Welcome to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs
ADP Women's Page Domestic Violence

Prescription Drug Misuse

Persons 65 years of age and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for approximately one-third of all medications prescribed in the US. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, which can lead to unintentional misuse.

Benzodiazepines (Valium) and narcotics (Librium) are two of the most commonly prescribed drugs of abuse by the elderly. Over-the-counter sleeping medications are the most common non-prescription drugs abused by the elderly.

Symptoms of Misuse

Many of us hear our older relatives talk about all the pills they have to take. We rarely think about it. But nearly 20 percent of older persons are addicted to various substances, such as alcohol and prescription drugs. Many others misuse medications, leading to harmful drug interactions and alcohol-drug interactions. Identifying the symptoms of prescription drug abuse is a vital first step. Learn more

Identifying a Problem

Taking multiple medications and herbal supplements can lead to serious side effects and drug interactions. It is important to ensure that older persons use their medicines properly. Identifying, preventing, and treating this problem early can prevent injuries, loss of independence, hospitalization, and death. Learn more


Family attention to the elderly family member is extremely helpful in identifying medical and social problems. Make an inventory list of their medications and consult with a pharmacist to determine any conflicting or dangerous medicines.

Learn how to prevent alcohol, prescription drugs, smoking, and overmedication among the elderly.

Drug Interactions

What is the risk of a medication interaction? It all depends on how many medications you take. Two medications have a five percent potential of an adverse drug reaction, five medications have a 50 percent chance, and eight medications gives almost a 100 percent chance that something will go wrong. A couple of blood pressure medications, another couple for diabetes, one for gout, an aspirin a day; then add an antibiotic, and the potential for problems is there. It just needs to be recognized. Learn more to see if your medication regimen is potentially dangerous.

Tools for Keeping Track of Medications

Questions for your doctor or pharmacist

Medical record form