Last year, numerous news stories detailed that Kim Kardashian allegedly misused a diabetes drug for weight loss before her Met Gala appearance wearing Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress.
Following this (and other influencers praising anti-diabetic drugs for enhancing weight loss), these drugs are now in high demand, leaving a shortage for those who need them to manage their diabetes.
With this in mind, Dr Samantha Miller, MB CHB – medical contributor at DrugHelpline – has shared insight into misusing prescription drugs and discussing the issue of microdosing.
Prescription drug misuse is using any prescribed medication other than the dose and regime recommended by a healthcare professional. This usually means taking a higher dose than prescribed or using the drug more often. However, it also refers to taking a smaller amount than prescribed, for example, microdosing.
Microdosing involves taking a tiny drug dose much smaller than would usually be required to produce the expected effect. Dr Samantha Miller, MB CHB – medical contributor at DrugHelpline, commented that: “The most common drugs used in microdose quantities are psychoactive and hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (found in “magic mushrooms”), and cannabis.”
There are various reasons why people might decide to microdose drugs (illegal or prescription), including:
- To improve mood
- To reduce symptoms of social anxiety or depression
- To increase focus or cognitive ability
- To relieve pain
- For euphoric effects
- To heighten spiritual awareness and mindfulness
Prescription drug misuse also refers to using a drug for something other than its intended purpose, for example utilizing opiate analgesia for anxiolytic and sedative effects rather than pain relief. It can also mean taking a prescription drug prescribed to someone else, even for a valid medical condition.
Last, prescription drug misuse also refers to the non-medical use of drugs to feel euphoric.
Opioids, stimulant medications (study drugs), sedatives, hypnotic drugs, and muscle relaxants are among the most commonly misused prescription drugs. Some medicines used to manage diabetes (such as Ozempic, Metformin, sulphonylureas, and insulin) can also be misused, and these anti-diabetic drugs are usually misused to enhance weight loss.
Other drugs that can be misused include medications used to treat thyroid disorders (e.g., levothyroxine), medicines used to facilitate weight loss (e.g., Orlistat and Naltrexone), and steroids.
However, many risks are associated with microdosing and prescription drug misuse, including addiction. Also, using illicit drugs at any dose is not recommended and carries risks of intoxication, overdose, dependence, and addiction.
Plus, illicit drugs are unregulated and may contain varying amounts of active and other substances that can cause undesirable effects. This makes it challenging to know the quantity consumed and very difficult to regulate.
Early signs and symptoms of prescription drug addiction can be challenging to spot; however, there are often noticeable behavioural changes.
- Becoming more withdrawn and secretive or changing who they spend time with
- Change in other behavioural patterns, such as sleep
- Neglecting social, educational, or work commitments / having unexpected periods of absence or trouble holding down a job
- Signs of not spending money on other things or finding other sources of income (e.g., selling personal possessions or crime) may become apparent if a prescription drug habit is creating a financial burden
Physical signs of prescription drug addiction depend on the substance or substances the person is using.
- Mood swings, including aggression or violent outbursts
- Appearing agitated
- Quick/jerky movements
- Weight loss
- A person may also exhibit physical neglect (e.g., poor dental and personal hygiene) as their habit takes over their life and becomes an addiction
Dr Samantha Miller continued: “No drug is entirely safe, even if used in microdose quantities. You should always only take drugs prescribed for you and adhere to the dosing regimen. It is also worth noting that any medication can have adverse reactions to other drugs, including alcohol and caffeine. For example, mixing opioids and alcohol result in slower disposal of these substances from the body and higher toxicity.”
“Drugs that slow down breathing, such as opioids, alcohol, and CNS depressants, should not be taken together. Prescription stimulant medications should not be mixed with over-the-counter cold medicines that contain decongestants.”