Education & Resources

Education & Resources

This segment of our site seeks to educate and provide resources that may assist communities to better understand the issue of prescription drug abuse (taken from the "Responding to PDA in Northern Manitoba" document found in this section):

Definition of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse has been defined in a variety of ways. Here are a few definitions:

"Medicines not used for their intended purposes"

"...the use of any prescription medication which is not used in the prescribed dose, or prescribed time interval, as well as for reasons, or people, than those intended by the prescribing clinician".

"Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor, such as for the feelings you get from the drug. Prescription drug abuse or problematic use includes everything from taking a friend's prescription painkiller for your backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. Drug abuse may become ongoing and compulsive, despite the negative consequences."

"Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed (non-medical), or for the experience or feelings elicited. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths."

An increasing problem, prescription drug abuse can affect all age groups, but it is more common in young people. The prescription drugs most often abused include painkillers, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants.

Indeed, early identification of prescription drug abuse and early intervention may prevent the problem from turning into a longer term addiction.

Why Prescription Drugs are being Abused

People take drugs because they want to change something about their lives.

Teens and adults abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons. Some of these may include, to:

  • Feel good or "get high"
  • Numb traumatic experiences
  • Be accepted by peers (peer pressure) or to be social - to fit in
  • Cope with emotional or physical pain
  • Escape or relax or relieve tension
  • Relieve boredom
  • Rebel or experiment
  • Reduce appetite or increase alertness
  • Experiment with the mental effects of the substance
  • Maintain an addiction and prevent withdrawal
  • Improve concentration and academic or work performance

The PDA Committee acknowledges that in our culture there are many positive teachings of the significance and respect of the snake. No disrespect is intended through the use of this analogy.

People think drugs are a solution. But eventually, the drugs become the problem. Difficult as it may be to face one's problems, the consequences of drug use are always worse than the problem one is trying to solve with them. The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place.

How Do Drugs Work?

Drugs are essentially poisons. The amount taken determines the effect.

A small amount acts as a stimulant (speeds you up). A greater amount acts as a sedative (slows you down). An even larger amount poisons and can kill.

This is true of any drug. Only the amount needed to achieve the effect differs.

But many drugs have another liability: they directly affect the mind. They can distort the user's perception of what is happening around him or her. As a result, the person's actions may be odd, irrational, inappropriate and even destructive.

Drugs block off all sensations, the desirable ones with the unwanted. So, while providing short-term help in the relief of pain, they also wipe out ability and alertness and muddy one's thinking.

Medicines are drugs that are intended to speed up or slow down or change something about the way your body is working, to try to make it work better. Sometimes they are necessary. But they are still drugs: they act as stimulants or sedatives, and too much can kill you. So if you do not use medicines as they are supposed to be used, they can be as dangerous as illegal drugs.

How PDA is affecting First Nation communities

A discussion held at a meeting convened by the OHA in July 2015 dealt with the question: "how is the issue of prescription drug abuse affecting our First Nation communities?"

The answers came as no surprise from the Committee members: PDA is primarily affecting First Nations communities by negatively impacting relationships first and foremost. Familial and communal relationships are deteriorating more rapidly with the misuse of pills. It used to be that addictions were heavily centred on the youth and related to alcohol and illegal or illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana; but alarmingly and sadly today, our older community members are not immune to the devastations of PDA. In some cases, it is the "elders" that are selling their prescription drugs to the youth! PDA is threatening our communities from both ends of the age spectrum - from youth to Elders. The level of helplessness is great in many First Nation communities as the availability of prescription drugs becomes more widespread.

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