Misuse of prescription drugs is one of the fastest growing public health problems in the United States. Most of us will be prescribed medication at some point in our lives and it is important to be informed about proper usage, storage, and disposal of prescription drugs.
Examples of prescription drug misuse include:
- Taking more of a prescription medication than prescribed
- Taking a prescription medication for a reason different than prescribed
- Sharing or taking someone else's prescription medication
In a recent survey, 84% of DU students said they had not taken a prescription drug that wasn't prescribed to them in the prior 12 months.
Using Prescription Drugs Safely
- Only use prescription drugs as directed by your health care provider. Taking a dosage that's larger than the prescribed amount can be very dangerous.
- Never share your prescription drugs with others or use someone else's prescription drugs. A drug's effect depends on an individual's condition, tolerance, and the drug itself. What works for one person may be harmful for another. Never take another person's prescription, and never give your prescription to someone else to take. It's unsafe and illegal.
- Always store your prescription drugs securely to prevent others from taking them, and properly dispose of prescription drugs that you no longer need.
- Just because a drug is prescribed by a health care provider does not mean it is safe to take without a prescription. Prescription drugs have risks just like any substance.
- If you choose to take prescription medications you are not prescribed, always ensure you know what you are taking. Never accept pills from unknown sources, as these may contain additional unknown substances.
Risks of Misusing Prescription Drugs
There can be physical, social, and legal consequences when you misuse prescription drugs. These risks increase if you are mixing prescription drugs with other substances.
- All prescription drugs have side effects, and mixing alcohol (or other substances) with these products often enhances these side effects and/or the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
- Many overdoses result from mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or other substances.If you have been prescribed a medication, read the label or check with your health care provider before drinking alcohol.
- It is a felony to possess prescription drugs without a prescription, and it is also a crime to sell or give your prescription drugs to someone else. Doing so could result in harsh legal consequences.
Store Prescription Drugs Safely
It is important to keep prescription drugs stored in a secure location out of sight of others who may come into your space.
- Prescription medication should be secured in a drawer or cabinet that can be locked, or a lock box that's out of sight.
- Monitor your medicine. Know how much you've used, how much remains, and what medications you have in your possession.
- Store medication as directed. Usually this means a cool dry place, not a kitchen or bathroom where things can get hot or humid. Sometimes they need to be refrigerated. Ask your pharmacist if you're unsure.
- Always use the original container the medicine came in. Make sure the label remains attached and all child-resistant caps are secured.
- Do not combine medications into one bottle.
Dispose of Prescription Drugs Properly
Proper disposal of unused and expired prescription drugs can help reduce misuse and lessen the environmental impact prescription medications can have when improperly disposed of.
The best way to dispose of prescription medications is to find a prescription medication drop box. Click here to find drop boxes in Colorado. If you can't access a drop box location, you can safely dispose of medication at home by taking the following steps:
- Remove the medication from the original container. Make sure you remove the label or cross out any identifying information.
- Mix the medication with something that can't be eaten, like kitty litter, coffee grounds, saw dust, home cleanser, etc.
- Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other durable container that prevents leakage.
- Wrap the container in newspaper or a plain brown bag to conceal its contents. Place it in your trash the day your trash is collected.
- Do not flush your medication down the toilet.
- Mail-back envelopes can be purchased at some pharmacies. Ask your pharmacist for additional information.
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