Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions across the U.S.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, and much of the abuse begins at home. In fact, more than 70% of those who illegally use prescription pain relievers obtained them through friends or family, including surreptitiously raiding the home medicine cabinet.
However, a recent study revealed that only 19% of parents are concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medications in their own families, showing that many do not recognize the severity of the problem.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids (narcotic pain medications). When used along with other prescription medications such as benzodiazepines and muscle relaxers, they deliver a cocaine-like high. Our data show that abuse accounts for 84% of patient-related prescription-drug fraud.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about half of all overdose deaths include opioids along with at least one other medication. Narcotic pain killers can be essential in the treatment of a variety of serious medical conditions; unfortunately they also can ruin lives when used improperly. Properly storing and disposing these and all other medications can help reduce the risk of abuse and help prevent the national epidemic of addiction, overdose and death from prescription drugs by not letting them fall into the wrong hands.
Tips to Increase Prescription-Drug Safety at Home
There are some simple DOs and DON’Ts you can follow at home that can reduce the risk of drug fraud and abuse.
- Keep drugs out of reach. Be sure to store your medications in a locked area out of children’s reach. Ask your pharmacist if they can provide medication bottles with child-resistant caps.
- Keep track of your treatments: Keep a list of the medications in your home, especially those prone to abuse. Periodically count the medications remaining in the container, and make sure that it’s the correct amount according to the prescribed dosage.
- Dispose properly: If specific disposal instructions are provided on the label, follow them. Otherwise, remove the medication from its original container or vial, mix them with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds, kitty litter or saw dust, and place them in a sealable bag that can be disposed in the trash. Also, you can take advantage of the DEA Drug Take-Back Day tomorrow, September 26.
- Make it easy: Don’t store narcotics or potentially addictive drugs in a medicine cabinet. If that is the only option, add a lock to the cabinet and hide the key.
- Save for “next time”: Once your condition has been treated and your prescription regimen is complete, properly dispose of the drugs. Never keep extra medication for potential use in the future.
- Share your medication: The specific drug and dosage was selected specifically for the person it was prescribed for and could lead to dangerous drug interactions and serious side effects if used by someone else.
By following these simple steps, you can help protect your family and friends against the nation’s costly problem of prescription-drug fraud and abuse.
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