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Sharing Prescription Medicines Can Be Bad for Your Health

Christopher Campbell and Christina DeRemerDoes your family have a stockpile of prescription medications that you keep “just in case?”  Have you ever used a prescription medication that was not meant for you? How often have you given someone else your medications?  

Prescription medication is intended to be used under the direct care of a doctor who is responsible for monitoring your condition and how you respond to the treatment. Doctors and pharmacists have carefully chosen medicines that will work for you by considering your allergies, potential side effects, and any interactions that your current prescription and nonprescription medications may cause.

Similar conditions can be treated in different ways. For example, two people with diabetes might not be prescribed the same medications based on their individual conditions. And diabetic medicines can differ in both the way that they work and how long they take to start working or continue to work. Using these medicines without guidance from a doctor may result in blood sugar being too high or too low, leading to potentially serious effects.

It is also important to always seek the advice of a pediatrician or family physician or pharmacist when giving medication to a child. Doses that are prescribed for adults are not the same for children, and certain medications should not be given to children because they can be harmful to a child’s development.

Another issue to consider is the fact that leftover medications can be less effective and possibly dangerous if they are kept past their expiration date or are stored in damp, hot, or other less-than-ideal conditions.

Finally, prescription medications that are considered to be controlled substances are not allowed to be transferred to another person, per federal law.

Remember that the medications that your doctor has prescribed for you were chosen specifically for you and your needs. Keep yourself and your family safe by disposing of unused medications properly and by not sharing your prescriptions.

By Christopher Campbell, Pharm.D., PGY1 Resident, George Regents Medical Center, Augusta; and Christina E. DeRemer, Pharm.D., BCPS, Primary Care Clinical Pharmacist & Medicine Team Supervisor, Georgia Regents Health System