Prescription Drugs

Medicines (prescription and over the counter) play an instrumental role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when medications are no longer needed it is important to dispose of them properly, to avoid harm to others and to the environment. Take expired, unwanted or unused medicines to Medication Return Boxes  located within designated pharmacies, police departments and ASU's Tempe Police Station, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.  To locate other disposal boxes, please click on the hyperlink to locate the nearest medication drop box locations and hours of operation within Arizona.

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. 


88.7% 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:

2.0% had taken prescription sedatives not prescribed to them. (e.g. Xanax, Valium)

2.9% had taken prescription antidepressants not prescribed to them. (e.g. Lexapro, Prozac, Wellbrtrin, Zoloft)

3.4% had taken prescription pain killers not prescribed to them (e.g. Opioids, Vicodin, Codeine)

6.1% had taken prescription stimulants not prescribed to them (e.g. Ritalin, Adderall)

Source: American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Spring 2019. Baltimore: American College Health Association; Spring 2019 (n=2,096). 

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, 5.9% 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, 28.6% reported an "A" cumulative grade point average, compared to 57.6% of non-users. 

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health defines prescription drug misuse as taking prescription drugs in any way that a doctor did not direct you to use them, including: 1) use without a prescription of the person's own, 2) use in greater amounts, more often, or longer than the person was told to take them or 3) use in any other way a doctor did not direct the person to use them. Prescription drugs are powerful and misuse can lead to many unintentional effects, including illness, addiction and even accidental death.

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

  • Sedatives (Depressants)
  • Stimulants
  • Painkillers

National attention:

Prescription drug abuse is increasing across the United States and even locally in Arizona.

While most college students choose not to abuse prescription drugs, approximately 15% of people between the ages of 18-25 report having abused prescription drugs at least once in the past year. However, nationwide, college students tend to grossly overestimate the percentage of their peers that abuse prescription drugs.

Students who abuse stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta) report doing so for either recreational or academic purposes. 

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.


American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Spring 2018. Baltimore: American College Health Association; Spring 2018 (n=1,304).

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. Rockville: United States Department of Health and Human Services; 2019.  .

Sanders, A., Stogner, J., Seibert, J., & Miller, B.L.  (2014).  Misperceptions of peer pill-popping:  the prevalence, correlates, and effects of inaccurate assumptions about peer pharmaceutical misuse.  Substance Use and Misuse.  DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2014.880485

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.

Examine your prescription drug use by taking the following online assessment:

ScreenU Rx – A confidential and anonymous screening tool designed to help students understand immediate and long-term risk of prescription drug misuse. 

Concerned about prescription misuse or abuse?

Have you been taking prescription medication not prescribed to you? Have you not followed the prescription directions on how to properly take the prescription medication?

You are invited to schedule an appointment with ASU counseling services to discuss your concerns about prescription drub misuse.

Concerned about a friend’s prescription medications use? 

Some people believe prescription medications are safe to use because they are legal, and less addictive than illicit drugs. However misuse of prescription drugs can lead to a serious addiction. To help a friend it is important to recognize signs associated with prescription drug misuse. Common changes associated with prescription drug abuse:

  • 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
  • Physical signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse:
    • Opioids: Coma; Unconsciousness; Slowed or shallow breathing; Nausea; Vomiting; Staggered gait; Constipation. 
    • Depressants: Fatigue; Confusion; Respiratory depressions; Slurred speech; Blurred Vision; Slowed reflexes; Impaired Coordination; Dizziness.
    • Stimulants: Convulsions; Seizures; Chest Pain; Coma; Dilated pupils; Paranoia/nervousness; Loss of appetite or sudden and unexplained weight loss; Hyperactivity; Hallucinations; Nausea; Low Blood Pressure. 

If your friend is exhibiting signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse, encourage them to schedule an appointment with ASU counseling services to discuss their concerns about prescription drug misuse and/or be seen at ASU counseling services to address their use of prescription drugs.

Unconscious Person

If a person is unconscious for any reason take action and call 9-1-1 immediately! Never assume the person will "sleep it off." They could be experiencing drug or alcohol poisoning, have an underlying medical condition, be having an allergic reaction, or have been drugged. Your decision to call 9-1-1 could save a life. Once 9-1-1 is called, turn the person onto their side in the recovery position to help prevent them from choking. Stay with the person until help arrives and be prepared to provide truthful information to health care workers.

ASU has put into place a Good Samaritan Protocol, to further advance our Community of Care. Under the Good Samaritan protocol, students and/or organizations that seek assistance for themselves or others should do so without fear of university disciplinary action.  Both students under and above the legal drinking age are expected to contact ASU Community Assistants, ASU Police, or seek medical attention by calling 9-1-1 when assistance is needed for an intoxicated/impaired student. 

Remember when a person is unconscious it is best to call for help, take action... you won't regret this decision.

Learn more about prescription drug abuse please use the following resources:

National Institute of Drug Abuse – The National Institute on Drug Abuse InfoFacts: Marijuana 

Campus Drug Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid Overdose, The Public.

National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse - The goal of NCAPDA is to create awareness of the dangers caused by prescription drug abuse.

Find help and support please use the following resources:

Arizona State University, Counseling Services – Offers confidential time-limited professional counseling and crisis services for students.

Arizona State University, Recovery Rising, Collegiate Recovery Program ( – Connects students in recovery to others in recovery and their allies through events, open round table discussions, and Sun Devils Anonymous meetings.

ASU Community Link

The Arizona Region of Narcotics Anonymous – Phoenix & East Valley Helpline 480-897-4636

Salt River Intergroup Alcoholics Ananymous Schedule

StepUp! ASU is an online education video aimed to educate students to be active participants in helping others to reduce risk and prevent harm. Watch this video and request training to learn how to step up when others are in need.

Proper Disposal of Unused Prescription Medications

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.

Off campus medication drop boxes are available throughout Arizona, please continue to utilize this service even when not on campus.