The Dangers of Prescription Drug Misuse

While a missed pill here or there might not seem like a big deal, following your prescription is serious business

Up to 64% of all prescription drugs in Canada are misused

With prescription drugs so readily available, be careful to use medication as directed

Last year, Canadians filled more than 500,000,000 prescriptions.

Incredibly, studies show that up to 64% of prescribed drugs are wasted, and 40% of us don’t take our medications as directed. This non-adherence to prescriptions not only costs Canadians billions in pharmaceutical costs, it’s also responsible for about 300,000 hospitalizations each year.

Non-adherence to a prescription medication can mean taking too little or too much of a medication, stopping a drug too early, or not filling a prescription at all.

The Effects of Prescription Misuse

It can also mean taking medication at the wrong time of day, in the wrong combination, or mixed with foods, alcohol or substances that reduce its effectiveness. Any of these abuses can have bad results, including:

  • Withdrawal or rebound effects
  • Intense relapses
  • Toxicity
  • Increased risk of viral or bacterial transmission
  • Drug dependence
  • Resistance to or reduced effectiveness of the drug

One of the leading problems is stopping medication as soon as a person sees improvement. Reasons for stopping medications may include the high cost of certain drugs, adverse side-effects or the complexity of managing multiple prescriptions.

When you receive a prescription, discuss the drug and any concerns you may have with your doctor or pharmacist. If cost is a concern, ask if there’s an alternative or cheaper treatment option. These professionals can also help you understand your diagnosis, or show you ways to reduce side-effects.

If managing multiple medications is a problem, ask your pharmacist about blister-packing your meds. Prescription medications can play an important role in restoring you to health and/or keeping you healthy in the face of chronic disease. Don’t sabotage the potential benefits of your medications by self-adjusting the regimen. Barring any serious side-effects, take your medications exactly as prescribed until you’ve talked to your doctor.

Prescription Abuse

Unused and improperly stored prescription medications invite the potential for prescription drug abuse or misuse. Illegal use of prescription drugs is particularly common among young people, some of whom may sell the drugs to other youth or use these drugs recreationally in the false belief that they are safer than street drugs.

Never keep unused prescriptions. Take them to your pharmacist for safe disposal.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.