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This article discusses primarily medications that require a prescription as distinct from over-the-counter (OTC) products available in stores. Some products available over-thecounter in one form need a prescription in another. The amount of active drug in the medication usually determines whether a prescription is required. Examples: "222's" (containing 8 mg codeine) can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription, but "Tylenol No.3 's" (containing 30 mg codeine) need a prescription; Advil (containing 200 mg ibuprofen) is available OTC, while Motrin(R) (white tablets, containing 300 mg ibuprofen) needs a prescription. Consumers are well advised to find out about the medications they use: what the drugs are intended for - to relieve symptoms (such as a headache or sleeplessness) or to cure disease (such as antibiotics to eradicate bacterial infection), when to take the drugs and possible adverse effects.
Prescription drug misuse a multifaceted problem
Many Canadians are exposed to a variety of compounds for which there may be no real or lasting need. Prescription drug misuse results in more North American injuries and deaths than all illegal drugs combined. Adverse drug reactions account for 15 per cent of hospital admissions in those over age 50. Hypnotics (sleep medications) result in almost 60 per cent of drug-related emergency room visits and 70 per cent of all drugrelated deaths. Prescription drugs may be misused even if taken in moderate amounts for the wrong reason (for example. codeine taken to solve psychological distress rather than to suppress a cough or mute pain).
There is no exact dividing line between moderate and excessive drug use. If drug use begins to disrupt social and family life, damages the user's health. reduces work performance or causes financial burdens, use becomes "abuse." The Addiction Research Foundatin, (ARF) states that "addiction or dependence exists when a drug is so central to someone's thoughts, emotions, and activities that there's a compulsive need to obtain and use it." Physical dependence can occur without the addictive component, as happens with pain patients who hardly ever become addicted to their medications but readily give them up once the pain goes away.
According to one University of Toronto expert, "many substances are over-prescribed especially antibiotics, blood pressure medications, hypnotics (sleep-inducers) and narcotic analgesics (painkillers)." Among …