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Monday, March 16, 2015

6 Most Addictive Legal Drugs

Many of the most addictive drugs aren't illegal. They're doled out by pharmacists, sold over-the-counter, or readily available at gas stations. Although these drugs are perfectly legal – and can be beneficial – they have dangerous consequences when misused. And because they are so addictive, they're often abused.


Alcohol isn't as addictive as illegal drugs like heroin or crystal meth, but it's still highly dangerous. "Even though the drug itself isn't tremendously addictive, alcohol poses an enormous problem because so many people use it in a harmful way," says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an addiction expert and chief medical officer of Phoenix House Foundation in New
York City. "Many men engage in risky drinking, or binge drinking, which means more than four drinks at one sitting or more than 14 drinks a week. Regular binge drinking can easily give way to addiction.


One of the most accessible legal drugs, nicotine is also the most addictive. "Most people who smoke just a few times will get hooked," says Kolodny. "Only a very few people are able to smoke occasionally without becoming addicted."Whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars or chew tobacco, once you're addicted to nicotine, quitting can be exceedingly difficult. "It's harder to quit nicotine than alcohol," Maxwell says. "There continues to be such a strong urge to use." However, unlike alcoholics who should go cold turkey, people trying to nix nicotine can turn to gum or patches to help ease them off the drug.


Opioids work by binding to the receptors in the brain and rest of the body, which helps to ease pain. Kolodny says they're very effective for treating short-term, acute pain, such as if you've broken several bones in a car accident. "When you first use opioids, you get a euphoric effect," he says. "But you have to quit taking them after a few days." If you don't stop, the body quickly gets used to opioids and craves increasingly higher doses to get the same effect. Before you know it, you have to take them to avoid getting physically ill, making them insanely hard to quit. If you want something to ease chronic aches, do not ask your doctor to prescribe an opioid, says Kolodny. "Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and naproxen are all very effective pain meds with no addiction risk," he says.


Benzodiazepines, or benzos, including Xanax, Klonopin, and valium, are also massively overprescribed, says Kolodny. They're used to treat severe anxiety and panic attacks, but too many men take them who don't really need them. And too many men enjoy – and become addicted to – their effects. "Benzos are sedating," Kolodny says. "It can be similar to being intoxicated on alcohol. But it affects performance and function and can interfere with your career and relationships." And just like opioids, the body continually craves more. "People too often use benzos in uncontrolled manner and start taking higher and higher doses," he says. Kolodny says physical dependence on benzos is especially severe – even deadly. "While the withdrawal effects from opioids are not life threatening, you can die when you stop taking benzos," he says. "It's similar to withdrawals from booze. People get delirium tremors and can wind up having a seizure or heart attack." Even scarier is when men mix benzos with other drugs.


Use of stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta, intended to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, has also soared in the past decade. "These drugs are a serious problem, particularly in high schools and universities, because kids think they help them study better," says Gen. Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. "Then, when these overachievers leave college and become high-level young professionals, they carry those behaviors into workforce." These stimulants are highly habit-forming and have several serious side effects. They can cause hallucinations and raise heart rate too quickly," says Dean. And the longer you're on them, the more problems they can cause. "Taking high doses for a long time can have serious psychological side effects like paranoia, obsessiveness, insomnia, and skin picking," says Kolodny
Prescription Cough Syrup

If your doctor puts you on a potent prescription cough syrup for bronchitis, sinusitis, or hay fever, be careful with it. "The 'good stuff' has codeine, an opiate, which you can get hooked on," Maxwell says. It can also be lethal when used in excessive amounts. This is the drug that landed Lil Wayne in the hospital last year and what the police just found at Bieber's place. Make sure you take only the recommended doses to avoid becoming dependent. Also, never drink booze while taking prescription cough syrup. Along with codeine, it contains a strong antihistamine called promethazine and the antihistamine-codeine-alcohol trifecta can cause you to stop breathing.


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