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The Truth About Sharing Prescription Drugs

Ever had some extra prescription medication lying around…and offered to share them with a friend in need?

Prescription-drug sharing is common and some might say it’s even understandable, given the high costs of prescription drugs in many parts of the U.S. But there’s nothing safe or smart about sharing your medications with others, particularly when you’re sharing opiate painkillers, which are highly-addictive and potentially lethal if misused. And let’s face it; you don’t want the overdose death of a friend or family member on your conscience, do you?

The Notion of Sharing Gone Wrong

Addicted women holding her diaryIn the United States and throughout much of the world, many people struggle to afford the prescription medications they need. Drugs to treat diabetes, for example, can cost upwards of $1000 per month in the US, while drugs for autoimmune disorders like psoriasis can cost a whopping $10,000 a month. Even people with insurance may have to pay a portion of their annual prescription bills out-of-pocket, not to mention co-pays.

So, it should come as no surprise to learn that 27 percent of men and 29 percent of women have given or received prescription medications from others, What’s more, that rate jumped to an astounding 37 percent among women aged 18 to 44, according to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control.

The Drugs Being Shared

The kinds of drugs most commonly shared between friends and family members varies – and it’s often dependent on the age group. For example:

  • Among young adults, antihistamines and opiate painkillers are most often shared and passed around.
  • School-age kids are increasingly sharing their prescription “study drugs” (meds used to treat ADHD), like Adderall and Ritalin. Many peddle their prescriptions for up to $20 a pill.
  • Older people are most likely to share drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Much of prescription-sharing is driven by the high costs of these drugs. People are more likely to share prescriptions if they have to pay out-of-pocket for 100 percent of their medications, like in the US, parts of Canada, and many other countries that don’t have national insurance programs. Unsurprisingly, prescription-sharing is also common among people who don’t have any insurance at all.

But though it may seem like a simple solution to unaffordable medications, sharing prescriptions can lead to a number of problems. Some of those problems include the following:

  • Drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes have to be taken regularly to be effective.
  • Antihistamines, when taken not as prescribed, can have serious side effects.
  • Adderall can have side effects and is potentially addictive.
  • Opiate painkillers are highly-addictive and commonly misused; many people who misuse these painkillers get them from a family member or friend.

The Bottom Line on Prescription Sharing

The bottom line is: don’t share prescriptions. In addition to the potentially harmful health consequences, handing out your prescription medications is usually illegal. That means both of you could end up facing charges.

If you’re having trouble affording your medications, try asking your doctor to prescribe a generic brand of medication, which are usually cheaper or covered by insurance. And if you’re addicted to prescription meds like opiate painkillers or benzodiazepines, instead of buying pills from someone else, reach out for help in finding a treatment center near you.

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