How to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse

Prescription drugs have many positive benefits, helping to alleviate ailments and help people enjoy healthy, active lives. Unfortunately, individuals who abuse and misuse prescription drugs put themselves and others at risk, as medicines taken for the wrong reasons can have devastating consequences.

Prescription drug abuse and misuse is serious, and it is critically important that New York residents take steps within their communities to educate each other on the dangers of improperly taking medications.

What is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Misuse of drugs can begin when a patient is taking too much of a drug or taking it too often. For example, if someone is prescribed a pain medication pill to take once a day and decide to take it 2 to 3 times a day because the extra dosage helps relieve their pain, they are misusing it because they are disregarding directions from their physician. Misuse can escalate and become more serious with individuals abusing prescription drugs regularly and becoming addicted.

Signs of prescription drug abuse include:

  • If an individual is changing doctors often or attempting to get drugs prescribed by multiple doctors at the same time
  • If an individual has an excessive amount of pill bottles in their possession
  • If an individual is acquiring medications from illegitimate sources
  • If, along with one or more of the bullets above, an individual becomes increasingly withdrawn from their friends and family members

Drug abuse can be prevented with proper prescription drug education, along with policies and procedures that limit illicit access to prescription medications. There are a number of ways pharmaceutical companies and the general public can work together to help lessen – and hopefully, eliminate – drug abuse. At New York Health Works, we support the following initiatives to combat prescription drug abuse.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Everyday, organizations strive to plan and develop new technology that more effectively tracks how people gain access to prescription medications and where patterns of abuse emerge. By putting systems in place that limit dosages and/or refills, while tracking whether or not patients are “doctor shopping” by visiting multiple doctors to acquire the same medicines, it can be ensured only patients in medical need of prescriptions are able to acquire them.

Pill Mill Shut-Down

Unfortunately, there are many facilities that distribute pills in a manner not regulated by the pharmaceutical industry. These facilities often prescribe medications to individuals for the wrong reasons, or for no medical reason at all – simply allowing the patients to request access to medications (such as pain medications) that, when taken improperly, can cause overdoses and other serious complications.

As a society, we must shut down pill mills – and make sure only patients in medical need are given access to prescription drugs.

Law Enforcement Crackdowns

Drugs get into the wrong hands for a variety of reasons, from the pill mills and doctor shopping mentioned above to illegal sales in-person and online. Members of our law enforcement who seek to identify the enablers of drug abuse and diversion are incredibly help. Bringing people who handle drugs illicitly to justice can help prevent overdoses and save lives.

Ongoing Provider Training

It’s important that all who handle medications remain educated and aware of the risks associated with drug misuse. Ongoing training can help providers avoid and identify abuse by teaching them about prescribing the proper amount of medication, educating the patient on proper usage, knowing when a patient is requesting more medications than symptoms, and physical signs.

Community Education

Most importantly, New York residents must continue to educate others in our community about the dangers of using medications for reasons other than how they were originally prescribed.

In 2014, the abuse of heroin and opioids killed more than 10,000 Americans. Many of these deaths were caused by the abuse of prescription drugs legally prescribed, yet improperly used. This is an epidemic that does not discriminate and cannot be ignored. Together, we all must combat it.