National Safety Month: Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

During National Safety Month, the staggering realities about prescription drug abuse in America often take center stage. With the nonmedical use of prescription drugs growing throughout the country, organizations are taking action to bring awareness about the risks of substance abuse and addiction.

Every day, opioid pain medications will take the lives of 52 people. Even more alarming, 47,000 people die from drug overdose every year – most from abusing painkillers.

During National Safety Month, the staggering realities about prescription drug abuse in America often take center stage. Medications were produced to help people live better lives; they’re designed to relieve pain, manage health conditions and speed recovery from illness. However, when used incorrectly, these strong drugs can lead to damaging complications.

When a medication is prescribed by a doctor, many assume that there’s no potential risk for developing an addiction. In reality though, these drugs can be as addictive as those found on the street. Oftentimes, the prescription drugs on the streets are the same ones found in doctor offices. For this reason, the mind is unable to tell the difference between a legal prescription versus a drug purchased for nonmedical uses.

In order to reduce the number of overdoses, the National Safety Council is encouraging employers, family members and friends to start a conversation on the risks of abusing prescription drugs.

The Road to Prescription Drug Abuse

Addiction doesn’t discriminate who it affects. Prescription drug abuse can impact any group at any age. The medications most commonly misused include opioid painkillers, sedatives and anti-anxiety medications.
70 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from friends or relatives.

Sometimes people are tempted to take a larger amount of a drug if their body becomes tolerant of the current dosage. With each increase, the greater the chances of addiction. Since screening for addiction is usually not required during physical exams, a substance abuse problem can go unnoticed for quite a long time. When left untreated, negative side effects can arise and make it more difficult to become sober.

Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs

The nonmedical use of prescription drugs is a growing problem across the nation.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that prescription drugs are misused and abused more often than any other drug, except marijuana and alcohol.

There are numerous reasons why people misuse prescription drugs. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the top factors include:

  • Feeling good
  • Relaxing and destressing
  • Reducing appetite
  • Increasing alertness
  • Trying something new
  • Being accepted by peers
  • Improving concentration

Unfortunately, using prescription drugs for recreational reasons can cause long-term health problems. When taken with other illicit drugs or alcohol, the consequences associated with these medications can be dangerous and sometimes, life threatening.

Prescription Drug Safety Tips

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following ways to staying safe when it comes to prescription drugs:

  • List all of your current medications – both over-the-counter, vitamins and prescriptions – to doctor appointments.
  • Before taking a new prescription, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist how it will react to your current medications.
  • Ask questions about your current prescriptions. If you don’t understand about why you’re taking a specific drug, speak up and clarify any concerns you may have.
  • When picking up your prescription from the pharmacist, check to make sure it’s what your doctor ordered. If the pill size, bottle or color looks different, have the pharmacist double-check.
  • Follow instructions on properly taking your medicine. If the directions on the label are confusing, ask your doctor to explain dosage amount and frequency.
  • Learn about potential side effects – common ones and those less frequent, but sometimes serious. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any side effect from the drug.

Preventing Prescription Drug Addiction

Some prescription drugs may lead to addiction or other serious side effects. Know the benefits, as well as the risks of what you’re putting in your body. If you experience any negative side effects or health complications from a drug you’re taking, notify your doctor immediately. Being aware and staying knowledgeable are the best ways to preventing addiction.