Prescription Drugs

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 28. 

Dispose of medications you no longer need on April 28 or any day at these local sites.   

Medicines (prescription and over the counter) play an instrumental role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when these medications are no longer needed it's important to dispose of them properly to avoid harm to others and to the environment. Medication Return Boxes located within certain pharmacies and police department lobbies are a safe way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from your room or home. This service is offered year around, please check the attached map for nearest medication drop box locations and hours of operation.

Items NOT accepted at the medication return boxes are glass containers, inhalers, intravenous solutions, injectable drugs and syringes due to potential hazards posed by blood-borne pathogens.

Drop-off medication any week, Monday through Friday, from  8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at ASU's Tempe Police station.


Basic Information

Basic Information


86.3% of ASU students surveyed had not abused prescription drugs during the previous 12 months.

When asked whether they had used prescription drugs not prescribed to them during the past 12 months:

3.5% had abused sedatives (e.g. Xanax, Valium)

6.6% had abused stimulants (e.g. Ritalin, Adderall)

6.2% had abused pain killers (e.g. Opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Codeine)

Prescription Drug Abuse and Academic Performance:

ASU students who abuse prescription drugs are significantly less likely to have an “A” grade point average. In a recent survey, 6.6% of ASU respondents reported using Adderall or Ritalin-type medications without a prescription in the last year. Of those students who reported using stimulants in the past year, 33% reported an ‘A’ cumulative grade point average, compared to 50% of non-users.

Sources: American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Spring 2017. Baltimore: American College Health Association; Spring 2017 (n=2,096).

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse means taking a prescription medication that is not prescribed for you, or taking it for reasons or in dosages other than as prescribed.

Prescription drugs are powerful and misuse can lead to many unintentional effects, including illness, addiction and perhaps even accidental death.

The most common type of prescription drugs that are abused fall into three categories:

  1. Sedatives (Depressants)
  2. Stimulants
  3. Painkillers

National attention:

Prescription drug abuse is increasing across the United States.

While most college students choose not to abuse prescription drugs, approximately 1 in 4 people between the ages of 18 and 20 report having abused prescriptions drugs at least once in their lifetime (SAMHSA, 2008). However, nationwide, college students tend to grossly overestimate the percentage of their peers that abuse prescription drugs (ACHA, 2010).

Students who abuse stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta) report doing so for either recreational or academic purposes (Teter et al., 2006). However, regardless of their motive, students who do not abuse prescription stimulants are significantly less likely to report being depressed than those who do (Teter et al., 2010).


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Rockville: United States Department of Health and Human Services; 2008.

Teter, C.J., Falone, A.E., Cranford, J.A., Boyd, C.J., & McCabe, S.E. (2010). Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and depressed mood among college students: Frequency and routes of administration. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 38(3), 292-98.

Teter, C.J., McCabe, S.E., LaGrange, K., & Cranford, A. (2006). Illicit use of specific prescription stimulants among college students: Prevalence, motives, and routes of administration. Pharmacology, 26(10), 1501-10.

Prescription drug mixing

Prescription drug interactions can vary, but when mixed with other drugs or alcohol, the hazards can be potentially dangerous. In fact, students who abuse multiple prescription drugs, or mix prescription drugs with alcohol, are significantly more likely to experience alcohol or drug related problems (McCabe et al., 2006).

Even interactions with prescription drugs and over the counter cold medicine or asthma medication can be harmful. Always ask your doctor, pharmacist or other medical professional about drug interactions, including those between alcohol and prescription medications.

McCabe, S.E., Cranford, J.A., Morales, M., & Young, A. (2006). Simultaneous and concurrent polydrug use of alcohol and prescription drugs: Prevalence, correlates, and consequences.Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67(4), 529-37.

Prescription stimulants as study aids

Some students believe that stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin are effective study aids, even for people without attention disorders. However, a survey of ASU students provides evidence to the contrary. Of those students who reported using stimulants in the past year, 26.7% reported an ‘A’ cumulative grade point average, compared to 51% of non-users.

American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Spring 2010 Baltimore: American College Health Association; 2015. (n=1,937)

Drug and alcohol poisoning

If you suspect that someone is experiencing drug or alcohol poisoning, or is unconscious for any reason take action:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Stay with that person until help arrives.
  • Be prepared to provide information to health care workers.
  • Turn the person’s head to the side, or sit him/her up to prevent choking on vomit.
  • Never assume that the person will “sleep it off.” Your response can make a difference between life and death.

Don’t be Afraid to Get Help – You never know if the person mixed drugs with alcohol, has an illness or medications that react badly with alcohol, or has been drugged. Best to take action to save a life. You won’t regret that decision.

Disposal of Unused Prescription Meds -

Do you have any unused, unwanted or expired prescription or over-the counter medications? Have you ever wondered what you should do with them? Throwing old medications away or flushing them down the toilet can be harmful to the environment. A better option is to bring your old medicine to a local collection site for safe disposal. The Arizona State University Police Department has joined police agencies across the Phoenix area in a new program that provides collection containers for people to drop off unused prescription medicines.

How do I participate?
Place the medications you wish to dispose of in a plastic zip lock bag and bring them to the ASU Police Department located at ASU Tempe at 325 E. Apache Blvd. You may leave pills in the original container or put them directly in the bag. Remove prescription labels if you do not wish to have your name on the medications. Solid and liquid medications are accepted, but liquids such as cough syrup should remain sealed in original containers. Please seal the cap tightly to prevent leakage.

Why is it important?
Proper disposal of medication can prevent accidental use or intentional misuse of these drugs. The medicine cabinets of family and friends are a common source for drug abuse. There is also concern that medications placed in the trash or flushed down the toilet can enter our water and food supply. Proper disposal of medicine prevents both environmental consequences and abuse.

Are there any off-campus unused prescription medication collection sites?
Visit the Arizona Crime Prevention Association Disposal of Unused Prescription Medications to find the nearest off-campus collection site.

What happens to the drugs after they are dropped off?
All drugs will be incinerated by the local police or by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).


Stay focused for semester projects and final exams

Many students sacrifice sleep, physical activity and good nutrition to make time to finish projects and study for midterms or finals. Some will pull all-nighters, using soda, coffee or energy drinks to help them stay awake. A few will risk using stimulant medications, such as Adderall or Ritalin, as study aids.

The best advice is to stay ahead of your studies throughout the semester. Even then, the pressure to perform can be challenging. Still, you’ll be able to think more clearly if you get enough sleep so that you feel rested, and fuel your brain with healthy foods and beverages. Keep yourself awake by taking study breaks every hour for about ten minutes. Re-energize by moving your body: stretch, walk, dance, run. Do something physical and fun to get your blood flowing. Avoid using caffeine or energy drinks to stay awake, or alcohol to promote sleepiness when it’s time to lie down for the night. These substances disrupt sleep and can leave you feeling even more tired the next day. This can disrupt your concentration during study and exam time.

Most students do not misuse prescription stimulants as study aids. In a recent survey, 7.9% of ASU respondents reported using Adderall or Ritalin-type medications without a prescription in the last year[1]. However, a survey of ASU students provides evidence to the contrary. Of those students who reported using stimulants in the past year, 26.7% reported an ‘A’ cumulative grade point average, compared to 51% of non-users. It is important to remember that these are powerful drugs that can have serious and even life-threatening side effects. Taking too much can result in symptoms such as panic, hallucinations, aggression, confusion, flu-like symptoms, nausea or vomiting, muscle pain, weakness, twitching or tremors, faintness, uneven heartbeat, fatigue, dark urine, depression, seizures, convulsions, and coma. To protect health and academic success, Adderall and Ritalin should never be taken without the oversight of a physician who understands how much to prescribe for the person’s size, medical conditions and other medications taken.

Stay ahead of the pressure of midterms, finals and final projects by taking good care of yourself and spending the time you need to study, sleep, move and eat in a way that supports your success.

If you or someone you know is using prescription drugs without a prescription, or needs helps finding ways to stay focused, ASU Counseling services are available at each campus to provide the help and support needed.

[1]American College Health Association (2011). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment : Arizona State University Spring 2011. Baltimore: American College Health Association, 2011, (n=1,748).



Take an online quiz/assessment through the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. if you are wondering if you have a prescription drug abuse problem.

How to help a friend

How to help a friend

Concerned about a friend’s prescription drug use? - How to help a friend with a prescription drug problem

Some people believe that because prescription drugs are legal, they are safer or less addictive. However, misuse of prescription drugs can lead to a serious addiction. To help a friend you must first recognize the signs associated with prescription drug abuse.

  • Common behavior changes associated with prescription drug abuse:
    • Sudden mood or personality changes
    • Avoiding or switching friends/peer groups
    • Beginning to use additional drugs
    • Losing interest in personal appearance, hobbies, interests
    • Family history of alcohol or other drug use
  • Common physical signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse:
    • Opioid Use:
      • Sleep deprivation
      • Slowed or shallow breathing
      • Constricted pupils
      • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
      • Slow, slurred speech
    • Depressant Use:
      • Respiratory depression (slowed or shallow breathing)
      • Slurred speech
      • Blurred Vision
      • Slowed reflexes
      • Loss of coordination
    • Stimulant Use:
      • Dilated pupils
      • Paranoia/nervousness
      • Loss of appetite or sudden and unexplained weight loss
      • Hyperactivity
      • Shaking
  • Communicate your concerns one-on-one in a private place at an appropriate time.
  • Tell your friend that you are concerned and explain why without making judgmental comments.
  • Recommend professional help and provide resources where your friend can seek support.
  • Offer support, encouragement, and hope.

For more information on how to help a family member or friend visit:


Programs and Activities

Programs and Activities

The Red Watch Band Program: provides training to equip students with the knowledge, awareness and skills to prevent alcohol poisoning and promote a culture of kindness, responsibility, compassion and respect.

StepUp! Be a Leader, Make a Difference: educates students to be active participants in helping others to reduce risk and prevent harm. Attend this training to learn how to step up when others are in need or become a Set Up trainer.