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Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are regulated by the Federal Government of Canada under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act (the regulation system for pharmaceutical and over the counter products such as cough syrup, pain killers, etc.). There are several different categories of prescription drugs: stimulants, painkillers, tranquilizers, barbiturates and steroids.

Name How it Works Side Effects Perceived Benefits of Abuse/Misuse

Anabolic Steroids

Street Name: Roids, Juice, Doping, Arnolds

Purpose: Prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions such as delayed puberty or cancer

Anabolic steroids act like testosterone. They promote the growth of muscles as well as the development of male sexual features.


  • Aggression
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Breast development
  • Shrinking of testicles
  • Growth of body hair
  • Acne
  • Enhance performance
  • Increase muscle growth

(Ex: Morhpine, Oxycodone/Oxycontin, Codeine)

Street Name: Oxy, Big C, Killer, Hillbilly Heroin

Medically prescribed by a doctor to relieve pain

Painkillers trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine causes feelings of happiness and pleasure. They also interfere with the transmission of pain messages to the brain.

  • Relaxation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Lack of concentration
  • Constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Slowed breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased pain threshold
  • Pain relief
  • Relief from heroin and morphine withdrawal
  • Can get them from a doctor or pharmacist
  • Belief that they are more acceptable or cleaner than street drugs


(Ex: Ritalin, Adderall)

Street Name: Kiddles and Bits, Kiddy Cocaine, Skippy, Smarties, Smart Drug

Used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD / ADHD)

Stimulants trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, causing feelings of happiness and pleasure. They also speed up activity in the brain, cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism, and narrows blood vessels in the body (which decreases blood flow and oxygen to the heart).

  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Aggressiveness
  • Increased ability to concentrate
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Weight loss
  • Panic
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Increased energy
  • Reduced hunger
  • alertness
  • Overall feeling of well-being
  • Can get them from a doctor
  • Belief that they are more acceptable or cleaner than street drugs

Tranquilizers/Barbiturates (Ex: Valium,Xanax, Ativan)

Street Name: Benzo, Tranquilizers, Tranks, Downers, Barbs

Purpose: Prescribed for anxiety and/or sleep problems

They increase the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which results in a decrease in brain activity. Leads to feelings of drowsiness and calmness. It also results in a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Dilated pupils
  • Relaxation
  • Impaired co-ordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Paranoia
  • Irregular breathing
  • Vision problems
  • Aggressiveness
  • Liver damage
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety relief
  • Helps one to relax/relieve stress
  • Fun/enjoyment
  • Enhances mood
  • Can get them from a doctor
  • Belief that they are more acceptable or cleaner than street drugs

Mixing and Overdosing

Prescription drugs all have certain benefits and negative side effects. When you take more than you are supposed to, take them when they weren’t prescribed to you, or if you mix them with other substances (such as alcohol, illegal drugs or other prescription drugs), it can lead to unintended side effects on your body – some of which can be fatal.  Signs of overdose/impairment include: slurred speech, confusion, weakness and staggering, slow heart beat, breathing problems and unconsciousness. If you think someone has overdosed, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Chronic users of some prescription drugs can build up a tolerance. In other words, their body becomes used to the drug and it requires a larger dose to achieve the same effects. As with many other drugs, a sudden stop in the use of the drug after a long period of use can cause the individual to experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms differ depending on the drug and how long the individual has been using it. They can range from nausea/vomiting, to depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, seizures, anxiety, tremors and muscle/bone pain. For more information on withdrawal symptoms for specific drugs, visit:


Governed by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, prescription drugs are only legal when prescribed by a doctor. It is illegal to possess prescription drugs without a valid prescription or to get multiple prescriptions filled by different pharmacies (ex: lying about your identity, using a fake prescription, or getting multiple prescriptions by various doctors). Any other drug-related activities (for example: selling or giving out Oxycodone) are considered criminal offences.

What You Can Do

If you or someone you know has been using over the counter medications that have not been prescribed to them, talk to a trusted adult about it. You can also call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. Please remember that prescription medication should never be taken without the direction of a doctor.