Font Size:

Resources for Public

Prescription drug abuse is a problem. See yourself as part of the solution. 

If you have ever shared your prescription medication with a co-worker, family member, classmate, or friend, you may be part of the prescription drug abuse problem.

How big is the prescription drug abuse problem?

  • In 2017,11.1 million people aged 12 and older misused prescription pain relievers in the past year.
  • CDC estimates 47,872 people died from an opioid overdose in 2017. 
  • 53.1% of people who use or misuse prescription opioid drugs were given by, bought from or taken from a friend or a relative.
  • Many teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs since they are prescribed by a physician.
  • Because it is cheaper, heroin has become the drug of choice for many who have become addicted to opioid pain relievers.

Help is Available!

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Treatment Facility Locator

Council on Substance Abuse (COSA) - NCADD
Call 1-877-HELP (1-877-435-7425) or visit the COSA website 

Recovery Organization of Support Specialists (R.O.S.S.) 24/7 Helpline - call 1-844-307-1760 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Drug Disposal: What you should know!

Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

  • Prescription drug misuse is taking a medication in a manner other than that prescribed or for a different condition than for which the medication was prescribed.
  • Prescription drug abuse is the intentional and inappropriate use of prescription drugs for purposes other than that prescribed, or in a manner or in quantities other than directed.
  • Abuse of prescription drugs stems from the ease of availability, the lack of stigma associated with street drugs, and the false belief they are safe to use.
  • Download educational material on prescription drug misuse and abuse

What You Can Do to Prevent Drug Misuse and Abuse

  • Never share prescription medication.
  • Never accept prescription medication that is not prescribed by your doctor.
  • When visiting the doctor, provide a complete medical history and a description of the reason for the visit to ensure that the doctor understands the complaint and can prescribe appropriate medication.
  • Keep your doctor informed about all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and dietary and herbal supplements.
  • Take your medication(s) as prescribed. Follow the directions for use carefully.
  • Read the information your pharmacist provides before starting to take medications to learn about the effects that the drug could have, especially during the first few days when your body is adapting to the medication.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medication, especially if you are unsure about its effects and to be aware of potential interactions with other drugs.
  • Do not increase or decrease doses or abruptly stop taking a drug without first consulting a health care provider. Never use another person's prescription.

Common Signs of Drug Abuse

Physical Symptoms

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Runny nose or sniffling
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Wearing inappropriate or dirty clothing and a lack of interest in  personal grooming

 Behavioral Symptoms

  • Sudden mood swings, increased irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Unexplained changes in attitude/personality
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Sudden changes in a social network
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home, including neglecting one's children
  • Involvement in criminal activity

Take the CAGE Test

Assessing Prescription Drug Use Problems - Four Simple Questions

  • Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your use of prescription drugs?
  • Have you ever felt Annoyed by remarks your friends or loved ones made about your use of prescription drugs?
  • Have you ever felt Guilty or remorseful about your use of prescription drugs?
  • Have you Ever used prescription drugs as a way to "get going" or to "calm down?"

Two or more affirmative answers may indicate probable drug addiction. Any single affirmative answer deserves further evaluation. Please discuss the results with your doctor or other health care professional.

Adapted from Ewing, J.A. "Detecting Alcoholism: The CAGE Questionnaire." Journal of the American Medical Association 252 (14):1905-1907, 1984.

Did You Know?

  • Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, which could lead to unintentional misuse.
  • Youth who use other drugs are more likely to abuse prescription medications.
  • Young teens are statistically more likely to abuse only prescription drugs.
  • Studies suggest that women are more likely than men to be prescribed an abusable prescription drug, particularly narcotics and antianxiety drugs. Research has shown that women are at increased risk for nonmedical use of narcotic drugs.
  • Substance abuse and addiction cost billions in health care dollars each year. To that, add the costs of lost productivity, law enforcement, criminal case processing, incarceration, countless ruined lives, and premature death.

Alabama's Prescription? Zero Addiction

Drug addiction can start before you know it. You don't want to see how it ends.

Videos from the Zero Addiction campaign are available below.

National Awareness Programs

Surgeon General

Applying CDC's Guideline for Prescribing Opioids

Page last updated: May 20, 2024