The dangers of sharing prescribed medications

By Sheryl Kay • Published: February 19th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

There’s nothing nicer and more well-intended than friends reaching out a helping hand when we don’t feel well.

But often times, that hand isn’t offering a steamy bowl of homemade chicken soup or a box of tissue. Instead, it’s holding a bottle of prescription medication. And while it was prescribed as being safe for the intended recipient, the drug may be very unsafe for others.

In a study recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Philadelphia, research indicated that one in five people admitted to sharing all kinds of prescribed medications. And of those who took the drugs without a prescription, twenty-five percent experienced adverse reactions.

The researchers gathered their information through surveys conducted in eleven public locations in urban areas. There were approximately twenty-eight-hundred respondents, ages twelve through forty five.

Of the nearly six-hundred who admitted to taking non-prescribed medications, almost forty percent never got any verbal warnings or instructions before consuming the medication, and more than half obtained no written information either.

And although almost eighty percent said they took the medications to avoid a visit to the doctor, one in three said they ended up having to go anyway.

While acknowledging the altruistic reasons for lending medications, the researchers noted the inherent dangers as well. Medications get old and become outdated, dosages vary according to many factors, and most importantly, the medication may not be the right one to address the problem.

Reach out an empty hand, they suggested, and encourage a loved one to seek medical attention.