Here is a statistic you may not know: more deaths in Utah are caused by prescription medication overdoes than car crashes. How about this one: Since 2000, deaths due to prescription pain medication overdoses increased by 315%.
These statistics are significant and uncover the reality that prescription medication misuse and abuse is a major problem, especially in Utah. Currently, Utah ranks 5th in the nation for drug overdose deaths, and on average 566 Utahns die each year from it.
This misuse and abuse may not look like what you are imagining either. It can be as simple as sharing one pill of your prescribed pain medication with a friend who is not well. It can be your family member taking three pills instead of the prescribed one pill because he or she thinks it will provide more relief. It can be your neighbor who is recovering from a major surgery becoming addicted to his or her medication.
To tackle this problem head on, we joined forces with the state’s prevention campaign, Use Only As Directed, to educate the public about the risks and warning signs of prescription drug misuse, abuse, and overdose as well as encourage Utahns to safely use, store, and dispose of prescription medication.
To get started, try testing your knowledge of prescription medication use:
TRUE OR FALSE: It doesn’t hurt to take an extra pill from your prescription, or share one with a friend, because a doctor prescribed it.
False: Doctors provide specific instructions on how to take your medications for a reason. These instructions are tailored to your body’s needs. Taking too many or at the wrong time can be dangerous. Also, sharing your medication with someone else is not only a bad idea for the same reasons, but it is also illegal under the Utah Controlled Substances Act.
TRUE OR FALSE: All medications are safe to use because a doctor prescribed them; the doctor wouldn’t prescribe you something that was dangerous. Regardless, they are safer than illegal drugs anyway.
False: When used as directed by your doctor, prescription drugs provide many benefits. However, if the medication is misused or abused, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs, especially when they are taken with other drugs or alcohol.
TRUE OR FALSE: You can’t get addicted to prescription painkillers.
False: Prescription painkillers can be very addictive.
The misuse and abuse of prescription medication can feel like a big problem, but you can take action right now to be safer and smarter. You can learn how to use, store, and dispose of prescription medications in a safer way and then teach your family and friends about it too. Practice and share these three principles for proper use:
- Safe use: Never share prescription medications with others. Remember to use them only as directed, for the specific use prescribed by your doctor. The medication label provides instructions, not suggestions.
- Safe storage: Always store prescription pain medication out of reach of kids, family, and guests. And, know where your prescription pain medications are at all times.
- Safe disposal: Take the time to safely dispose of your medications properly. Don't flush them down the toilet or sink, or throw them in the trash. Take them to a permanent collection site.
Permanent medication disposal drop boxes are now located at Intermountain Community Pharmacy locations across the state. Use the Safe Disposal: Drop-Off Locator to find the drop-off locations in your county.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, 2013
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, 2011-2013