Safeguarding Prescription Drugs

So you had a tooth pulled or some outpatient surgery, and your doctor prescribed a painkiller. Maybe Vicodin or Percocet, or something of that sort. Chances are you didn’t finish the entire prescription. What did you do with the leftover pills? You probably saved them, thinking you’d save some money next time by having them on hand.

Or perhaps you are taking drugs prescribed by your doctor for a temporary or chronic condition. How closely do you keep track of exactly how many pills or patches you have on hand?

What you may not have thought of is that your teen, your housekeeper or a family member decided that they’d help themselves to that little stash of leftover pills. Maybe they thought they’d just see what it was like, or maybe they know that a single OxyContin pill can sell for $40 in the schoolyard or factory lunchroom. Perhaps your 6-year-old child thinks that the pretty little pink pill will taste like her favorite little pink candy.

Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs

It’s not enough to hide your prescription medication away, unless you’ve got a bank-quality safe buried in your floor. Consider those drugs as deadly as a firearm, and treat them accordingly. Better yet, don’t keep them at all if you are not still using them. Chances are they will expire before you are ever prescribed that specific drug again.

Because of the numerous dangers of abusing prescription drugs and their easy accessibility, the government has updated its federal guidelines for the proper disposal of expired or unused medicines. Follow these guidelines to keep your family safe:

    • Take unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw the containers in the trash.
    • Mix the prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in impermeable, non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags.
    • Flush prescription drugs down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that the following drugs be flushed down the toilet instead of thrown in the trash: Actiq, Daytrana Transdermal Patch, Duragesic Transdermal System, OxyContin tablets, Avinza capsules, Baraclude tablets, Reyataz capsules, Tequin tablets, Zerit for Oral Solution, Meperidine HCl tablets, Percocet, Xyrem and Fentora.
    • Call your local pharmacy and find out if it has a take-back program that allows the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal.
    • Clean out your medicine cabinet at least once a year – just like you put new batteries in your smoke detectors.

Keeping Your Children Safe

Make sure your children know that prescription drugs are only safe for the person named on the label. Explain to them that the medication is meant only to be used for a specific medical condition, and by a specific individual who has been told how to take the medication and what side effects to look out for.

Older children should also be made aware that selling any kind or amount of prescription drug is illegal, and could lead to their arrest and conviction as a drug dealer.

If your child has been prescribed a medication for the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, like Ritalin or Adderall, make sure they know to never give their medication to anybody else. Carefully monitor the supply of their medication.