Each year, millions of people abuse prescription medications. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2012, approximately 6.8 million people had abused prescription drugs in the month before the survey. Furthermore, prescription drug abuse made up 26 percent of the nearly three million people who abused drugs for the first time in 2012. Since so many people abuse prescription drugs, and since these types of drugs are frequently the first drug that a person abuses, it’s important for people to understand the ways that prescription drug abuse occurs. Additionally, researchers have been developing medications that are more difficult to abuse, making prescription medications safer for people to use for extended periods of time.

Abuse-Deterrent Opioids

The most commonly-abused prescription medications are pain relievers, which are frequently opioids. Because of the frequency of opioid abuse, the Food and Drug Administration lists the following formulations of opioids that have been developed to deter abuse:

  • Physical/chemical barriers: physical barriers include those that prevent chewing, crushing, cutting or grinding; chemical barriers make the drug more difficult to dissolve in water, alcohol and other organic solvents.
  • Agonist/antagonist combinations: these substances reduce or negate the euphoria that opioid abuse often creates.
  • Aversion: substances are added to the medication to produce unpleasant side effects if the dosage is altered in any way.
  • Delivery system: drug release systems that are administered intramuscularly or subcutaneously can make abuse more difficult.
  • Prodrug: these opioids don’t activate until they are inside the gastrointestinal tract, making intravenous or intranasal abuse more difficult.

Ways to Avoid Prescription Drug Abuse

Researchers and developers of prescription medication have been working to create medications that are less likely to be abused, but people who take prescription medications can also do specific things to avoid abuse. The Mayo Clinic gives the following advice to people who want to avoid prescription drug abuse:

  • Receive the correct medication: in order for a doctor to give a proper diagnosis, the person should tell her doctor all the symptoms she is experiencing; she should also inform her doctor of any other medications or supplements she is currently taking.
  • Talk regularly with the doctor: since both symptoms of a condition and the effectiveness of medication can change over time, the person should check in periodically with her physician to make sure everything is still going well.
  • Follow directions carefully: using the medication exactly as it is prescribed is one of the best ways to avoid abuse, so the person shouldn’t change her dosage without first talking to her doctor.
  • Understand the medication’s side effects: most medicines have side effects, and it’s helpful to know what these are so the person can differentiate between them and possible signs of abuse.
  • Never use other people’s medications: even people who are experiencing similar symptoms or who have similar diagnoses should consult their doctors individually for their prescription.
  • Be careful with ordering medications online: not all prescription drug websites are trustworthy, so the person should check with her doctor before ordering medications from a questionable source.

Millions of people take prescription medications every day. For most of these people, abuse is not a problem. Some of them, however, struggle with prescription drug abuse or addiction. Dealing with prescription drug abuse or addiction can be challenging, so researchers have been working to develop medications that are harder to abuse. Additionally, people can take specific steps to avoid abusing these drugs.

Get Help with Prescription Drug Abuse

If you or a loved one is dealing with prescription drug abuse, or if you are worried about abusing a prescription medication, give our toll-free number a call. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to discuss ways to avoid prescription drug abuse, as well as how to find quality treatment for a drug abuse problem. Call us right now to get more information.