Just being prescribed a medication doesn't put you at risk of abusing it or becoming addicted. Prescription drug abuse is rare in people who need painkillers, sedatives or stimulants to treat a medical condition. However, if you're taking a commonly abused drug, here are ways to decrease your risk:

  • Make sure you're getting the right medication. When you see your doctor, make sure the doctor clearly understands your condition and the signs and symptoms it's causing. Tell your doctor about all your prescriptions, as well as over-the-counter medications, herbs and supplements, and alcohol and drug use. Ask your doctor whether there's an extended-release version of a medication or an alternative medication with ingredients that have less potential for addiction.
  • Check in with your doctor. Talk with your doctor on a regular basis to make sure that the medication you're taking is working and you're taking the right dose.
  • Follow directions for use carefully. Use your medication the way it was prescribed. Don't stop or change the dose of a medication on your own if it doesn't seem to be working without talking to your doctor. For example, if you're taking a pain medication that isn't adequately controlling your pain, don't take more.
  • Know what your medication does. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the effects of your medication so you know what to expect.
  • Never use another person's prescription. Everyone's different. Even if you have a similar medical condition, it may not be the right medication or dose for you.
  • Don't order prescriptions online unless they're from a trustworthy pharmacy. Some websites sell counterfeit prescription and nonprescription drugs that could be dangerous.

Preventing prescription drug abuse in teens

Young people are at especially high risk of prescription drug abuse. Follow these steps to help prevent your teen from abusing prescription medications.

  • Discuss the dangers with your teen. Emphasize to your teen that just because drugs are prescribed by a doctor doesn't make them safe — especially if they were prescribed to someone else or if your child is already taking other prescription medications.
  • Set rules about your child's prescription medications. Let your teen know that it's not OK to share medications with others — or to take medications prescribed for others. Emphasize the importance of taking the prescribed dose of medication and talking with the doctor before making changes.
  • Keep your prescription drugs safe. Keep track of quantities and keep them in a locked medicine cabinet.
  • Make sure your child isn't ordering drugs online. Some websites sell counterfeit and dangerous drugs that may not require a prescription.
  • Properly dispose of medications. Check the label or patient information guide for disposal instructions — don't flush the drugs down the toilet unless it says to do so or your pharmacist advises you to do so. You can ask your pharmacist or local trash and recycling service if there's a medicine take-back program that accepts unused medications. If not, put unused drugs in your household trash. But before throwing them out, remove them from the container and mix them in a sealed plastic bag with used coffee grounds, used kitty litter or another undesirable substance. Before tossing the container, remove the label and cross out identifying information.
Oct. 11, 2012