Many people fear that they may become addicted to medications prescribed for medical conditions, such as painkillers prescribed after surgery. However, people who take potentially addictive drugs as prescribed don't often abuse them or become addicted.

Risk factors for prescription drug abuse include:

  • Past or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol and tobacco
  • Family history of substance abuse problems
  • Younger age, especially the teens or early 20s
  • Certain pre-existing psychiatric conditions
  • Exposure to peer pressure or a social environment where there's drug use
  • Easier access to prescription drugs, such as having prescription medications in the home medicine cabinet
  • Lack of knowledge about prescription drugs and their potential harm

Older adults and prescription drug abuse

Prescription drug abuse in older adults is a growing problem, especially when they combine drugs with alcohol. Having multiple health problems and taking multiple drugs can put seniors at risk of misusing drugs or becoming addicted.

Sept. 19, 2015