Prescription Vs. Street Drugs: Recognize the Signs of Use

​​by Delton Russell, Consumer Affairs Specialist, SA – Southern Region

While there is a lot of focus on the abuse of prescription medication these days, it is important to know the dangers street drugs pose for youth. Families need to know which street drugs are available, the dangers, the signs of use, and where to go for help.

Data collected in Cabarrus County in 2011 showed that there were 13 accidental deaths from prescription opiates and 14 deaths from all other drugs. With prescription drugs, there is risk of accidental overdose because people often mix medications with other medications and/or alcohol, which can lead to death in some cases. Even if it is a legally prescribed drug, following your physician's orders is critical. The danger with street drugs is that, unlike prescription medication, they are not made in specific identifiable dosages. In addition, street drugs have often been altered from their pure form by "cutting" or "stepping." The dealer makes more money by increasing the volume using fillers such as baby laxative.

Another important distinction between the street and prescription drugs is that prescription medications are made in pharmaceutical labs that comply with regulations and standards; whereas, you never really know where or how street drugs were made. For example, the street drug "Molly" is marketed as a pure form of the drug MDMA, commonly known as the main ingredient in Ecstasy. Recent studies by the Drug Enforcement Agency have shown that as little as 13 percent of the drug Molly that has been confiscated actually has MDMA in it. For the remaining 87 percent of the drug sold as Molly, the ingredients range from crystal meth to the key ingredients found in bath salts, heroin, PCP and the animal tranquilizer ketamine. According to Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) Columbia data, there have been many cases in which a user has had to go to the emergency room because he or she did not know what was is in the Molly that was taken. Several people have died because of thinking they were taking MDMA when, in fact, they were unknowingly taking something else.

Molly is only one example of a street drug. Others include: cocaine, crack, heroin, LSD, mushrooms, crystal meth and marijuana. While marijuana is legal in some states, it is not legal in North Carolina. That means it is also manufactured and distributed illegally so there is no way to guarantee the dosage or ingredients.

If you or any one you know is struggling with substance use issues from prescription and/or street drugs, call Cardinal Innovations' Access Line where you can speak to a live clinician 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-939-5911. They can assist you with getting you, or your loved one, with the services you need and deserve.