so they are safe.”

What do you know about Prescription Drugs?  Examples?  

What are Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs? Whats the difference?

True or False?

If a doctor prescribes a drug to my friend, it’s safe for me to use.

Some prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin.

It’s not against the law to use someone else’s prescription drugs to get high.

Medicines I can buy at the store such as cough syrup and cold medicine are safe to use even when I’m not sick.

If a prescription drug helps my friend concentrate, it will have the same effect on me.

Read "Straight Talk About Prescription Drugs"

Record 2 things you learned. Share.

Commonly abused prescription and OTC Drugs
  3 categories:


Narcotic painkillers (for example
Morphine, Codeine, oxycodone)


Prescribed to treat narcolepsy
and attention deficit or hyperactivity
disorder (for example Adderall, Ritalin)


Used to treat anxiety and sleep
disorders (for example Xanax, Valium)

Prescription Medications

Require prescription from a licensed doctor.                                                                        Cannot be dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription                                Examples: high blood pressure medications, antibiotics and narcotic pain relievers

Over the Counter (OTC) Medications

Can be purchased without a prescription                                                                  Relatively safe at recommended doses                                                                                 Can interact with some prescription medications

Prescription Drug Epidemic

  • Between 6 and 7 million Americans have abused prescription medications in the past month.
  • Everyday, approximately 2,700 kids between 12 and 17 abuse a prescription pain killer for the first time.
  • In a recent survey, 10% of 12th graders reported using Vicodin without a prescription in the past year.
  • Past year abuse of prescription pain killers now ranks second - only behind marijuana - as the Nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem. 

Record 3 things you learned.

Why are teens abusing medicines? The four “A’s”


The sheer number of prescription and OTC medications that
have potential for abuse is staggering, and they are being used more frequently
which increases availability.


  • Off the Internet: The Internet has become a widely used tool for gathering
    information, shopping and recreation. It also is the host to many Internet
    pharmacies, some of which do not require a prescription and have no way
    to block young people from using the site. With a credit card, kids can
    purchase just about any prescription drug they want.
  • From the family medicine cabinet: Medicines that are legitimately
    prescribed for a family member — mom, dad, grandparent, sibling — can
    be stolen a few at a time, usually without notice.


Teens know more about prescription drugs than ever before because advertising and the Internet have made them more visible.


There is the belief that less risk is associated with using prescription and OTC
medicines even though they can be just as dangerous as any illegal drug if
used inappropriately.

Why are there so many drugs?

Web Quest: Big Pharma

Do an Internet search for the term “Big Pharma.” Read a sample of the results and
write a paragraph on the major issues raised.                                                                 Also note whether the results you find are primarily negative or positive in terms of their perceptions of the pharmaceutical industry.

Record 3 things to share.

Pre-view Discussion Questions

Have you ever paid much attention to advertisements for prescription drugs or thought about the influence they have over doctors and patients? Why or why not?

There are lots of public health messages that discourage people from using illegal drugs. Do you think we live in an anti-drug culture? Why or why not?

Drugs & Modern Medicine

Myth: Prescription drugs are good for our health and fight disease.

The United States is spending more than two to three times more money on health care, compared to  the second leading country. Unfortunately, we are not getting what we are paying for when you consider the fact that we are only the fifteenth healthiest country!                                                                                                                        Which begs the question, are we treating the cause of our health problems or merely addressing the symptoms with very expensive drugs?

Think about it: Does anybody just wake up one morning with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, or any of a number of health issues? Or did these problem begin to develop as a result of annoying little sympoms that often get overlooked? 

Treating the Cause...

The first set of questions you should ask your health care provider when he or she gives you a prescription for a medication is are these drugs going to make my body stronger and healthier? Are they addressing what is causing the problem, or do they only address the symptoms?

Most prescribed medications only treat the symptom; they don’t help strengthen your immune system, heart, joints, intestines, liver, kidneys, etc.

* Stopping the use of prescribed medications can be very dangerous.

Drugs Treat Symptoms, Not Disease.

Example: Heart Disease
  Symptom: High Blood Pressure

Heart disease can be a result of inflammation. The best way to overcome inflammation is with a good diet. The body makes its own natural ‘anti-inflammatory drugs’ if we feed it the right foods. For example, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, fish oils, olive oil, nuts, and seeds can dramatically decrease inflammation. Conversely, saturated fats and trans fats will trigger inflammation!  

How we stay healthy and fight disease:

Primary Prevention

We use primary prevention methods before the person gets the disease. Primary prevention aims to prevent the disease from occurring. So primary prevention reduces both the incidence and prevalence of a disease.                                                     

Examples: Exercise, Diet, Education

Secondary Prevention

Secondary prevention is used—

after the disease has occurred,                                                                                                    but before the person notices that anything is wrong.
                                                                                                                                                        A doctor checking for suspicious skin growths is an example of secondary prevention of skin cancer. The goal of secondary prevention is to find and treat disease early. In many cases, the disease can be cured.

Tertiary Prevention

Tertiary prevention targets the person who already has symptoms of the disease

The goals of tertiary prevention are:

- prevent damage and pain from the disease
- slow down the disease
- prevent the disease from causing other problems (These are called "complications.")
- give better care to people with the disease
- make people with the disease healthy again and able to do what they used to do
Developing better treatments for melanoma is an example of tertiary prevention. Examples include better surgeries, new medicines, etc.

Heart disease can be prevented by eating a healthy diet. (Primary)

Heart disease can be prevented by getting health screenings. (Secondary)

Heart disease symptom (HBP) can be treated with a drug. (Tertiary)

Big Idea: Drugs treat symptoms, not disease.

Pharmaceutical Companies make and sell Prescription Drugs.

In the last decade the use of prescription drugs has become a regular part of life for
millions of Americans.
• Advertising for prescription drugs constantly encourages patients to “ask your doctor” about the latest medication.
• The pharmaceutical industry includes some of the biggest corporations in the world, companies like Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and others. In 2004 “Big Pharma” generated 550 billion dollars in combined global sales.
• In the U.S. most of Big Pharma’s profits come from the sale of prescription medications.
• In the face of this intensive marketing campaign, citizens must ask how this powerful industry is affecting how we think about our health.

Prescription Drug Q&A Worksheet

1. Why is it important to tell your doctor about any medical conditions you have and all the medications you take, including prescription drugs, over-the counter medicines, and dietary supplements?
2. What would you say to someone who asked you for pills that were prescribed only for you?
3. At a party a friend offers you alcohol and a pill. What would you do, and why?
4. Explain why the following statement is a myth: Prescription drugs come from a doctor and a pharmacy, so they must be safe.
5. Explain why the following statement is a myth: It’s OK for me to use a prescription from the medicine cabinet that was prescribed for someone else in my family.

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