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Cite this article

NIDA. (2005, September 9). NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin - Prescription Drugs. Retrieved from

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What can we do?

Healthcare providers, primary care physicians, pharmacists, and patients themselves, can all play a role in identifying and preventing prescription drug abuse.

Physicians. Because most people visit their primary care physician at least once every 2 years, primary care physicians are in a unique position?not only to prescribe medications, but to identify prescription drug abuse and help the patient find treatment. Screening for prescription drug abuse should be incorporated into every routine medical visit. Doctors can begin by asking questions about substance abuse history, current prescription and OTC use, and reasons for use. Further, doctors should also be aware of other potential signs of abuse, such as rapid increases in the amount of medication the patient reportedly needs, or refill requests before the refill date.

Pharmacists. It is a pharmacist's responsibility to provide clear information on how to take medications appropriately, describe possible effects, and warn of possible drug interactions. The pharmacist also can be part of the first line of defense in recognizing prescription drug abuse. By monitoring prescriptions for falsification or alterations and being aware of potential "doctor shopping" (where patients get multiple prescriptions from different doctors), pharmacists play a valuable role in prevention.

Patients. There are also steps a patient can take to ensure the appropriate use of prescription medications. Patients should always follow the directions, be aware of potential interactions, never stop or change a dose on their own, and never take another person's prescription. Patients should also inform their healthcare professionals about current prescription and OTC medicines they are taking, along with any dietary or herbal supplements they might be taking.