Prescription & Over-the-Counter Medication


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 a purpose for reasons outside of its original prescription or intention. 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.


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.

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.

Types of medication & risks explained

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