Having a steady flow of visitors is important to preventing caregiver burnout, but as you prepare to welcome friends, family, and other guests into your home, don’t forget to put your medicines in a safe place. Last year, more than six million Americans over the age of 12 abused prescription drugs, and for years, more than half of abusers have reported that they get the medications they abuse from family and friends for free. Medication stored in unlocked medicine cabinets or placed on countertops can be a tempting target for current or recovering drug abusers, or even curious young children. Controlled substance prescription drugs, such as certain pain medications and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications pose a particular danger and place abusers at risk for addiction.
Nearly half of all teens indicate prescription drugs are easier to obtain than illegal drugs, according to the 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study a survey conducted annually by The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. In 2012, the group surveyed teens about their attitudes and other issues related to prescription drug abuse. More than half (56%) of the respondents said it was easy to get drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and 49% of parents say anyone could access the medicine cabinet in which they store prescription medications. Access to medications may be one reason why prescription drugs are the most abused type of drug among 12 and 13 year olds.
If you suspect that a teen in your family is abusing prescription drugs, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides an online resource that includes symptoms of misusing certain drugs and other information. NIDA’s PEERx details information on opioids, stimulants, and depressants, including how they are abused and what to do if someone needs help.
In addition to locking up your medications, an important step in protecting teens is to talk with them about the serious dangers of prescription drug abuse. Many teens do not realize that abusing prescription drugs is just as dangerous as using illicit drugs. Studies show that kids who learn at home about the risks of drug abuse are up to 50% less likely to abuse drugs.
There are many resources on AWARErx.org that can help initiate conversations with your children. For teens, a video recommended by AWARXE, called The Road to Nowhere, tells the story of a teen who experimented with prescription drugs at a party and became addicted. A link to the video is available on the AWARXE Get Local Oklahoma page. Also, the AWARXE Students page includes resources for children, teens, and college students.
Finally, if you have medications in your home that are no longer needed or expired, AWARXE encourages you to dispose of them through local medication disposal programs.
The Get Local section on the AWARXE website provides details on medication disposal drop box locations in almost every state. Generally, police stations may accept controlled substance prescription drugs (such as certain pain medications), and community and pharmacy drop box programs may accept all other drugs.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has also released new rules that allow pharmacies to collect controlled substances from patients for disposal. To become authorized collectors under the new rules, pharmacies must put new processes and procedures in effect to ensure that the collected drugs are destroyed safely and securely, and that all DEA requirements are met. It may take some time for these changes to be implemented.
If there are no drug disposal sites near you, there are options for disposing of drugs at home. The information that comes with your prescription may provide instructions on home disposal. Only some medications should be flushed down the toilet and the Food and Drug Administration has a list of these drugs. If there are no instructions for disposal, you can throw the drugs in your home garbage. But first, take them out of the container and mix them with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or cat litter. Seal the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container that can be disposed of in the garbage.
More information about safe drug disposal is available on the AWARXE Medication Disposal page.