Prescription drug abuse is one of the nation’s fastest-growing drug problems, according to the Office of National Control Policy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. Prescription drugs are legal and easily accessible, which makes it even more difficult to prevent abuse or misuse.

What is prescription drug abuse?

  • Taking a medication that has been prescribed for somebody else. Individuals unknowingly contribute to this form of abuse by sharing their unused pain relievers with other Marines, Sailors, or family members.
  • Taking a drug in a higher quantity or in another manner than prescribed. Most prescription drugs are dispensed orally or in tablets, but sometimes the tablets can be crushed, snorted, or injected in order to amplify the drug’s effect on the brain.
  • Taking a drug for another purpose than prescribed. Prescription drugs can produce pleasurable effects at sufficient quantities, so one of the main reasons a Marine or Sailor may abuse them is to get high.


Prescription drug abuse can affect any individual regardless of age, race, or gender. It especially impacts those who intentionally take pain medication for the purpose of getting high and/or taking medication outside of what its intent. They have the potential for addiction, and, as with other drugs, abuse of prescription drugs can alter a person’s judgment and decision-making, leading to dangerous behaviors that could negatively affect our nation’s defense and warfighting capabilities.

Prescription opioid pain medications such as OxyContin and Hydrocodone can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may actually open the door to heroin use because the illegal drug is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids. The most common prescription drugs resulting in positive urinalysis tests are oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and oxazepam.

How do you prevent prescription drug abuse?

  • Only take medication that is prescribed to you.
  • Take medication as directed by the physician.
  • Discard old, unused, and outdated prescription drugs immediately at appropriate locations specified for prescription disposal.

For proper disposal of prescription drugs:

  • Remove prescription drugs from original containers.
  • Remove personal information from prescription bottle.
  • Mix prescription drugs with substances such as coffee or kitty litter.
  • Place mixture into a container or sealed bag.
  • Dispose container/sealed bag in a trash container.
  • Do not flush drugs down the toilet or dump them down the drain.


For more information, contact your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center (SACC). To dispose of your old prescription medication, see your local pharmacy, health clinic, or take part in the Drug Takeback Day on October 23. See your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center (SACC) for details.