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    Used as prescribed and directed, medicine improves lives. When misused, however, the consequences can be devastating.

    Medicine is considered misused when it is taken by someone for whom it was not prescribed or intended. Misuse also applies when it is taken in a dose, for a time or for reasons outside of its original prescription. If not used as intended, it is particularly dangerous for those medicines that can affect the brain in ways similar to substances like alcohol, cocaine or heroin.

    While some people misuse certain types of medicine to “get high,” many are simply trying to cope or manage the stress in their lives. Prescription stimulants, pain relievers, sedatives and tranquilizers, and even over-the-counter cough medicine are commonly misused or abused for these reasons. And people who do so may fail to recognize that misuse of these medications can have negative, rather than positive, effects on their health and well-being. In fact, it can lead to addiction.

    Call to Action
    Keeping communities safe from medicine abuse

    In 2012, we brought together a group of partners from the public and private sectors to form the Medicine Abuse Project. This joint effort provides resources to parents, healthcare providers, educators and community leaders on appropriate storage and safe disposal of medications.

    About The Medicine Abuse Project

    Preventing medicine abuse

    Problematic misuse of medication often begins during the teen and young adult years. Learn how you can protect your family and community.

    Used as directed, medicines improve our lives. When misused or abused, the consequences can be devastating. Learn more about this epidemic.
    Learn more
    Two-thirds of teens who report abusing Rx medication get it from friends, family and acquaintances. Use proper storage and disposal, to help prevent abuse.
    Learn more
    Take action by having frequent conversations with the teens and young adults in your life about the dangers of medicine misuse. Learn how.
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    School stress can lead to teen drug use, but many parents with good intentions overlook the possibility. Learn the effects of stress and how to help your kid cope.
    Learn more
    The overprescribing of prescription pain relievers has been a major cause of the opioid epidemic. Know what to ask when your child is prescribed opioids.
    Learn more
    While prescription medication such as opioids or stimulants has captured attention during the recent addiction epidemic, the intentional misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine among young people is still an issue.
    Learn more
    Learn about teen prescription drug abuse through the eyes of a teen filmmaker, who set out to capture the issue as it exists in his world.
    Learn more

    Types of medication & risks explained

    Get the facts and learn more about the types of medication most susceptible to misuse.

    Opioids are powerful drugs with a high risk for dependency. Taken in high doses, and/or with other substances can result in respiratory distress and death.
    Speed, Uppers, Addies — Stimulants were used historically to treat a variety of ailments, before their potential for abuse and addiction became apparent.
    These drugs slow normal brain function, which may result in slurred speech, shallow breathing, sluggishness, fatigue, disorientation and lack of coordination.
    Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough-suppressing ingredient found in a variety of over-the-counter cold and cough medications which are susceptible to misuse.

    Last Updated

    September 2023