Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem and a looming threat for families and communities across the United States. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, prescription drug abusers outnumbered those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined.* The CDC warns that prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic levels, as has the incidence of fatal overdose.** American Indian and Alaska Native communities are not immune from the problem. Unfortunately, statistics show that prescription drug abuse impacts American Indian/Alaska Native communities at a higher rate than any other racial group.***

Although most experts agree on the nature and magnitude of the problem, finding a solution presents more of a challenge. Unlike illegal drugs, prescription drugs serve an important purpose when used properly. Efforts aimed at addressing the problem must target abuse, not therapeutic use. Furthermore, the fact that medical providers prescribe these substances, and that they are legal in that specific context, may blur the lines for some would- be abusers who mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safe to use.

Finding a solution, or solutions, may be difficult, but communities, experts, and lawmakers alike are discovering strategies that work.

Best and Promising Strategies

Take-Back Days

Prescription drug “take-backs” allow communities to safely dispose of leftover medicines that are languishing in households, ripe for diversion, misuse, and abuse. This prevention effort may prove especially helpful in curbing prescription drug abuse by teenagers, since studies show that the majority of teen abusers obtain their drugs from family, friends, or their home medicine cabinet.****

To add a take back day to your community’s prescription drug abuse prevention efforts, consider participating in the United States Drug Enforcement Authority’s upcoming National Take Back Day. To find out more information about this initiative, dates and participating take back locations, please visit http://www.justice.gov/dea/.

Proper Drug Disposal

The United States Food and Drug Administration worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop the first consumer guidance for proper disposal of prescription drugs. Issued by ONDCP in February 2007 and updated in October 2009, the federal guidelines can be viewed by clicking here

Outreach & Education

Getting community members to take an active role in addressing the problem, where they can, is another promising strategy in the campaign to combat prescription drug abuse.

For instance, the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), looks at ways community members can use their positions as role models and confidants to keep teens safe from the dangers of prescription drug abuse. NCPIE created a workshop module -- "Maximizing Your Role as a Teen Influencer" – which is designed to educate and equip teen influencers - - parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, community and school-based healthcare providers and others -- with credible information about teen prescription drug abuse and effective strategies to take action. The goal is to empower teen influencers to provide consistent prevention messages wherever teens are: at home, at school, on the field or during health-related visits.

The toolkit can be accessed at:

Media Tools

Getting the message out to the community can be a difficult, but worthwhile task. Because many people believe that prescription drugs pose no threat, the success of many prevention campaigns hinge on whether or not people learn the facts about prescription drug abuse. A sound messaging strategy will help get those facts out to the community.

Ohio State University College of Pharmacy has created a toolkit to get the facts out to college- and high-school-aged students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The materials consist of easy –to-assemble bulletin notices, designed to work with whatever space is available.


Other Resources

The Parents360 Rx Action Toolkit

The Partnership at Drugfree.org's offers The Parents360 Rx Action Toolkit free of charge on their Community Education webpage. The toolkit consists of a video, a discussion guide and a small number of documents. Program hosts show the short (11-minute) video, which addresses the impact of medicine abuse on real families, to stimulate an informal discussion. The focus of this video is prescription medicine abuse, considered by many to be the biggest substance abuse threat we currently face and one that is unknown to many parents and underestimated by many others. While medicine abuse is the focus, the discussion may be guided to include other substance abuse topics as desired.

To access the toolkit and other resources, please visit:

Media Campaigns Aimed at Combatting Substance Abuse and Prescription Drug Abuse

The youth-targeted Above the Influence campaign, from the Office of National Drug Control Policy(ONDCP), balances broad prevention messaging at the national level with targeted efforts at the local community level. The Above the Influence brand remains one of the most widely recognized youth brands in the country and continues to strengthen teen anti-drug beliefs. www.abovetheinfluence.com

* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011. http://oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/2k10NSDUH/2k10Results.htm

** Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Prescription Painkiller Overdoses at Epidemic Levels,” CDC Online Newsroom. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p1101_flu_pain_killer_overdose.html

*** Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

**** Id.


NIHB Contacts:

Lacey Wind, MSW, LCSW
Public Health Policy and Programs Manager

National Indian Health Board
50 F St NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-996-4165
[email protected]



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National Indian Health Board
50 F St NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20001 | Phone: 202-507-4070 | Email: [email protected]