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Missoula City-County Health Department: Health Promotion
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Missoula City-County Health Department: Health Promotion

Missoula City-County Health Department: Health Promotion

Prescription Drug Concerns


If medication-related problems
were ranked as a disease, it would be the

Beers MH. Arch Internal Med. 2003

In the US, between 2004 - 2008, the number of Emergency Department (ED) visits for non-medical use of prescription pain medications (opiod analgesics) increased 111%; for the use of anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazipines) ED visits increased 89%.

In 2004 there were 1 million ED visits for illicit drugs and 1/2 million for prescription pain drugs. 

In 2008 there were 1 million ED visits for illicit drugs and 1 million visits for prescription pain drugs.

From: Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) - a division of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - US Dept of Health

In a 2008 study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans die from prescription drug overdoses than in auto accidents.

Montana prescription drug abuse problem - 2012


October is Medicine Abuse Awareness Month

You can take action!

Check out this web site - Community Anti-Drug Coaltions of America
 to find out what you can do.

Also check out
Choices Matter Missoula
Presented by Missoula Under-Age Substance Abuse Prevention



Dispose of any drugs when you no longer need them or when the expiration date is reached.  This includes over-the-counter medications.  Leftover medications in your medicine cabinet put people at risk for theft, abuse, unintentional poisoning and suicide. 

At-home disposal

Do not flush unused drugs down the toilet or wash them down the sink - this can cause problems in the sewage treatment plant, and for downstream water users.

You may put drugs in the garbage by dumping them out of the bottle into some "wet" garbage, such as coffee grounds, spoiled food, cat litter, etc.  Then seal in a plastic bag or container and put it in your garbage can.

Operation Medicine Cabinet - Montana

Anytime disposal

The Missoula Police Department has a
24-hour drop box
for prescription drug disposal.

City Hall - 435 Ryman St.

The drop box is inside the south door which is located at the back (parking lot side) of the building, facing the Mountain Line bus transfer area.


At this time, it is illegal to give any unused but un-expired prescription medication to anyone else for any reason. 


Preventing prescription drug abuse

Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.  CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. Fall 2011

Prescription drug abuse can be just as addictive and dangerous as illegal drug use.  Anyone can abuse prescription drugs, but teens are at a higher risk. 

Teens use prescription drugs to get high, relieve stress, or to self-medicate.  Montana ranks 3rd in the nation for teen abuse of prescription pain relievers.  It is important that you talk with your teens about the dangers of drug abuse since they will likely be hearing about the "fun" of abuse at school. 

In the last year, nearly 10% of teens admitted to abusing prescription drugs.  For information about how to talk about, monitor and dispose of prescription drugs, visit The Partnership at Drug

To protect your family and your medications, remove all prescription drugs from your bathroom medicine cabinet or any other place where they are easily accessible and store them in a locked cabinet or drawer especially if: 

Most people who abuse prescription drugs
get them from someone they know.

Prescription drug abuse - from Kids

Signs of prescription drug abuse - from Help

Partnership for a Drug Free America

Accidental drug overdose information - from

Mayo Clinic - Prescription Drug Abuse


Most common prescription drugs that can be abused:

Some prescription drugs can become addictive, especially when they are used in a manner inconsistent with their labeling or for reasons they were not prescribed. Those include narcotic painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin, sedatives and tranquilizers like Xanax or Valium, and stimulants like Dexedrine, Adderall or Ritalin.

Opioids - oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, Percocet, fentanyl.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants - pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax)

Stimulants - methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall)

Nationally, admissions to state-funded addiction treatment facilities for prescription pain medication abuse (opiates) in 2009 was nearly equal to methamphetamine addiction admissions. 

 Admissions for the primary abuse of opiates, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine, have increased steadily over the last decade, from 1.2% in 1998 to 5.9% in 2008. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)


Avoid an overdose of prescription drugs


In Montana in 2009, more people died
from prescription drug overdoses
than died in traffic crashes.


Make sure you understand why you have been prescribed a medication, when and how to take it, and what foods, beverages or activities to avoid while taking it.  Your pharmacist and doctor can answer any questions.

An accidental drug overdose can cause organ damage, brain damage, an accident, or death.  To prevent an accidental drug overdose always make sure that you:

Tips for Taking Prescription Pain Medications, Depressants or Stimulants:

Doctors know how much medication to prescribe so that it's just enough for you. Since some prescription medications can be addictive, it is very important to follow the directions exactly. Here are some other ways to protect yourself:

Additional tips for the proper use of any prescription medication:
Avoid Adverse Drug Reactions 

Keeping kids safe

Each year in the US, one of every 150 two-year-olds visits an emergency room for treatment of an accidental medication overdose.  In recent years, the number of accidental overdoses in young children has increased by 20 percent. 

"Even with improvements to packaging, no medication package can be 100 percent childproof," Dr. Richard Dart, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, said in the news release. "Poison centers receive calls every day about young children getting into medicines without adult supervision; that's why we encourage all parents and caregivers to follow these simple steps to ensure their child's safety."

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Dec. 13, 2011

QUICK TEST - for parents to help evaluate whether or not their child may be abusing drugs or alcohol.

Keeping medications out of reach of children - CDC


Prescription drugs and suicide

Suicide in usually not about dying, it is about escaping the pain caused by a problem that a person sees as un-solvable.   Offering support to someone dealing with a problem and getting them help from a professional can often prevent suicide.  

In 2007, Montana had the second highest rate of suicide in the nation.

QPR Institute - Question, Persuade, Refer - a method for lay people to identify family or friends who may be at risk for suicide, and how to offer support.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

A drug overdose is the second leading method of suicide in the US (guns are the first).  If you think someone living in your house, or who comes to your house frequently might have suicidal tendencies, then in addition to talking to them about it, lock up all your medications, as well as any weapons (like guns).  Easy access to lethal means makes impulsive actions like suicide easier.  Even some seemingly harmless over-the-counter drugs can cause death when taken in massive quantities.

U.S. emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts by young adult males rose 55 percent between 2005 and 2009.

ER visits for drug-related suicide attempts involving antidepressants among young adult males in those four years jumped 155 percent, and cases involving anti-anxiety and insomnia medications rose 93 percent.

Emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts involving narcotic pain relievers nearly doubled among men aged 35 to 49, and almost tripled among men aged 50 and older.

These findings are based on data from the 2005-09 Drug Abuse Warning Network reports.

Keep track of your prescription medications

Missoula Suicide Prevention Network


Other concerns

Over-The-Counter drug abuse:

Many common, over-the-counter drugs (those available without a prescription) contain ingredients that, when taken in excess, can cause mental stimulation, or "a high".  They can also cause organ damage that could lead to death.  It is important that teens and young adults understand the risks associated with any form of drug abuse or over-use. 

Over-The-Counter drug abuse information


Links to further information


Educate Before You Medicate - National Council on Patient Information and Education

Safe Medication - Source for drug information - a partnership for drug abuse prevention, intervention and treatment (including prescription drugs)

SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - US Dept of Health

Identified meth contaminated properties in the Montana and their clean-up status.  This list is managed by the Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Directory of drug treatment centers in Montana

Missoula Measures  - selected data, links and other information on scores of topics related to health and quality of life in Missoula, Montana.


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