Living with Chronic Pain

6 Tips for Preventing Medication Misuse and Theft


Unfortunately, medication misuse is a common societal concern. Medications are intended to be used as directed by the drug manufacturer and the prescribing physician. Misuse of medication not only includes taking larger doses than prescribed, taking medication in a different manner than prescribed (e.g., snorting or injecting crushed pills), or using medication for other reasons other than its intended purpose (e.g., getting high), but it also includes taking or stealing a medication that was prescribed for someone else. This is particularly common with pain medications, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives and stimulants.

Some tips for preventing medication theft and misuse include the following:

  • Properly store medications. Medications should be stored in their original packaging and kept out of reach of children and pets. If medication is in a bottle with a lid that locks, it should be stored with the lid tightened and locked.
  • Discuss dangers with teenagers. Misuse of prescription medications can be particularly tempting for teenagers. To help prevent this, parents or caregivers should discuss the dangers of medication misuse with any teenagers in their household. These discussions should include warnings about taking a medication that has been prescribed for someone else, using medication for other reasons other than its intended purpose, or combining a medication with other medications or other substances, such as alcohol.
  • Keep prescription drugs safe. Prescription medications such as opioids should be kept in a locked medicine cabinet or drawer. Individuals should be vigilant about the amount of medication in their prescription bottles (making sure that no medication has been taken by others).
  • Properly dispose of medication containers. If prescription medication containers have any personal identification information on them, it should be scratched out or made illegible before placing the empty containers in a trash can or recycling bin.
  • Be discreet about taking and talking about medications. Individuals who take commonly misused medications should take them discreetly when in public settings. They should also avoid talking about their prescriptions with others. Unfortunately, medications are most commonly stolen by someone the individual knows and trusts.
  • Avoid putting medications in places where they may be stolen. Pharmacy bags or containers should not be left visible in a car, as this may result in a break-in and stolen medications. Individuals should also avoid leaving medications in unlocked drawers at work or other easily accessible places.

Taking a few extra safety precautions can help prevent medication misuse and theft. For more tips on preventing prescription medication theft, check out Verywell Health.

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