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Who is affected by prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug abuse does not discriminate against age, race, gender, or income. Anyone can be at risk for misuse or abuse. But the effects of prescription drug abuse extend beyond the challenges of an addiction-prescription drug abuse threatens our families, our communities, and our environment. The Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force continues to work to address the multiple issues surrounding prescription drug abuse.

If a prescription is written by a doctor, isn't it safe?

Not when it is misused or abused.  Many people think that abusing prescription drugs is safer than abusing illicit/street drugs, but they can be JUST as dangerous. There are a number of things that are required to make a drug as "safe" as it can be. These safety measures include making sure physicians know about all your medical history, when/where you acquire the prescription medication, carefully abiding by doctor's orders, and taking it as directed for the purposes that the physician intended.

Where can I dispose of my meds?

The Indiana Attorney General's Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force is working on increasing access to disposal locations.  There are several events held on a yearly or monthly basis, as well as multiple sites where you can return your prescription drugs year-round.  You can find a location near you on our Medicine Disposal page.

Why can't I just return these potentially dangerous drugs to the pharmacy where I purchased them?

The Federal DEA regulations currently allow for only law enforcement to collect controlled substances.  They are currently in the process of adopting regulations that will allow pharmacies to collect these medications and we anticipate they will go into effect in 2014.  Until then, many counties allow disposal at law enforcement sites and other locations. Learn more about this and other disposal options on our Medicine Disposal & Safe Storage page.

Which drugs are most commonly abused?

Any drug has the potential to be misused or abused.  The three most common are:

  • Painkillers (opioid  or narcotic pain relievers) are shared/sold to get high, dull pain or to change a mood
  • Depressants (treats anxiety or sleep disorders) are often used to "relax or wind down," or come back down after stimulant use
  • Stimulants (for attention deficit disorders) for staying awake or come back up after depressants

All of these drugs have a powerful effect on the brain, and when abused, can cause serious damage and even death. Learn more about prescription drug abuse on our Signs & Symptoms page.

Why are painkillers so dangerous?

Many prescription painkillers are opioids which are the same components found in illicit narcotics such as heroin. These powerful medications are used to relieve pain, but have highly addictive properties and should only be used as directed.  Painkillers, or opioids, are powerful medications used to relieve pain.  They have a purpose, but also have addictive properties and should be used only as directed and with that consideration in mind.  These medications can include, for example, Vicodin®, Percocet®, and morphine. These medications reduce the perception of pain. They can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion and slow breathing. Taking too much, too fast or in conjunction with the wrong thing can have serious consequences, dramatically slowing your breathing, and potentially causing death. Learn more about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs on our Signs & Symptoms page.

If painkillers are so dangerous, why does my doctor prescribe them?

Opioids can be safe if used as prescribed, but they are powerful medications with highly addictive qualities. Managing chronic pain requires you to be an advocate in your own treatment plan. It's important to understand all of your treatment options including alternatives to opioids. Talking with your doctor is the most effective way to make sure your pain is being treated in a safe way. Taking someone else's medication, combining them with the wrong thing, or just taking too much on a single occasion can be a fatal mistake. Never borrow someone else's prescription pain pills and don't hang on to left over pills of your own. If you resume taking opioids after a break, talk to your doctor about starting with a lower dose.

What is a "controlled substance"?

A controlled substance is any drug or chemical that can be regulated by the government. This can include both illegal and prescription drugs. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted by the Congress of the United States in 1970. Not every drug is federally regulated - some are regulated by state governments.

What type of painkillers should I discuss with my doctor?

If you are taking opioids, more commonly referred to as painkillers, you need to discuss the risks involved with your doctor.  These powerful narcotics used to relieve pain can lead to severe dependence and have high abuse potential.  The number of people addicted to these medications has reached epidemic proportions according to the Center for Disease Control.

What are the most commonly prescribed painkillers (opioids)?

The two most common prescribed opioid classifications include hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Lorcet-HD®, Hycodan®, Vicoprofen®) and oxycodone (Tylox®, Percodan®, OxyContin®). Other commonly prescribed opioids include oxymorphone (Opana®, Opana ER®), fentanyl (Actiq®, FentoraT, Duragesic®), pethidine, methadone Methadose®, Dolophine®, tramadol (Ultram®), and dextroprpoxyphene. Because there are so many drug variations, it is important to discuss all medications painkillers with both your doctor and pharmacist.

I think someone I know has a real problem. What should I do?

Addiction or abuse should only be treated by a health care professional. If someone you know is struggling with prescription drug abuse or addiction, refer them to treatment. Learn more about treatment options and locations at our Get Help Now page.

How can I talk to my children about prescription drugs?

Talking to your children about the dangers of prescription drugs is just as important as talking to them about illegal drugs.  In fact, more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from cocaine, heroin and inhalants combined.  That is why we strongly encourage talking to your children about prescription drugs. Visit our our Resources page for more information and advice.

Why should I dispose of my unused meds?

There are many reasons that pills can end up in the wrong hands. Cleaning out your medicine cabinet ensures that unused or leftover medications don't end up on the street or cause damage to the environment. Proper disposal protects against the following:

  • Accidental poisoning
  • Prescription drug overdose
  • Death from overdose
  • Illegal use or theft
  • Contamination of water resources