Some people think because a medicine is prescribed by a doctor that it is safe to use and comes with little or no risk. Some use medicines in the wrong way because they think it will help them have more fun, perform better in school or work, lose weight, or fit in. Some use medicines in the wrong way and don’t even realize that they are! Whatever the reasons, using medicine without a prescription or sharing it with friends is dangerous and illegal!


Medicines (or medications) are chemicals or compounds used to stop or prevent an illness, to ease the symptoms of an illness, or to diagnose an illness. They come from a variety of sources, like plants or even an organism like a fungus.

Medicines come in many different forms, including:

  • Pills – like aspirin; meant to be swallowed whole
  • Liquids – like cough syrup; meant to be swallowed
  • Creams, gels, or ointments – meant to be rubbed on the skin
  • Inhalers – in mist form; to be taken through the nose or mouth
  • Patches – placed on and absorbed through the skin
  • Tablets – placed under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream
  • Injections – “shots” that are taken in through a vein or muscle

They can be provided in two ways:

  • By a prescription (known as a prescription drug or prescription medicine) written by a doctor and used to treat an illness or other health condition
  • Purchased at a pharmacy or a store (like a grocery store or convenience store) directly off the shelf (commonly called over-the-counter medicines)

These are used in the wrong way (also called “misuse”) through:

  • Ways not prescribed by a doctor
  • Using someone else’s prescription
  • Cutting or crushing pills
  • Taking too many or taking it too often
  • Usage that changes how you feel or to get “high”

Every medicine has some risk of harmful effects. When a doctor prescribes medicine, it is prescribed for a particular person and is based on many factors:

  • The person’s height, weight, gender, known allergies, other medications being taken, and current health condition
  • The form of the medicine, such as liquids or pills, and the strength of the medicine
  • The side effects the medicine may cause

Only take medicines given to you by your doctor or parent and always follow the directions very carefully. Never take more than instructed. Don’t assume that “because its medicine, it’s safe to use.” Stay In The Know about the dangers of medicine misuse!