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Tips for Preventing Prescription Medication Misuse

Close up of patient with prescription

Thanks to modern pharmaceuticals, there are millions of people enjoying a quality of life that would have been impossible a few generations ago. Many millions more owe untold years of their lifespan thanks to these lifesaving drugs.

However, while taking prescription medications are an important part of many of our daily routines, many of the most prescribed medications come with some serious risks, especially when they are misused. Some types of prescription medications, notably opioid painkillersanxiolytics, and stimulants, to name but a few, can also be extremely habit-forming, making them especially dangerous when their risks are not appreciated.

Unfortunately, these prescription medications are among the most prescribed in America. To drive the point home, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control have both attributed the widespread prescribing of opioids in the 2000s and their subsequent misuse as a major contributor to the current opioid epidemic. Medically-prescribed opioid medications, which were intended to improve quality of life, have ended up doing the opposite for a significant minority of patients.1,2

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to significantly reduce the risks associated with potentially problematic medications.3 Here are some ideas for managing the risks of prescription medicines. Get in touch with our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to learn more about treatment options for prescription medicine misuse.

Communicate With Your Doctor and Pharmacist

Communication is a two-way street. Healthcare professionals can only do so much if the patient isn’t doing their part. Some things you should do include:

  • Telling your doctor if you feel that you’re starting to be hooked on the medication.
  • Keeping a list of all the medications and supplements that you use, including the ones you only use occasionally.
  • Telling your doctor if you are currently pregnant or nursing.

Understand Your Medications

While your doctor will probably explain most of what you need to know, you should do your own research on what potential effects your medications (both prescription and OTC) and supplements have. Things you should know include:

  • Your medication’s generic name
  • The drug and food interactions of your medications and supplements. Check for new interactions or side effects with every new medication or supplement.
  • What to do if you miss a dose.
  • The potential side effects.
  • Any addictive potential.
  • Correct doses.
  • How long you should use each medication
  • When you should expect results.

Proper Storage

Storing your medications properly will prevent them from being stolen or misused by unauthorized parties. It will also help ensure that your medications do not lose potency. Things to keep in mind include:

  • Not combining different medications in one container.
  • Keeping your medications out of reach of children.
  • Storing potentially dangerous medications like opioids and benzodiazepines in secure containers.
  • Reading the label’s storage instructions.
  • Making sure you have the right medication before you take it.

Monitoring

It’s important to keep note of how your medications and supplements are affecting you. This may be key in preventing serious side effects as well as potential substance use disorders. Thing you should do include:

  • Keeping a regular journal. This is often recommended for psychiatric medications but can be useful for anything you take regularly as well. Journaling will help you better contextualize the specific effects of medications that may not necessarily act right away.
  • Asking your doctor and pharmacist’s advice for reducing side effects and interactions.
  • Understanding your body and noting if there are improvements or setbacks in your condition.

Find Help for Prescription Medication Misuse

The misuse of prescription medications is a very serious problem that has contributed not only to the current opioid epidemic but also to the amphetamine epidemic of the past century.1,2,4 While policymakers have taken steps to prevent future tragedies, it’s in everyone’s best interest to be more conscientious when it comes to the medications we use.

By taking steps to better understand and safeguard the medications we need, we can go a long way in preventing prescription medication misuse. This, in turn, can help prevent the emergence of substance use disorders, which can be extremely complex and difficult to treat.

If you suspect that you or a loved one have become hooked on prescription medication, get in touch with your doctor immediately. Early detection and treatment of substance use disorder is key to better recovery outcomes. If you’re in New England, call (857) 577-8193 to find treatment programs in Boston that specialize in treating issues related to prescription medications.

Resources

  1. Centers for Disease Control. (2021). Opioid Basics: Understanding the Epidemic.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Opioid Overdose Crisis.
  3. United States Food and Drug Administration. (2018). Think It Through: Managing the Benefits and Risks of Medicines.
  4. Rasmussen N. (2008). America’s first amphetamine epidemic 1929-1971: a quantitative and qualitative retrospective with implications for the present. American journal of public health98(6), 974–985. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.110593