Prescription drug abuse is the use of medication without a prescription in a way other than as prescribed. An estimated 48 million people have abused prescription drugs, representing nearly 20% of the U.S. population. Commonly abused prescription drugs – narcotic pain relievers such as hydrocodone, depressants such as Xanax and Valium, and stimulants such as Ritalin and adderall – can lead to adverse health effects and addiction.

In order to keep prescription drugs safe and out of the hands of those who may abuse them, here are a few tips.

  1. Lock up all prescription drugs at home.
  2. Monitor the quantities and control access.
  3. Set clear rules for teens about all drug use to include not sharing medicine and following the prescriber’s advice and dosage.
  4. Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines.
    Visit the Safe Disposal page for more information.

Consider these facts:

  • Nearly one in five teens has used a prescription drug to get high.
  • Young Adults aged 18-25 are the most common users of prescription medication for nonmedical use.
  • Teens report getting drugs from the medicine cabinets in their own homes and from relatives and friends.

Some of the most abused prescription drugs include:

  • Painkillers  called opioids – brand names such as Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin
    Symptoms of abuse: confusion, decreased respiration, depression, pinpoint pupils, low blood pressure.
  • Stimulants – brand names such as Ritalin and Adderall
    Symptoms of abuse: agitation, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, weight loss.
  • Sedatives – brand names such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan
    Symptoms of abuse: drowsiness, unsteady gait, poor judgment (similar symptoms as alcohol abuse). These drugs are most often abused in conjunction with other drugs. For example, a methamphetamine user may use this type of drug to come down from over-stimulation.

Other symptoms a person may be abusing a prescription drug:

  • Appearing to be high or sedated
  • “Losing” prescriptions so that more must be written

  • Taking more than what is prescribed

  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one prescriber

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions