Over-the-Counter High

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Q. There's a group of guys at school who use prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high. A friend told me it's different than doing drugs because these medicines are safe and legal. I don't think I buy it. Is it true?

A.  I have major concerns if someone actually thinks "pharming," the slang word for this kind of drug abuse, is safe. He might've just told you that to make you feel better about him doing it—but he may believe it. I know people naive enough to think abusing prescription or over-the-counter pharmacy drugs is a safe and legal alternative to illicit drugs. It's neither.

There are different ways to pharm, and all are dangerous. Sometimes, it's an individual raiding his parents' medicine cabinet for a cheap and easy high. (The most common drugs abused are pain killers, friends' ADD pills, and even cough and cold medication.) Others create stronger drugs (like crystal meth) out of medicine found in drug stores. Or, groups of pharmers dump prescription pills into a bowl and randomly take whatever they pull out.

I know a 15-year-old who went to a party. She took a couple of pills out of a bowl. She was told they were all legal medicines. Her pills ended up being the hallucinogenic LSD. She had an overdose and is no longer the same person. Of course, that's an extreme case. Not every person who pharms has a bad, scary experience like that. However, the risks are real.

Taking medication for purposes other than its intended use is extremely dangerous. This abuse can cause liver, heart, kidney or nervous system damage and mood disorders. In fact, like with illegal drugs, your body can become dependent on incorrectly used medicine. This means your body adapts to the drug, leading to harsh withdrawal effects if you try to quit. (For more information, see freevibe.com.)

So, is pharming legal? No. Is it safe? No. You should never take a prescription drug not specifically prescribed for you by a physician. Never borrow someone else's pills to help you study, focus or feel better. Don't take pills if you don't know what they are. The gamble's not worth it.

The Bible says that our bodies are the temples of God's Spirit. As a Christian, I'm supposed to honor God with my body and respect it like I would respect something that belongs to God—because it does. I love this Scripture: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, niv).  That was good advice when Paul wrote those words almost 2,000 years ago, and it is good advice today.

Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.

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