Addiction & Substance Overuse
Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse
From the experts at SeniorHealth, a division of the National Institute on Aging, strategies on how to control potential drug abuse:
Whether it’s prescription or illicit drugs, can have serious consequences, particularly for older adults. That is why prevention is key. However, there are many different reasons why people abuse drugs and become addicted to them. For people of all ages, an individual’s biology (including their genetics) and the environment, as well as how the two act together, determine a person’s vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction — or can protect against it. For example, being exposed to drugs of abuse in youth, living in a community where drug use is prevalent, having untreated mental disorders, such as depression, or dealing with difficult transition periods such as retirement or loss of a spouse can all make an older adult more vulnerable to drug abuse.
These reasons need to be taken into account when considering how to best prevent drug abuse. Family members, friends, pharmacists, and health care providers can all be involved in preventing drug abuse among older adults.
There are also steps that you as a patient can take to prevent abuse of prescription medications and its consequences:
When visiting the doctor or pharmacist, bring along all prescription and over-the-counter medicines that you take — or a list of the medicines and their dosages (how much you take and how often). Your doctor can make sure your medicines are right for you and make changes if necessary.
Always follow medication directions carefully.
Use the medication only for its prescribed purpose.
Do not crush or break pills.
If you are not sure how to take a medicine correctly, ask your doctor or pharmacist. He or she can tell you how to that and about side effects to watch out for and interactions with other medications.
Ask how the medication will affect driving and other daily activities.
Do not use other people’s prescription medications, and do not share yours.
Talk with your doctor before increasing or decreasing the medication dosage.
Do not stop taking a medicine on your own. Talk to your doctor if you are having side effects or other problems.
Learn about the medicine’s possible interactions with alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and follow your doctor’s instructions to avoid these interactions.
Answer honestly if a doctor or other health care professional asks you about other drug or alcohol use. Without that information, your doctor may not be able to provide you with the best care. Also, if you have a substance problem, he or she can help you find the right treatment to prevent more serious problems from developing, including addiction.