Many people take prescription medications each year. While most people use prescription medications as prescribed, some abuse these drugs. SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health found that in 2012, prescription medications were the second most commonly abused drug after marijuana. It also reported that approximately 6.8 million Americans ages 12 and over abused prescription medications. Additionally, the NSDUH found that 26 percent of people who began abusing illegal drugs for the first time abused prescription medications. Because prescription medications can be abused so easily, and because this type of drug abuse can so easily lead to addiction and abuse of other types of drugs, it’s important to know how to avoid abuse of and addiction to any type of prescription medication.
Using the following three tips as guidance will help a person avoid this type of abuse and addiction.
1. Understand What Prescription Drug Abuse Is
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that prescription drug abuse occurs anytime a person uses a medication outside of its specific prescription. For example, a person might be abusing a prescription drug if she takes the drug:
- At a higher dose than prescribed
- Combined with alcohol or other drugs
- Through different forms of administration, such as grinding and snorting a pill that is meant to be swallowed
2. Know the Most Commonly Abused Types of Prescription Medications
The NIDA also lists the following types of commonly abused prescription drugs:
- Depressants: these include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and sleep medications
- Opioids: codeine, fentanyl and analogs, methadone and morphine are common examples of abused opioids
- Stimulants: these include amphetamines and methylphenidate
3. Stay Informed and Make Healthy Decisions about Prescription Medications
Since so many people are prescribed medications, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how to avoid prescription drug abuse. In order to help people prevent this type of drug abuse, the Mayo Clinic offers several suggestions for people using prescription medications:
- Get the right medication: the person should make sure that her doctor knows all the symptoms of her condition, as well as the other prescription and over-the-counter medications she is currently taking. The doctor should also know about any alcohol and drug use that the person may be engaging in.
- Update the doctor regularly: she should keep the doctor updated on the effects of the medication, and should check in periodically to ensure that she is still taking the correct dosage.
- Follow the medication’s directions: medications must be used exactly as prescribed, so the person should talk to her doctor before stopping or changing the medication’s dose if it doesn’t appear to be working.
- Understand the drug’s effects: the person’s doctor or pharmacist should explain exactly what side effects of a medication the patient can expect; if her experience with the medication differs in any way, she should contact her doctor immediately.
- Don’t use other people’s prescriptions: even if two people have similar medical conditions, they might have different reactions to a given medication. A person should therefore only use medications prescribed by her own doctor.
- Only use medications from a trusted pharmacy: some websites and other locations sell fake medications that can be dangerous, so a person should only take medications she receives from a reliable pharmacy.
Find Out More about Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction
Prescription drug abuse and addiction occurs more commonly than many people realize. If you or a loved one need help for an addiction to prescription medications please give us a call at 615-490-9376.