Drug and Alcohol

Are Prescriptions Safer Than Street Drugs?

Prescription drugs are as addictive and as dangerous as street drugs when abused. Drug abuse is about behaviors, not substances. Call The Forge today!

Are Prescriptions Safer Than Street Drugs?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

May 12, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

There are so many substances misused across the United States. Understanding the differences between street drugs and prescription drugs is essential when looking into the health risks of substance abuse or considering treatment. Additionally, in order to understand if prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, seeking out more information is essential.

Common Substances Misused

To determine popularly misused substances, one can look at the common ones in the United States. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports the most popular abused drugs include:

  • Marijuana / Cannabis

  • Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2, Spice, etc)

  • Prescription & over-the-counter medications

  • Alcohol

  • Cocaine

  • Fentanyl

  • Hallucinogens

  • Heroin

Every substance has its particular mechanism and can affect an individual differently from one to the next. Regardless of the drug, they collectively alter judgment and lead to serious health risks. When looking into the misuse of substances, it is important to notice that street drugs and prescriptions are both included in the list.

One is not necessarily safer than another because it can lead to psychological, physical, and emotional disasters regardless of which substances someone abuses. Some individuals acquire health disorders from seemingly innocent OTC drugs, such as Tylenol. The active ingredient, acetaminophen, is toxic in specific doses. It all depends on how, when, how much, and how often a substance is used. 

Consequences, Avoidance, and Differences

Every drug across the United States can lead to a substance use disorder and further decrease the quality of life. This is why it is important to consider some basic safety precautions. When considering prescription medications, for example, they are usually obtained from a reputable pharmacy most of the time. 

Most individuals prescribed medication are done so for a specific reason. Most of the time, patients are aware of or can read the attached safety precautions. Additionally, the CDC will pull a prescription out of production if it is unsafe.

Some may wonder if OxyContin is unsafe. While OxyContin was designed to help people manage their pain, it was not intended to create a state of euphoria for the user. Indeed, it was not intended for use by those who did not have any relative health conditions either. 

When the prescription makes its way to the streets, the safety protocol becomes irrelevant because users are consuming for other reasons than therapeutic—they want to achieve a high. Individuals may not even know what they are actually receiving when considering street drugs.

Sometimes, dealers on the street will cut drugs with others to increase their potency or stretch their product to increase profit.

Drugs prescribed by a licensed physician and those on the street can vary, but they are regular occurrences with fatal outcomes. Many individuals have a doctor who has their best interest at heart. They will make safety recommendations to help individuals with their medical condition, rather than for alternative, unhealthy reasons.

The difference between a prescription drug and a street drug is the potential to lose a license versus losing a few dollars. Most doctors will only prescribe medication to those who need it the most and for a specific cause. Dealers on the street will hand out substances to anyone who requests them in exchange for money. There is a significant difference regarding safety between prescriptions and street drugs.

The critical thing to remember is that the danger far outweighs the gratification regarding substances with the potential to overdose or develop a substance use disorder. Sadly, many people who struggle with substance use disorders leave it untreated, and they may have an underlying medical condition that will increase the risks of overdose and death. 

Avoiding the Risks and Consequences With Someone Who Cares

If an individual is looking for a way to eliminate prescription or street drug use, speaking with a medical professional is a great way to start. The longer they wait, the higher their risks for use will become. Both street and prescription drugs can lead to potential substance abuse or overdose.

Finding someone who cares and has the individual's best interests at heart, like an addiction center, can ultimately shift their perspective for living positively.

Regardless of their designation as a prescription or street drug, all types of substances harm people every day. The consequences are loss of opportunity, death, crime, poor hygiene and health, and heightened risks of substance use disorders. Furthermore, the idea of having a rewarding and happy life is completely thrown out the door because a person may be struggling with a substance use disorder.

Fortunately, there is help, and there are ways to assist individuals in adapting to reverse the effects and avoid the negative consequences. The Forge Recovery Center provides effective, evidence-based outpatient care for drug and alcohol addiction.

Remember, “drug abuse” doesn’t mean “illegal drug.” Any drug, over the counter, prescription or otherwise, can be addictive and dangerous when misused. Drug abuse describes behaviors, not substances. When people take other people’s prescriptions or misuse their own, they’re opening themselves up to addiction and regret.

The Forge Recovery Center can help you or a loved one move past these harmful behaviors. Contact us today!

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