Sharing Prescription Medicines Can Be Bad for Your Health

Published: March 19, 2021
Christopher Campbell
By Christopher Campbell, PharmD
Christina DeRemer
By Christina E. DeRemer, PharmD, BCPS
Does 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 medications are 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 medications that will work for you by considering any allergies, potential side effects, and interactions that your current prescription and over-the-counter 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 medications can differ in how they work and how long they take to start working or continue to work. Using these medications 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, family physician, pharmacist when giving medication to a child. Doses 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 that leftover medications can be less effective and possibly dangerous if they are kept past their expiration date or 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.

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