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Nearly 19 million Americans used prescription drugs, such as pain relievers, opioids, tranquilizers, and stimulants, non-medically in the past year. Prescription drug misuse and abuse is an issue that touches people of all socio-economic backgrounds and ages. At the state boards of pharmacy and NABP, we are focused on ensuring that pharmacies and providing medications and patient services that are safe for you and your family. We want you to be able to talk to your pharmacist about safe medication use, including opioids.

Through the AWARxE® Prescription Drug Safety Program, NABP and its member state boards of pharmacy provide information on how to:

  • Buy Medication Safely 
  • Use and Store Medication Safely
  • Prevent Medication Abuse
  • Dispose of Medication Safely

Find A Drug Disposal Location Near You:

Drug Disposal Locator Tool »

 

Identifying Prescription Drug Abuse

The first step towards preventing prescription drug abuse among friends and family is identifying the signs of abuse. Prescription drug abuse can happen to anyone and it can have severe consequences: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 16,000 people die per year from painkiller overdose.

Unlike prescription drug misuse, which can involve not following medication instructions, prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication to get “high,” explains the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If you think a loved one may be abusing drugs, take a look at this list from the Mayo Clinic that details behaviors of someone who is addicted to medications:

  • Stealing, forging, or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings or hostility
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
  • Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor, also called “doctor shopping.”

More specifically, people with addictions show different behaviors based on the type of medication to which they are addicted. For example, it is common for someone who is addicted to opioid painkillers to feel nauseated, have poor coordination, or act confused or drowsy. While someone who may be addicted to stimulants might have a reduced appetite, appear agitated or excitable, and have trouble sleeping.

Think it can’t happen to your friend or family member? An NABP past president shares his loss in hopes of helping preventing others from experiencing the same thing.

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Which Drugs Are Abused?

Though over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs can be abused, it is more likely that prescription drugs – controlled substances in particular – will be abused. Controlled substances (CS) are regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which divides CS into five categories called schedules.

Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and currently have no accepted medical use. They are the only schedule of drug that cannot be prescribed. Examples include heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Schedule II drugs may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples include morphine, oxycodone, methamphetamine, and methadone.

Schedule III drugs may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Examples include anabolic steroids, codeine with aspirin or Tylenol®, and certain barbiturates.

Schedule IV may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence compared with Schedule III drugs. Examples include Valium® and Xanax®.

Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for abuse. They may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence compared with Schedule IV drugs. Cough medicines with codeine are one example.

More information about controlled substances is available on the DEA website.

How to Get Help

Below are a few resources to utilize if you or someone you love is struggling with prescription drug abuse.

Find a Doctor Specializing in Addiction Medicine:

The American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) offers a certification in the subspecialty of Addiction Medicine. Physicians who subspecialize in this new certification have expertise in the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of persons with the disease of addiction, of those with substance-related health conditions, and of people who show unhealthy use of substances including nicotine, alcohol, prescription medications and other drugs. You can find a doctor certified in Addiction Medicine on the ABPM website. The site also provides information on what is required to achieve and maintain the certification.

Other Sources for Addiction Treatment:

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a useful online treatment center locator that helps you find facilities in your area.
  • The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has information on helping teens as well as tips for parents and caregivers on talking to youth about prescription drug safety and abuse.

For Emergencies:

  • If you or someone you are with is experiencing a life-threatening situation such as an overdose, call 911, your local or regional hospital, or your physician’s emergency services.
  • If you’ve accidentally taken too much medicine, you can call a local poison control center at 800/222-1222 immediately. A poison control center expert can assist you at no cost, if you mistakenly take medication that is not prescribed for you, or if you have taken too much medication, prescription or non-prescription.

How Your State’s Board of Pharmacy Can Help

The shared mission of state boards of pharmacy and NABP is to protect consumers. From the volunteer members who are appointed to the board to the staff that support them, the people at the boards of pharmacy are focused on ensuring that pharmacies and pharmacists are providing medications and patient services that are safe for you and your family.

If you have questions about related to a recent experience at your pharmacy the board of pharmacy is there to help. Other topics that boards of pharmacy often provide information or assistance on include:

  • The license status of a pharmacist or pharmacy
  • Medication errors and other issues occurring at your pharmacy
  • How to dispose of prescription drugs safely at home/find takeback days in your state
  • How to read prescription drug labels
  • Important information affecting consumers and patients in your state

Click here to find contact information for your state’s board of pharmacy.

Buy Safely

Part of preventing medication abuse is ensuring that you are obtaining your medications from a reputable source. As more consumers begin to purchase medications from online pharmacies, it is important to ensure that the websites you buy from are safe and legitimate. NABP provides several resources to help you determine if you are purchasing your medication from a safe website. Learn more about buying medicine online.