On Saturday, we joined communities across the country to dispose of old or unneeded prescription and over-the-counter drugs. At Village Pharmacy, we filled six big boxes of medicines that were disposed of by our local sheriff’s department.
The need to hold these events stems from the misuse of prescription drugs which has turned into a serious public health problem in the United States and is now an epidemic. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 54 million people (more than 20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription medications for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes.
Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high). The reasons for the high prevalence of prescription drug misuse vary by age, gender, and other factors, but likely include ease of access.
Prescription drug misuse can have serious medical consequences. Increases in prescription drug misuse over the last 15 years are reflected in increased emergency room visits, overdose deaths associated with prescription drugs, and treatment admissions for prescription drug use disorders, the most severe form of which is addiction.
Some basic statistics:
- About 21 to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
- Between 8 and 12% continue opioid use despite clinically significant distress or impairment.
- An estimated 4 to 6% who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
- About 80% of people who use heroin first used prescription opioids.
Ensuring proper use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs is important in reducing accidents, thefts, and the misuse and abuse of medications.
Stay alert—Family, friends and visitors can get into your medicine cabinet without you even knowing it. Make sure your medications don’t wind up in the wrong hands.
- Keep it secure—Take the proper precautions to store your medications in a safe and secure location.
- Never share—Don’t let other people use your medications. Even if you think you’re helping to relieve their pain, it can result in serious, even fatal, consequences.
- Dispose of the extra—Take advantage of your local drug take-back events, or safely discard medications at home with a drug deactivation pouch. Some pharmacies have drug disposal boxes in the store, too. If these options are not readily available, you can also follow these steps:
1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds;
2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
3. Throw the container in your household trash; and
4. Delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty pill bottles or medicine packaging, then dispose of the container.
Talk to one or our pharmacists today to learn about steps you can take to keep your medications safe and out of the wrong hands.