(StatePoint) With many Americans asked to stay at home to help curb the impact of COVID-19, there’s a higher risk of potential prescription drug abuse or prescription drugs accidentally falling into the wrong hands, like those of children.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Abuse, more than 9.9 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. Additionally, more than 70 percent of individuals who illegally use prescription pain relievers obtained them through their friends or family, including through the home medicine cabinet.
To help those at home prevent prescription drug abuse and dispose of unwanted medications in a safe, environmentally responsible way, Susan Peppers, Express Scripts vice president of pharmacy practice, is sharing the following tips.
• Keep drugs secure and out of reach. Medications should be stored in a locked area, out of children’s reach, with narcotics and other potentially addictive drugs stored in another secure location. If this isn’t an option, a lock should be added to the medicine cabinet and the key secured.
• Track treatments. It’s recommended to maintain a master list of the medications stored at home, especially for individuals with a potential for abuse. That list should include the medication name, the doctor’s name who prescribed it, the dosage and the medication’s potential side effects. Periodically, caregivers should count the medications remaining in the container and make sure it’s the correct amount according to the prescribed dosage. Pill boxes with dividers for each day’s medicines are also a good way to track usage.
• Don’t share medication. Medication prescribed to one individual isn’t for anyone else, even if that person is showing similar symptoms. Not only is sharing medication with someone else illegal, but it could lead to dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects due to potential allergies and wrong dosages, among other reasons. If an individual has taken medication that wasn’t prescribed to them, they should contact their doctor.
• Dispose of unwanted drugs properly. Individuals should follow specific disposal instructions on the label, if provided. Otherwise, they can check the Food and Drug Administration Flush List to see if they can flush the medicine down the toilet. If that isn’t an option, individuals can mix the medication with an undesirable substance like used coffee grounds, cat litter or sawdust, place the mixture in a sealable bag and dispose of it in the trash. Medication containers should be stripped of all personal information prior to placing them in the trash or recycling.
Note that once guidelines are lifted for staying home, individuals can visit the Drug Enforcement Administration website to locate a collection site near them as another way to dispose of prescription medications safely.
As everyone is spending more time at home, remembering these simple steps can go a long way to help individuals protect their family against prescription drug abuse.
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