Someone in the U.S. dies every 20 minutes from a drug overdose. This is more frequent than deaths related to motor vehicle crashes and gunshots. Prescription medication misuse has become a public health crisis. The state of Idaho ranks fourth when it comes to the nonmedical use of prescription painkillers among individuals 12 or older. The misuse of any prescription medication can be dangerous, but misusing opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone can be fatal.
Prescription medication should be taken only by the person to whom it is prescribed and only in the way in which the medicine was prescribed. Teenagers and adults may think it is OK to use a prescription even if it was not for them, but they likely do not understand the potential side effects. A child may mistakenly ingest colorful medication thinking it is candy.
The safe and secure disposal of medication eliminates the chances for family, neighbors and community members to access medications they should not have. If medications are simply thrown away, they may be accessed by neighbors and strangers. There is also a potential environmental impact by disposing unused medications in household trash or by flushing them down a toilet. With proper safe disposal, this keeps medications out of the groundwater and protects wildlife from harm.
One of the most simple and effective ways the community can fight this crisis is to properly dispose of unused or expired medications. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is an important way to prevent the misuse of unneeded medication. Last October, the state of Idaho collected more than 3,000 pounds (1.6 tons) of unused and expired medications. Drug Take Back Day locations can be found at deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/.
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If no medicine take-back program or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, you can follow these simple steps to dispose of most medications in household trash.
▪ Mix medications with an unappealing substance such as dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
▪ Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
▪ Throw the container in your household trash.
▪ On the prescription label of the empty medication bottle, scratch out all personal information to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.
If your prescription medications have expired or you are no longer taking them, April 29 marks the 13th National Drug Take Back Day for Americans across the country to dispose of these prescriptions. It’s simple and easy. Collect your unused, unwanted and expired medications and take them to a disposal site near you. The service is available 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s free and anonymous, no questions asked.
Heather Walser is a third-year pharmacy student at Idaho State University’s Meridian Health Science Center.