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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Prescription Drug Abuse

How Do I Know if I'm Abusing Prescription Drugs?

If you are abusing prescription drugs, you may be taking larger doses than your doctor prescribed, or using them for reasons other than prescribed. For instance, if your doctor prescribed a pain medication to be taken three times daily and you find yourself taking the same medication more frequently or taking twice as much, you are abusing prescription drugs. If you take the same pain medication for reasons other than prescribed -- such as, because you feel out of sorts or bored -- this is also an abuse of the prescription medication.

Your doctor may notice that you're calling more frequently for refills for the medication or that you're asking for increasing amounts of medications. This may also be a sign of abusing prescription drugs. In addition, your pharmacist may notice prescription drug abuse by spotting false or altered prescription forms or multiple prescriptions for controlled substances from different doctors.


Are There Some Guidelines for Using Prescription Drugs Safely?

According to the FDA, guidelines for using prescription medications safely include:

  1. Always follow the prescription medication directions carefully.
  2. Don't increase or decrease medication doses without talking with your doctor first.
  3. Never stop taking medication on your own.
  4. Don't crush or break pills (especially important if the pills are time-released).
  5. Be clear about the drug's effects on driving and other daily tasks.
  6. Learn about possible interactions of the prescription medicine with alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
  7. Talk honestly with your doctor about any history of substance abuse.
  8. Never allow other people to use your prescription medications and don't take theirs.

Is There Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction?

There are treatments, including nonaddictive medications that can help people counteract the symptoms of prescription drug addiction and regain control. Drugs like methadone, buprenorphine (Buprenex, Butrans, Subutex), buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol) can be taken in various forms to help addicts stay drug free. Experts believe that combining addiction treatment medications with cognitive behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients.

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