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Patient Handouts
Page 1 of 2
Prescription Drug Abuse
What is prescription drug abuse?
When prescription drugs are taken the right way, they are safe. Taking too much or taking them when they are not needed is drug abuse.
Abusing drugs can be dangerous. People can become addicted to prescription medicines the same way people are addicted to illegal drugs.
People who are addicted to any kind of drugs need treatment.
What kinds of drugs are abused?
Commonly abused prescription drugs include:
pain medicines such as Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, Ultram, and Fiorinal
sleeping pills such as Halcion, Dalmane, Ativan, and Restoril
anti-anxiety medicines such as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan
cough medicines that contain codeine
stimulants such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall
What is the cause?
People who have problems with pain, severe anxiety, or insomnia may believe that more is better. They may think that if one pill helps them,
two will help more. Other people may try to prevent problems by taking the medicine before it is really needed. Sometimes the medicine
seems to be the only thing that makes someone feel better or function better. They may think that they cannot get along without it.
What are signs of abuse?
A person who is abusing drugs may:
have trouble paying attention
be more forgetful than usual
miss work or school
be moodier than usual
have trouble sleeping
lose interest in things they used to enjoy
Friends and family may see signs of prescription drug abuse before the person realizes it.
People who abuse medicines may:
see several different healthcare providers so that they can get more prescriptions
pretend to be in pain just to get pain medicine
forge prescriptions
take medicine prescribed for others
How can I prevent prescription drug abuse?
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you are taking, including nonprescription and herbal medicines. Do not drink alcohol
while you are taking prescription medicines unless your healthcare provider approves. Prescription drugs taken with alcohol may increase
the effects of the alcohol or medicine.
Take all medicines exactly as directed by your healthcare provider. Do not take more medicine, take it more often, or take it longer than
Ask your healthcare provider for help. He or she may be able to prescribe medicine that makes you less likely to crave the addictive
medicine. Your provider may suggest other ways to help manage pain. Talking with your healthcare provider or a counselor about your
problems and your drug use can be helpful too.
Patient handouts provided by Merck Medicus. Copyright © 2012-2013 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc.
Patient Handouts
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Speak to a pharmacist or healthcare provider if you are concerned about someone misusing prescription drugs. To learn more, contact:
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Web site:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse Referral Hotline
Patient handouts provided by Merck Medicus. Copyright © 2012-2013 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc.