Focus on Prevention

Prescription Drug Misuse

Prescription drug misuse refers to the misuse or inappropriate use of prescription medications, particularly those that are intended for medical purposes. This type of substance abuse involves using prescription drugs in a way that goes beyond the prescribed dosage, duration, or intended purpose, and it can lead to harmful consequences. Prescription drugs are meant to be used under the guidance and supervision of a healthcare professional to treat specific medical conditions. Here are some key aspects of prescription drug abuse:

Types of Prescription Drugs Abused

  • Opioids: Pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine.
  • Benzodiazepines: Anti-anxiety medications, including diazepam and alprazolam.
  • Stimulants: Medications like Adderall or Ritalin, often prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Sedatives and Sleep Medications: Drugs like zolpidem or eszopiclone prescribed for insomnia or sleep disorders.

Forms of Abuse

  • Taking More Than Prescribed: Consuming a higher dosage than prescribed by a healthcare professional.
  • Non-Medical Use: Using prescription drugs without a valid prescription or for reasons other than their intended medical purpose.
  • Combining with Other Substances: Mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or other substances to enhance the effects.

Motivations for Abuse

  • Pain Relief: Seeking relief from physical pain or discomfort.
  • Euphoria: Some prescription drugs, particularly opioids and benzodiazepines, can produce feelings of euphoria, leading to recreational use.
  • Performance Enhancement: Misusing stimulants for increased energy, focus, or academic/work performance.
  • Coping with Stress or Mental Health Issues: Using prescription medications to self-medicate for anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.

Risk Factors

  • Access to Prescription Drugs: Having easy access to prescription medications, whether through a personal prescription, sharing with others, or obtaining them illicitly.
  • Personal or Family History: Individuals with a history of substance abuse, mental health issues, or a family history of addiction may be at higher risk.


  • Physical Health Issues: Prescription drug abuse can lead to adverse effects on the body, such as respiratory depression, cardiovascular problems, and liver damage.
  • Addiction: Continued misuse can result in the development of dependence and addiction, leading to a loss of control over drug use.
  • Overdose: Taking excessive amounts of prescription drugs can result in overdose, which can be fatal.
  • Legal Consequences: Obtaining prescription drugs without a prescription or sharing them with others is illegal and can have legal repercussions.

Prevention and Intervention

  • Education: Providing education on the risks of prescription drug abuse to healthcare professionals, patients, and the general public.
  • Monitoring and Regulation: Implementing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to track and regulate the prescribing and dispensing of certain medications.
  • Treatment: Offering treatment and support services for individuals struggling with prescription drug abuse, including counseling, behavioral therapy, and medication-assisted treatment when applicable.
Addressing prescription drug abuse requires a comprehensive approach involving healthcare providers, policymakers, educators, and the community to raise awareness, regulate prescribing practices, and provide support for those at risk or already affected by abuse.

Preventing Prescription Drug Misuse

Preventing prescription drug misuse involves a combination of strategies targeting healthcare providers, patients, and the community. Here are key approaches to prevent prescription drug misuse:

  • Education: Offer training for healthcare professionals on proper prescribing practices, recognizing signs of misuse, and effective communication with patients about the risks of prescription drugs.

  • Awareness: Raise awareness among patients about the risks of prescription drug misuse, the importance of following prescribed dosages, and the potential consequences of sharing medications.
  • Safe Disposal: Encourage proper disposal of unused or expired prescription medications through community take-back programs, drop-off locations, or drug disposal kits. This helps prevent the diversion of medications for non-medical use.
  • Patient Education on Storage: Educate patients on the safe storage of prescription medications to prevent unauthorized access. Emphasize the importance of keeping medications in a secure and locked location.

  • Provider-Patient Communication: Enhance communication between healthcare providers and patients about the potential risks and benefits of prescription medications. Encourage an open dialogue to address concerns, monitor side effects, and discuss alternative treatments.

  • Community Outreach and Education: Engage in community outreach programs to educate the public about the risks of prescription drug misuse. This could involve school programs, public service announcements, and community forums.

  • Treatment and Support Services: Ensure the availability of accessible and affordable treatment and support services for individuals struggling with prescription drug misuse. This may include medication-assisted treatment, counseling, and support groups.

  • Collaboration Between Sectors: Foster collaboration between healthcare, law enforcement, public health, and community organizations to create a comprehensive approach to preventing prescription drug misuse.

Tioga ASAP is working in implementing these strategies and involving multiple stakeholders, with collaborative efforts it is possible to prevent prescription drug misuse and promote responsible use of medications.

Other Substances

Our friends at Partnership to End Addiction have developed a comprehensive guide to many other substances, check out the link below and click on a tile to view substance specific information.