Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

Are Medically-Approved Drugs Safe?

Are Medically-Approved Drugs Safe?All drugs alter body and brain in one way or another. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves certain drugs for medical use taking into consideration possible side effects and weighing the potential risks against the benefits to the patient.

  • Use Medically-Approved Drugs Only as Directed
  • Medically-approved drugs are considered safe when used as directed, but many can be quite dangerous if used incorrectly. It is extremely important to use drugs only and exactly as directed. Even over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be dangerous if used incorrectly by exceeding the recommended dosage or combining the drugs with others. Prescription drugs such as opioid pain medications and benzodiazepine sedatives are especially dangerous if used incorrectly or abused for recreational purposes.

  • Potential for Side Effects with Medically-Approved Drugs
  • “Safe” is a relative term. Many drugs carry the risk of negative side effects even when used as directed. The risks for side effects are weighed against the benefits to the patient, when the FDA approves drugs or schedules them as controlled substances. The possible side effects of the many OTC and prescription drugs are almost unlimited. Some of the most serious possible side effects involve prescription pain killers and sedatives. Drugs in these classes can cause death when taken in high doses or when combined with alcohol and are likely to lead to a strong physical dependence if taken for an extended period of time. Sedatives can lead to dependence in a particularly short amount of time, and any physical dependence on prescription-level drugs will require professional treatment.

    Other potential side effects of various prescription and OTC drugs include the following:

    • Drowsiness
    • Impaired motor skills
    • Impaired cognitive abilities
    • Insomnia
    • Psychomotor agitation (the compulsion to engage in repetitive physical activities such as endless pacing)
    • Personality changes
    • Irritability
    • Aggression
    • Dizziness
    • Depression
    • Short-term memory loss
    • Apathy
    • Lethargy
    • Loss of ambition and motivation
    • Loss of sex drive
    • Dry mouth
    • Sweating
    • Chills
    • Constipation
    • Itchiness
    • Tingling
    • Blurred vision

    Many drugs produce increased negative side effects when combined with alcohol or other drugs. It is imperative to read warning labels on OTC drugs and to inform your doctor of any other medications you are taking.

    End Prescription Drug Abuse or Addiction

    If you are taking any drugs, especially prescription medications, find out what they are and how they work. If you would like more information about the drugs you are taking or would like an abuse or addiction assessment, call our toll-free helpline. We are here 24 hours a day to answer your questions about medically-approved drugs and options for ending drug use.

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