Spot the Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

February 20, 2013

More than six million Americans abuse prescription medicines. In fact, more people in this country are abusing prescription medications than cocaine.

Taken correctly, prescription drugs are safe. But when they’re abused, they can become dangerous as well as addicting. And people may not even realize they’re abusing them. To abuse prescription drugs means to take them too often, in too high a dose, or when they’re not needed.

“I always educate my patients about the medications they are taking,” says Henry Ford Macomb family medicine physician Rim Kreit, MD. “I tell them if it is something they could potentially become addicted to so that they understand they need to take it exactly as prescribed. I also try to minimize the amount and duration of any type of narcotic prescription.”

She added that she tells patients to keep prescriptions like painkillers and even stimulants – often used to treat attention deficit disorder – locked up so that it is not taken by someone who is addicted or selling the drugs to addicts.

Painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants are the most commonly abused prescription medicines. Taking prescription drugs for an energy boost or to calm down could lead to problems. So could using a pain reliever as a way to feel better mentally and emotionally, rather than for physical pain.

Worried that a friend or family member might be abusing prescription drugs? Warning signs could include:

  • forgetfulness
  • frequently missing work or school
  • being more moody than usual
  • paranoia
  • loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.

If you think a loved one may be abusing prescription medication, discuss it calmly without blaming her or him. If needed, ask your family doctor for guidance.

How to properly dispose of medications

Medications should be properly disposed of to keep them out of the hands of children or those who might abuse them and also to keep the water and soil clean. They should not be flushed down the toilet or thrown out in the garbage.

Macomb County collects medications – except for narcotics or other controlled substances – monthly. For collection dates, times and locations, call (586) 466-7923 or bring the medications to the Mt. Clemens Health Center, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Before bringing in unwanted medication:

  • Remove pills from bottles and combine together in an unmarked/unlabeled container such as a zip lock bag.
  • Do not bring pill bottles.
  • Syringes are not accepted.
  • Controlled substances and narcotic painkillers such Morphine, Ritalin, Tylenol III with codeine, etc. are not accepted.

Narcotics and controlled substances may be dropped off in the main lobby of the Macomb County Jail, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The jail and the health center share a parking lot at the corner of Groesbeck Highway and Elizabeth Street in Mt. Clemens.