Myths and Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse in the U.S.
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise and it’s making headlines. The wave of information that has come with it can be overwhelming, conflicting and outright inaccurate. So how do you know if someone you know is at risk? How do you know what’s true and what’s not?
Finding the answers can be as simple as separating fact from fiction.
• Myth: Prescription drugs are safer than illegal street drugs.
• Fact: Prescription meds require a prescription because they are powerful drugs that need to be monitored and dosed properly to avoid problems like overdose and risks like heart failure. Without the prescript you are unlikely to know the side effects and warnings or if the dose is stronger than normal.
• Myth: It’s ok to take an extra or larger dose when I need it.
• Fact: No it’s never ok to take a larger dose. Taking more than the doctor prescribes puts you at risk for increased chances of such problems as heart failure, cessation of breathing, seizure and possibly even death.
• Myth: Drug addiction and abuse only really affects teens and twenty-somethings.
• Fact: Drug abuse and in particular prescription abuse, affects every walk of life from preteen to the elderly, from lower to upper class. It’s an all-encompassing problem that affects many who wouldn’t otherwise be affected.
• Myth: Prescription drugs aren’t as addictive as street drugs.
• Fact: As a matter of fact many users of prescription drugs are at an even higher risk for addiction than users of street drugs. This is precisely why they are intended to be regulated by doctors and prescribed for certain specific amounts of time or conditions.
• Myth: It doesn’t matter if I keep some old prescripts in case a condition comes back.
• Fact: There are limits on how long a medication is safe and effective and leaving a drug in your medicine cabinet can be more of a temptation than you or your child might be able to say no to.
What Can I Do?
The best way to evade abuse of prescription drugs is to monitor them carefully. Take note of dosage, amount of pills and record refills to be sure they’re being used properly. When you are done with a drug, throw it out. Never flush unused medicines; flushing medicines contaminates the water supply!
Be sure to throw the drug away with unsavory garbage such as used kitty litter and coffee grounds to avoid the drug being taken from the trash. If your teen or pre-teen is on any prescription medication, be especially vigilant in monitoring its use. It is common for teens to sell or share their prescriptions (and yours) with friends and it is possible to become addicted to prescriptions on accident. The elderly are at particular risk for this as they sometimes suffer memory loss and may take a drug more than once without realizing it.
Hold a family meeting to discuss the risks involved with prescription drug abuse. It may also help to discuss it with friends or relatives who could also be a source of prescription drugs.