Prescription drugs are helpful to many when they’re used as prescribed by a physician. However, prescription drugs can be misused, and misusing them can have serious health consequences. In 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 18 million people misused a prescription medication at least once in the past year.
Depending on the drug used, they can cause elevated blood pressure, difficulty breathing, reduced blood flow, changes in blood sugar, irregular heartbeats, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, confusion, seizures, and overdoses.
Key Facts about Prescription Drugs
- Prescription drugs are largely safe, though not free from side effects, when used as prescribed.
- Prescription drug misuse is highest among young adults ages 18 to 25.
- Youth who misuse prescription drugs are more likely to use other drugs, including smoking cigarettes, drinking heavily, and using marijuana, cocaine, or other illicit drugs.
- Overdoses aren’t the only risk. Drugs can interact with each other to cause unexpected or severe side effects.
How to Prevent Prescription Drug Misuse
Prescription drug misuse heavily affects young adults in the U.S., but it also impacts Americans of all ages. About half of Americans (48%) use prescription drugs regularly, which means that about half of Americans are potentially at risk for misusing those drugs.
As a patient, you should talk to your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicine you use. Ask questions about them and how they might interact with each other. Take your medicine as prescribed, and never use someone else’s medicine or share your own.
As a parent, it’s important to store your medicine safely. About 60% of youth access prescription drugs from friends or relatives, including the home medicine cabinet. Keep prescription drugs locked away and move all medicine out of reach of small children to prevent accidental poisonings.
Ask for help if you need it. If you’re concerned about you or someone else, get help at findtreatment.gov.
Resources for Preventing Prescription Drug Misuse
Below are resources to help you prevent prescription drug misuse. These include Know! Parent Tips, tips for safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs, Ohio’s SafeRx Collaborative, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.