“Borrowing” Drugs Is Risky Business

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©Shutterstock/Gustavo Frazao

Did you know that “borrowing” someone else’s prescription medication is a kind of drug misuse? It isn’t just illegal; it can be very dangerous.

Most teens who misuse prescription drugs get them for free from a friend or relative. Opioids and stimulants are the most common prescription drugs that teens “borrow.”

Some people don’t see the danger in “loaning” someone else their prescription, even though many medications warn you to “avoid non-medical use.” What that label really means is, “only use this drug exactly the way the doctor prescribed.” It means you should never take more of the drug, or take it when you don’t need it anymore, or give it to someone else. Period.

Why it isn’t safe

  • If you have a symptom like pain, and take another person’s prescription pain pill instead of seeing a doctor, you could be letting the actual medical problem get worse.  
  • Prescription drugs like opioids for pain or stimulants for ADHD are powerful enough to treat people with real medical conditions. A person who doesn’t have that condition will be affected differently and risks becoming addicted.
  • Most drugs have side effects, which the doctor considers before prescribing for a particular person. Someone else taking the drug could have unexpected side effects or have a bad reaction, since they were never examined by the doctor. For example, what if a person gives you a drug that was safe for them, and then you have an allergic reaction to it?
  • If you’re pregnant, the medication might affect the development of your baby.

Why some people “lend” drugs

  • They want to help. Problem is, “lending” the drug is more likely to hurt (see “Why it isn’t safe” above).
  • They may be afraid that if they don’t lend the drug, the borrower will be upset or won’t like them anymore. This is a form of peer pressure. Just remember that when you stick to what you know is right, things work out better in the long run.

If someone asks to borrow your prescription medication, suggest that they see a doctor instead. Borrowing or lending a drug can backfire, big time.

Learn the latest about the risks of mixing medicines.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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