Prescribed opioid, antibiotics and other prescription drugs misuse is a growing problem around the world. In fact, many communities of people abuse these substances, and the demographics differ depending on the drug. Women and racial minorities are notably over-represented in opioid prescriptions, while rural areas tend to have higher rates of antibiotic misuse. Some communities may believe that these medications are safer than they really are. But that doesn’t give freedom to take these medications with no regard to dosage or frequency. Proper training for prevention of medications misuse is essential for healthcare professionals.
One of the most important roles pharmacists play in preventing misuse of prescription drugs is to be aware of the patterns of prescribing and dispensing of prescription medication. Pharmacists can help patients and physicians recognize misuse and prevent it from happening.
Prescription drugs are the most commonly dispensed medications in the United States. Doctors prescribe these medications for all sorts of ailments and conditions, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that every prescription is being used as prescribed. In fact, as many as 20 million Americans misuse prescription drugs, leading to an estimated $78.5 billion in health care costs annually. As it turns out, pharmacists play a critical role in preventing misuse, since they can track trends in prescription drug use in their communities to help physicians, patients and their caregivers identify dangerous patterns of misuse.
Having a prescription to an opioid or other controlled substance is one of the most important protection against addiction and the ravages of addiction. Patients should keep their prescriptions, prescribed drugs including controlled substances in a safe and secure spot. Doctors and pharmacists should be responsible to keep all records of the prescriptions in a safe and secure spot. Finally, they should not share it with anyone. If possible, keeping the class of prescribed medication (e.g., for controlled substances) secret helps in prevention and misuse.
How can pharmacists spot potential drug misuse?
Out of every 10 people over the age of 12, seven will use prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in their lifetime. It can be a tough job for some pharmacies to identify when a person is at risk for prescription drug misuse because prescriptions are written to the patient. A pharmacy has the opportunity to provide an intervention as well as give some referrals to the person that’s using medication. A pharmacist has to be knowledgeable about the signs of prescription drugs abuse. If the pharmacist notices any of the following behaviors, they should intervene: searching for a written or printed pill bottle, a customer asking for drugs that only come in capsule form, an individual enquiring or wanting to ingest a medication in an unusual way.
Potential drug misuse can be identified through noticing a patient for peculiar behaviors like a lack of care with dose or dosage instructions, a lack of concern for side effects, an inability to understand the instructions, or peculiar side effects.
Physical signs in the body system can also be a sign that the medication is being misused such as injection marks, mouth sores, or laboured breathing. The location where the patient is buying their drug can also be a sign that the medication is being abused. For example, if the patient is buying their medication illegally, or directly from a preferred technician or pharmacist, this could be a sign that the medication is being inappropriately used.
Solutions to prescription drug misuse in young adults
Prescription drug abuse and the misuse of opioids by teenagers is a large issue in developed countries. The most important solution to this problem demands active monitoring by parents, families and roommates. Another approach is to control this situation through teaching young people about the risks involved with prescription drugs and their use and overuse, as well as educating them on the use of other drugs, including opioids. The more people know about the risks of abuse, the less likely they are to do it. In addition, it would be beneficial to educate young people and athletes about the risks of mixing prescription drugs, herbal remedies and alcohol.
Teens and the misuse of prescription drugs
Teenage years are a time of great change—a time of growing independence, learning to balance life in the real world, and living with the people they’ve grown up with. There is no awareness and practical experience about the prescription drugs and their misuse. These years are also a time when teenagers are more likely to experiment with recreational drugs.
Some prevention methods of prescription drug misuse include: Take your medication as prescribed. Discuss any issues about your prescriptions with your doctor. Store your medications in a safe place, like a lockbox or safe. Keep your medications away from children or pets. Avoid abusing, buying, or sharing drugs. Talk with friends and family about the dangers of prescription drugs.
It’s not uncommon for teens to encounter prescription pills from their parents’ medicine cabinets, but many don’t understand that these medications have been carefully prescribed, are meant for adult consumption and to treat specific medical condition. Unfortunately, this combination often leads to a misuse of prescription drugs by teens in their everyday lives. At a time when most teenagers are thinking about going to college and what their careers will be, it’s not uncommon for them to want to experiment with drugs. Socioeconomic factors are also major determinant for teens to experiment drugs because of the pocket money available and liberty.
Prevention methods for prescription drug misuse
Many people that abuse prescription medication begin with use of prescription drugs obtained through the physician who prescribed the medication or a family member. Prevention of prescription drug misuse is easier than treatment as long as you safeguard use of the prescribed medications. Some prevention methods include: Take your medication as prescribed. Discuss any issues about your prescriptions with your doctor or pharmacist. Store your medications in a safe place, like a lockbox or in a safe locker. Keep your medications away from children or pets. Avoid abusing, buying, or sharing drugs. Talk with friends and family about the dangers of prescription drugs.
How can pharmacists make sure patients are taking their medications correctly?
One way pharmacists can make sure that patients are taking their medications correctly is by providing reminders and refilling prescriptions when necessary to ensure the patient is not forgetting anything. It’s also important to make sure that patients are taking the right medication in the first place and they are communicated well about misuse or overdose effects of the prescribed medications. Pharmacists can do this by explaining how the medication will work, what it is for, possible side effects, potential for addiction and the best way to take the medication.
Pharmacists can offer advice and counsel customers based on the list of their medications, as well, and share some tips to help them.
The patient should be able to see all these important aspects on their medication before they leave pharmacy and make their decision. Lastly, pharmacists should have a discussion with patients about monitoring their progress. This will help the pharmacist keep up with the patient and make sure they are not forgetting anything. This will also ensure, medication is not misused and patient monitoring is effective and ongoing.
How pharmacists can better educate their patients on the dangers of misusing prescription drugs?
Drug abuse is on the rise among young people. Nonmedical prescription drug use is a major source of initiation to other drugs of abuse that are sometimes more potent. The more we educate the patients on prescription medication, the better equipped they are to avoid a dangerous drug addiction.
Pharmacists can offer education to their customer to make them more aware of which drugs are addictive.
Pharmacists can ask a few simple questions to check if a patient has potential for drug misuse, such as: How is your Quality of Life? Do you find yourself taking prescription drugs for just about every ailment? Are you looking for a way to better manage your quality of life and curb your reliance on prescription drug use? Maybe you have found yourself relying too heavily on prescription drugs to address some issue with your health? In such a situation, a pharmacist may be able to provide assistance in getting their patient back on the right track. Pharmacists have some degree of responsibility and can offer a significant amount of assistance to their customers in determining which drugs are addictive, which drugs they should be taking and if the prescribed drugs are right. Pharmacists can offer advice and counsel to customers based on the list of their medications, as well, and share some tips to help them. The importance of collaborating with healthcare providers should not be ignored. Healthy communication between the healthcare community, doctors, nurses and pharmacists is always necessary.
Pharmacy community is responsible for creating a personal and public commitment to help reduce misuse of prescription drugs.
Points to consider
Pharmacists should work actively and adapt the best professional practices to safe guard the community and prevent misuse of prescription medications including controlled substances. The following points may help. (The list may not be in perfect order).
Pharmacist should be knowledgeable about:
- Drugs that are commonly misused.
- Tips for preventing misuse of medication.
- How can pharmacists prevent misuse?
- How pharmacists can educate patients about the dangers of opioids?
- How pharmacists can use technology to prevent misuse of prescription medications (e.g., electronic records and security)?
- How pharmacists can prevent unnecessary prescriptions?
- How to educate the public on how to handle and dispose of prescription drugs?
- Counseling and various techniques.
- Monitoring the dispensing of prescription medication.
- How to talk to your patients?
- How to take care when prescribing (e.g., privacy, theft)?
- Know how to spot drug abusers.
- How to dispose of unused drugs?
- Ask patients about their addiction history before dispensing a controlled substance.
- Follow the doctor’s orders.
- Ensure the medication is used for the intended purpose.
- Adhere to the directions on the label.
- Be aware of the side effects.
- Inform your doctor and pharmacist when conditions change or switching to another medication at their own.
- Keep all medications in secure cabinet away from reach of the children and unauthorized individuals.
- Return expired, damaged, and leftover medication to pharmacy or ask for help.
Prescription drug misuse is a significant problem that affects the health and safety of the people. Prescription drugs are for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and as such, they are not intended for recreational purpose or misuse. Yet prescription drugs are regularly misused and abused. Abuse of prescription drugs can cause drug dependence, addiction, and overdose. Unawareness surrounding use of the prescribed medications is one of the cause of stress in the families and increased healthcare costs due to several inter-related factors.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on PharmaRead are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency or organization. PharmaRead articles are provided for information only with focus on global health, pharmacy practice, and healthcare systems in Low- and Middle-income Countries (LMICs). Readers should seek expert opinion for use, implementation or application of this knowledge based on their individual circumstances.