Prescription Drug Abuse

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Prescription drugs are an important and often necessary aspect of medical care. However, some are addictive and dangerous when misused or abused.

When is taking a prescription medication considered abuse?

Prescription medication should only be used as directed by a licensed physician, and only by the person it was prescribed to. There are different types of prescription drug abuse, such as:

Red arrow bullet point Taking medication prescribed for someone else, even a family member.
Red arrow bullet point Taking a higher dose of medication than recommended by the prescribing physician.
Red arrow bullet point Continuing to take medication when it is no longer needed for medical care and without a physician’s direction.
Red arrow bullet point Taking prescription medication in order to get high.
Red arrow bullet point Taking prescription medication for any reason other than that intended by the prescribing physician.

What is the harm?

Pill pile

Although some people see prescription drugs as a “safe” alternative to other drugs, there are many risks associated with abusing medication. The majority of fatal overdoses involve a prescription drug. Risk of overdose is increased when mixing prescriptions with other medications and alcohol.


Prescription drugs, especially opioids, pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and benzodiazepines can be addictive, leading to a lifetime of dependence. Risky drugs include: opioid pain killers like Oxycontin, and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium.

Types of medication commonly abused:

For more information about these and other types of medications that are often abuse, you can visit these websites:

Red arrow bullet point Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Red arrow bullet point National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Red arrow bullet point Above the Influence

Medication storage:

Sources of pain relievers graph

Red arrow bullet point Keep your medication in a place that young people do not have access to. 
Red arrow bullet point Get a lock box for your medication. 
Red arrow bullet point Keep an inventory of the medications that you have and check regularly to ensure that nothing is missing.
Red arrow bullet point Dispose of unused medications using one of the options on our Rx Return Page.

To learn more about safe medication storage, visit the Lock Your Meds website

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