Prescription drug abuse can occur in many ways. When a person takes medication that has not been prescribed to them, it is prescription drug abuse. When a person takes medication in a way other than directed, such as a larger dose, or crushing the pills to snort the contents it is prescription drug abuse. When a person takes medication with the intent to get “high” or feel good it is prescription drug abuse. Taking medication from a friend or relative for pain relief, or to help a person study or concentrate is abuse, even if there is no intent to get high.
How common is prescription drug abuse? Prescription drugs are the second most abused drug category in the United States. 24% of teens report abusing prescription drugs at least once in their life and of those teens who abuse prescription drugs, 20% do so before age 14.
Over the years, prescription drug abuse has been a growing problem among adolescents. Current data suggests:
• 20% of U.S. high school students have taken prescription drugs without consulting a doctor
• 14% of tens report talking with their parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse
• 1 in 3 teens believes there is “nothing wrong” with abusing prescription medications “every once in a while.”
• 1 in 3 teens report knowing someone who abuses prescription drugs
• Every day, 2,500 will abuse prescription drugs for the first time
Why has abuse or misuse of prescription drugs increased?
• They are legally prescribed: Teens often have the misconception that because these drugs are legal, and can be prescribed by a physician, they are safer than using illegal street drugs
• Easily found and accessed: 70-80% of persons ages 12 and older get prescription drugs from a friend or relative. A person does not have to find a dealer, or go online to order these drugs, they are often found in the family medicine cabinet. Storing medications out in the open or in an unlocked cabinet can be opportunistic for anyone that enters your home.
How can you help?
• Talk to teens about the dangers of taking a medication that is not prescribed to them
• Properly dispose of medication that is no longer being used, or expired
• Use a locking box to store both prescription and over the counter medications
• Monitor and keep an inventory of your medications on a regular basis
• Get to know the friends and parents of friends your teen hangs out with
Proper disposal of unused or expired medications:
Be on the lookout for drug take back days in your community. If you cannot make a drug take back event, you can follow these simple steps to properly dispose of your medications
• Do not flush down the toilet or drain, unless specifically instructed to do so by label or other patient information
• Remove medication from its original container and place into either a disposable container with a lid, or a plastic bag that can be sealed. Be sure to remove all labeling from the original packaging of the medication.
• Mix medication with used coffee grounds or cat litter
• Place sealed container with original medication packing in the trash