Latest figures indicate that more than 40% of Americans use at least one prescription drug. Prescription drugs are vital for treating health conditions, but they can also be very dangerous. Individuals may abuse drugs unintentionally, by changing their own dosage as the body builds a tolerance to a given drug, or they may intentionally seek out ways to procure prescriptions for recreational use – usually under the belief that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs.
While prescriptions are generally safe if used correctly, drug abuse is never safe. Some common psychoactive drugs, such as those used to treat ADHD and anxiety, are widely abused. Abuse of prescription drugs is a growing public health concern, so preventing and identifying abuse is key. Luckily, there are many ways for preventing prescription drug abuse.
Although physicians may be the first line of defense, patients themselves can do the most to prevent abuse. Many cases of prescription drug abuse begin unintentionally among patients. After taking a drug for a long period of time, patients may build up a tolerance and feel that they need more of the medication to feel effects. If you believe you are beginning to build tolerance, contact your doctor right away. To prevent others from abusing your prescriptions, be sure to keep them in a secure area where only you can get to them. Speak about your prescriptions only with those you trust – individuals with a past history of drug abuse might find prescriptions to be a temptation. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and aim to transition off medication wherever possible.
- Preventing and Recognizing Prescription Drug Abuse
- National Council on Patient Information and Education
- Prescription Drug Abuse Fact Sheet for Patients (PDF)
- Patient Information on Understanding Prescription Drug Abuse
Physicians should be alert to signs of unusual behavior among patients, such as aggressive pursuit of a particular drug or “doctor shopping” to get a prescription. Accurate diagnosis of existing health concerns opens the door to preventing abuse. If a patient is taking a prescription with high risk of abuse, such as a painkiller, be sure to follow up with them regularly and monitor the progress of the condition so they can transition off medication as soon as possible. Although medication can be damaged or destroyed, be alert to any situation where prescriptions need to be renewed early. Educate patients as best as possible about the dangers of drug abuse. Be careful to ensure prescription pads are secured and not left alone with patients.
- Detailed Overview of Prescription Drug Abuse Intervention for Healthcare Professionals
- Prescriber’s Role in Preventing Diversion and Abuse of Prescription Drugs (PDF)
- Free Physician Resources to Recognize and Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse in Patients
- Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse: Relevant Laws From Throughout the U.S.
Not all patients have a strong relationship with a pharmacist, so the first step to preventing abuse is to build a rapport with those who use your pharmacy. A physician may not always have time for a thorough discussion of the risks of a given medication, so provide your visitors with a safe opportunity to learn more from you. Like physicians, you should be alert to any situation where a prescription is renewed more frequently than usual. Patients might also attempt to get several prescriptions filled at once, which can be a sign of abusing or even selling drugs. If possible, it is a good idea to coordinate with your company and the other pharmacists to provide prescription drug addiction pamphlets or information visitors can take for free. As with physicians, ensure that any materials used to document prescriptions are always kept secure.
- Strategies for Pharmacists to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse
- Combating Prescription Drug Abuse and Diversion
- ASHP Statement on Pharmacist’s Role in Drug Abuse Prevention
- Pharmacist’s Guide to Prescription Fraud
Parents have an important job to do when it comes to preventing prescription abuse. Although many cases of abuse center on mature adults with a valid or formerly valid prescription, college-aged young adults and teens are also at significant risk of prescription drug abuse. College-aged students often seek out drugs like Adderall to “focus” during study and anti-anxiety medication to help them “mellow out” while dealing with the pressures of college life. Whether your son or daughter is in middle school, high school, or college, however, the most important step parents can take is having a serious conversation about the dangers of addiction.